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Bring in the Tea Tree Oil: The Antifungal and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Melaleuca alternifolia, one of the sources of tea tree oil

When it comes to the world of aromatherapy, tea tree oil is often an essence preferred, as it is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. A light massage, calming an area newly waxed by an aesthetician, wafting aroma within the home; tea tree oil is used in these situations, and much more.

The Australian essential oil, known by the scientific name Melaleuca alternifolia, is one of the most researched out there, with over 18 books and 199 articles focusing on the medicinal use of the oil. However, scientists right now are yelling at the top of their lungs, “Houston, we have a problem”, figuratively, of course, and not literally. But really, there is a problem. As of 2003, the oil has been distributed as an undiluted product for cosmetic use, which can cause skin irritation if not careful. Now, do not be alarmed.

There are some very simple points of advice that, if followed, will ensure 100% safety. What are they, you say?
Before we talk about the safety measures with tea tree oil, it’s prudent to point out why it’s such an amazing discovery, rediscovered by the Western world in 1923.

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• It is a great antiseptic, killing bacteria, viruses and fungi on contact.
• There is a great possibility that it can be used to cure athlete’s foot, according to three. preliminary double-blind studies pointing in favor of the essential oil.
• 5% tea tree oil can reduce dandruff drastically for individuals affected with a mild to moderate case of the dermatological problem.
• Combining tea tree oil with lavender destroys lice within 24 hours, allowing children and adults affected to quickly return to life’s regular routines.
• Tea tree oil fighting acne seems to have the former winning by a landslide, as a double-blind study on the issue found that the number of acne lesions and the severity by which they had formed had been reduced at amazing rates.
Poison Ivy has met its match in tea tree oil. Add in some almond oil and the soothing sensations begins.

Howie (Howie J. Tea tree oil – use it wisely. InEssence 2005;4:16–8) discusses how to use this rather amazing natural oil wisely:
• Please use only brown bottles,
• Try to avoid heat, light (especially UV), moisture, oxygen,
• If working with larger bottles, refill the oil in a smaller container when half of the volume is reached (to avoid a great volume of air),
• The fridge is alright for sealed bottles, but once opened please avoid the cold and of course the heat,
• Do not shake and stir too much,
• Use argon gas or even CO2 to avoid contact with air,
• Before any dermal application please carry out the so-called inner arm test (half an hour waiting period), to be sure that the chosen concentration is not too high,
• And of course, please use only fresh and undeteriorated oil.

As such, undiluted and highly concentrated tea tree oil is perfectly safe, as long as it’s stored in a brown bottle and kept away from ultraviolet lighting and oxygen. The point is to prevent the oil from oxidization. This proneness to oxidization provides proof of its antioxidant capabilities. Essential oils are safe when used topically, however ingesting them is most definitely not recommended, as it could be quite toxic to the system.

To be sure tea tree oil is used correctly, always consult with a doctor. Nothing is ever guaranteed to be safe when administered in large doses. However, this particular essential oil is nothing short of miraculous, an amazingly hardworking perfectly natural concoction!

Sources: NYU.edu
Howie J. Tea tree oil – use it wisely. InEssence 2005;4:16–8.
Image source: Wikipedia