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Tea Tree Oil to the Rescue

Posted Feb 10 2009 11:02am
By Dr. Christine Gonzalez (PharmD, CHC)

I can personally attest to the effectiveness of tea tree oil for keeping unruly skin under control. After I started using tea tree oil-based facial scrubbing pads, things started getting a lot clearer (pun intended). Just take a look at the shelves of most natural beauty sections and you will see many products that now incorporate this antiseptic herb as a main ingredient. Known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties, some common uses of tea tree oil include acne, dandruff, lice, athlete’s foot, and vaginal infections. I’ve even see it incorporated in toothpaste and mouthwash. I consider it an essential part of any home or traveler’s remedy kit. But my biggest word of caution is to always dilute it when you are using the pure essential oil.

Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, an Australian tea tree. The indigenous people traditionally used it by inhaling the oils of crushed leaves, applying the leaves directly to wounds, or making an infusion of the soaked leaves. Its antimicrobial properties are attributed to a compound known as terpinen-4-ol. Most human studies have focused on the topical uses of tea tree oil. In doing my usual Pub Med search of scientific studies, I found some current ones in 2008 that investigated its use for various Staphylococcal infections (including resistant types), pointing to a potential role in fighting modern super bugs. I was impressed to see over 250 studies listed for tea tree oil and will certain add this topic to my reading list.

As mentioned, it is not recommended to apply 100% pure tea tree oil to the skin. It is usually used in solutions of 5-10%. There are numerous cleansers, gels, and shampoos on the market. You can also make your own 10% solution by using about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of pure tea tree oil per 1 cup of water. This can be applied to the affected skin or as a gargle. I would recommend using a small amount first to test for irritation. Tea tree oil should not be used on open sores or wound, is not for internal use, and is not intended to be swallowed (always spit out the toothpaste or mouthwash). As this traditional oil is rediscovered for its healing properties, you will certainly be seeing and hearing more about it. Feel free to share any of your tea tree oil home remedies or products you have tried with success...

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