Tea tree oil has been used by the aboriginal natives of Australia for hundreds of years for its antimicrobial properties. Derived from the Melaleuca Alternifolia plant, which is commonly found throughout the country, the native people would crush the leaves for the oil and use it in applications for cuts and wounds. When British soldiers overtook the country, the local people shared the knowledge of their healing plant and it was then introduced to the Western world, where it has now become a popular oil for healing.
Tea tree oil has become one of the most popular treatments in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Scientific studies have shown that the essential oil contains high levels of healing properties including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiprotozoal. It is said that Captain Cook, the famous British explorer, coined the name of ‘tea tree’ during one of his discovery missions, although it is known by a number of other name of melaleuca oil.
As a country, Australia became one of Britain’s ‘penal colonies’, and therefore there was a high level of British presence within the boundaries. The reports of the healing properties of tea tree oil reached Dr. A.R. Penfold, who was both a chemist and a curator at Sydney Australia’s Government Museum of Technology and Applied Sciences. He decided to institute a study on the tea tree leaves to discover the content and reasoning behind the claims.
The results of Dr. Penfold’s research showed that the essential oils of tea tree to be thirteen times more powerful as an antiseptic bactericide, when compared to phenol (carbolic acid), which was commonly used in the early 1900’s. It became one of the most popularly used and distributed treatments in Australia. The use was continued even during World War II when the influx of British soldiers experienced an outbreak of foot-fungus. When nothing seemed to have an effect on the debilitating problem, hundreds of soldiers were hospitalized. An aboriginal medic applied the tea tree essential oil as a treatment and the soldiers recuperated within days. Due to the success in this case as well as its healing properties with burns, infections, cuts and scratches, soldiers were given a bottle of tea tree oil as part of their first aid kit.
The essential oil of the tea tree is based on the extraction through steam distillation of the leaves and some terminal branches. Once the condensation process is complete the oil, colored from clear to pale yellow, is separated from any of the remaining material. The aboriginal tribes of Australia crushed the leaves for multiple medical purposes. They were applied directly onto cuts and injuries, inhaled to treat colds and coughs, used for poultices and were soaked to use for skin problems and sore throats. The native people told stories of what they called ‘healing lakes’, where the leaves of the tea tree fell and then decayed in the water.
Tea tree oil continues to be used in a variety of topical creams and lotions for treatments and healing with an incredible percentage of success.
Always confer with a primary care physician prior to making any changes in your medical regiment.