Tea Tree Oil – Basic Concepts and Why you should not avoid?

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  • Post last modified:July 18, 2020
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Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil, a volatile essential oil is most familiar in alternative medicine chiefly for its antimicrobial properties such as antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory. 

Tea Tree oil, obtained from Melaleuca alternifolia tea tree leaves a native plant from Australia where it usually referred to as “paperbark tree“.  

While commercially obtained tea tree oil (TTO) is primarily through Melaleuca alternifolia.

The TTO international standard does not mention what species of melaleuca should be used in oil production.

Instead, it defines oil chemotype specifications.

Melaleuca oils other than M. Alternifolia, are M. uncinata, M. linariifolia, and M. dissitiflora, which comply with the specifications of the standard that have been distilled.

Melaleuca species and their common names

Melaleuca species Common names
M.alternifolia Tea tree, TTO
M. linariifolia Smith TTO, tea tree
M. dissitiflora F. Muell TTO, tea tree
M. cajuputi Powell Kajeput, swamp tea tree, paperbark tree
M. quinquenervia Niaouli, broad leaved tea tree, broad leaved paperback tree
M. viridiflora TTO, Tea tree
Leptospermum scoparium Manuka
Kunzea ericoides Kanuka

What tea tree oil good for?

Tea trees as alternative medicine have, it is thought, been used for several years by aboriginal Bundjalungen people in eastern Australia.

The oil from crushed leaves is inhaled to get relief from respiratory infections like cough and colds. The leaves were used as a poultice on injuries.

To make a tea for the medication of a sore throat by infusing the leaves.

The most prominent is to treat small injuries, wounds and insect bites and irritations skin ailments.

Bungawalbyn, which means’ healing land’ is one of the places in which tea trees are planted in plenty nowadays.

TTO nowadays, famed for its diverse healing benefits and innumerable applications. Has been used in all aspects of cosmetic skin products like face washes, creams to massage oils, and home cleaners to detergents.

Read to know: Tea tree oil for acne: How to apply and precautions

tea tree essential oil plant

How tea tree oil is made and extracted?

TTO obtained through steam distillation or with supercritical fluid extraction process of Melaleuca alternifolia leaves.

TTO is collected with the Melaleuca alternifolia steam distillation of its leaves and ending branches.The oil gain is largely between 1 and 2% of the weight of wet plant material.

Supercritical fluid extraction solves the inconveniences connected with the steam distillation process, namely loss of components attributable to thermal deterioration, hydrolysis or volatilization. Supercritical fluid extraction is, on the other hand, nontoxic and inexpensive with few or no organic solvents. Thermolabile secure extraction can effectively be managed by temperature and/or pressure changes.

How tea tree oil smell and appear?

The separated light transparent to pale yellow oil. Overwhelmingly TTO has a camphoraceous fragrance. 

Antimicrobial activity of Tea tree oil

In cooperation with FR Morrison, Arthur Penfold published in a series of papers in the 1920s and the 1930s, the first reports of pure tea tree oil’s antimicrobial activity. In assessing M’s antimicrobial activity found that Alternifolia, TTO, with a milder and perhaps healthier formulation, was 11-13 times more effective than phenol.

Tea Tree oil components

Components Concentrations
terpinen-4-ol 30–48%
γ-terpinene 10–28%
α-terpinene 5–13%
1,8-Cineole 0–15%
α-terpinolene 1.5–5%
α-terpineol 1.5–8%
α-pinene 1–6%
p-Cymene 0.5–8%

Terpinen–4-ol, which has anti-microbial activity is the most essential component of tea tree oil.

TTO constituted of terpene hydrocarbons and their related alcohols mostly monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.

TTO (Melaleuca alternifolia) carries about 100 different components whose composition is regulated by the International Standard Organization (ISO4730). 

Average composition of the Tea Tree Oil

The underlying chemical compounds of TTO reveal poignant effective rejuvenation and therapeutic healing. Terpines-4-ol, gamma-terpineol, and alpha-terpine are the major chemical components of Melaleuca as around 70% to 90% of the oil, whilst ρ-cymene, terpinolene, α-terpineol, and α-pinene account together for about 15% of the oil.

TTO main phytochemical (1) component is terpinen-4-ol. Terpinen-4-ol is a monoterpenoid alcohol that tones Tea Tree oil or synergizes its aroma. Monoterpenes are gamma-terpenes and alpha-terpenes which can be invigorated once diffused. Reduced 1,8-cineole levels limit side-effects to a minimum.

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