The Many Uses of Melaleuca

Melaleuca alternifolia (Myrtaceae)

Common names: tea tree, ti tree, narrow leaved paperbarks, or snow-in-summer tree.
Origin: Australia, it's found all the way from NE New South Wales to Queensland (swampy coastal areas).
Distribution: Today the majority of tea tree products come from Australia (Grafton to Stroud districts). It is also grown in parts of California and Florida.

Trimmed plants Photograph by: Greig, D. Image credit to Australian National Botanic Gardens

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Photo credit: http://vanessences.fr/blog/2011/08/melaleuca-alternifolia-tea-tree

Cultures that use Melaleuca

The Aboriginies (Bundjalung and Koori groups) from Australia used melaleuca for thousands of years as an antiseptic, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. In 1770, captain James Cook gave the "Tea Tree" plant its common name. Later in the 1920's melaleuca "tea tree" oil was extracted and used as an essential in WWII first aid kits. Today melaleuca oil is sold and used worldwide to treat a variety of ailments, from inflammation and skin irritations to fungal infections.

How Melaleuca is Used

The leaves of the melaleuca plant have been used for centuries by the Aboriginies to heal cuts, wounds, and skin infections.They would crush the leaves and mix them with clay and water to make a mudpack, which they would spread over wounded areas to treat against infection. In France, they used melaleuca oil to treat against athletes foot, sunburns, sore throat, colds, rashes, tonsillitis, flu symptoms, and gum diseases. Melaleuca oil can also help against more severe burns, ticks, mites, infectious diseases, acne, and digestion hysteria. Aromatherapy is a popular growing approach to the use of oil, it can be diffused, or the aroma can be inhaled directly to help with coughing and bronchitis. Its aromatic properties can also be used to repel insects.

How melaleuca oil is obtained

Primary and Secondary Chemicals

Component Concentration

terpinen-4-ol: Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal 30–48%

y-terpinene: Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory 10–28%

a-terpinene: Perfume and flavoring effects 5–13%

1,8 Cineole: A colorless liquid terpene 0–15%

a-terpinolene: Sedative and colorless liquid 1.5–5%

a-terpineol: Anti-convulsant 1.5–8%

a-pinene: Bronchodilator 1–6%

p-Cymene: Perfume and flavoring effects 0.5–8%

Additional uses and information

Melaleuca has twelve times the antiseptic power of phenol, and possesses some strong immune-building properties. For animals, it can be used to treat fleas, bad breath, arthritis, and dermatitis. Due to its disinfecting properties Melaleuca can also be used as a household cleaner, a deodorizer, and it can help fight against mold and mildew. For gardening, it can protect plants against fungal and parasitic infections. In clinical studies melaleuca oil was used to treat staph infections, it was found to be effective at killing the bacteria and has been recommended to be used as additional wound care along side modern methods. It has also been used to treat acne, in a clinical study 5% tea tree oil gel was put up against 5% benzoyl peroxide gel (most common acne treatment), studies show that melaleuca oil was effective in the treatment of acne and it has less side effects when compared to benzoyl peroxide.

References


1. Distilling. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2015, from http://www.teatree.org.au/teatree_about_distillation.php

2. CF, C. (2006). Tea Tree Oil. Retrieved November 29, 2015, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tea/treeoil.html

3. Crawford, Sharon; Odle, Teresa. "Tea Tree Oil." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Retrieved November 29, 2015 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435100766.html

4. Single Essential Oils. (2014). In Modern essentials a contemporary guide to the therapeutic use of essential oils (6th ed., p. 115). Orem, UT: AromaTools.Retrieved November 30, 2015.

5. Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree). (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/melaleuca-alternifolia-tea-tree

6. Melaleuca Oil (Tea Tree): Uses, Benefits, and Precautions - Sustainable Baby Steps. (2009). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/melaleuca-oil.html

7. ATTIA Ltd – representing the Australian Tea Tree Industry. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.teatree.org.au/index.php
8. Melaleuca Alternifolia – Tea Tree. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://vanessences.fr/blog/2011/08/melaleuca-alternifolia-tea-tree/