Want to know why the tea tree oil is so highly rated and widely used in skin care and cosmetic products? Read our in-depth guide on tea tree oil and few effective, easy to make DIY recipes.
The Ultimate Guide to Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is an essential oil used in a variety of skin care and cosmetic products.The oil is derived from the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), which grows on the Northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia, as well as in Southeast Queensland.
In this guide, you will discover a wealth of information about tea tree oil, including its humble beginnings, the benefits offered by the oil, and several homemade recipes containing tea tree oil you can make for a variety of conditions.
History of Tea Tree Oil
Legend has it that a young Bundjalung princess named Eelemani was the pioneer of tea tree oil. According to the legend, Princess Eelemani had to leave her one true love and journey through the bushland of New South Wales. The trip was long and difficult, as Eelemani didn’t know the land at all.
Fearing she would lose her way back through the unknown trails, she prayed to the Gods of the Earth and planets for help. They heard her prayers and rewarded her with seeds to plant along the way.
Princess Eelemani sowed the seeds as she walked. As they landed in the soft, moist, fertile soil of the forest floor, the seeds instantly grew roots and shoots and began reaching for the sun.
So different were the trees that grew from these special seeds – their bark was a stark, polished paper white – that Eelemani could find her way easily day or night. She felt safe and sure under the remarkable guiding markers the Gods had provided her.
And so the legend goes that Princess Eelemani’s trees flourished in the forest, and over time, her people discovered their many magical benefits. While a tale of magical trees growing instantly when they touch the ground is a little hard to swallow, the fact remains that the Bundjalung people of eastern Australia have used tea trees as a traditional medicine for years.
From inhaling the vapors of crushed tea tree leaves to soothe a cough to applying poultices made of the leaves on wounds, the Bundjalung were the first to use the tea trees in a variety of medicinal ways.
The tea tree got its name from a Captain named James Cook. He dubbed the white-barked tree “Tea Tree” because he witnessed the Bundjalung people brewing and drinking a healing tea made from the leaves. His men then used the leaves to make tea as well, and then later, a type of beer.
The World Learns about Tea Tree Oil
It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the rest of the world began learning of tea tree oil. At that time, Arthur Penfold and FR Morrison released the first reports stating the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil. In the report, Penfold indicated that tea tree oil was 11 to 13 times more effective than phenol, but was much milder, and therefore, safer to use.
Once word got out of Penfold’s claims, the tea tree oil industry took off. In the beginning, tea tree oil production was done mostly by hand. Natural bush strands from the tea tree were hand-picked and distillation took place on the spot using mobile wood-fired stills.
By the time World War II rolled around, tea tree oil was a household name in Australia. Every Australian soldier carried it in his kit, which is probably how the rest of the world found out about the oil’s healing properties.
During the 1950’s and 60’s, however, the demand for tea tree oil declined, due in part to the rise of antibiotics, as well as the declining view of natural remedies in the post-World War II era.
Demand for tea tree oil increased once again in the late 1960’s with the baby boomer generation’s desire for more natural products and their never-ending search for the meaning of life.
The 1970’s and early 80’s saw the first real commercial plantations where the first mechanical harvesting equipment was used. These crude machines led to static-distillation plants that eventually evolved into today’s process that provides the high-quality tea tree oil you use today.
Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil offers many medical and cosmetic benefits. Ranging in color from pale yellow to clear, the oil is known mainly for its antiseptic properties.
Over the last several decades, studies conducted using tea tree oil have found it to be highly effective at killing certain strains of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Below are several benefits of using this powerful essential oil.
It is a disinfectant
Tea tree oil has powerful disinfectant abilities, which means you can use it to clean just about every surface in your home. This potent oil kills germs and is a wonderful cleaner, especially during cold and flu season.
You can even use a drop to disinfect your toothbrush! To use tea tree oil effectively as a disinfectant, mix it with lemon essential oil, water, and vinegar. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and commence cleaning.
It is an antiseptic
Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties, unlike any other topical ointment or cream. It heals cuts, scrapes, burns, rashes, insect bites and more very quickly, and it takes the sting and itch out of these wounds almost instantly.
To use tea tree oil as an antiseptic, add a few drops to your bath water for an all-over soother, or mix a couple of drops with lavender essential oil and apply topically to the affected area. Always wash the problem area first with soap and water and apply a bandage after application to keep the area clean.
It treats eczema and psoriasis
Tea tree oil is an effective treatment for skin inflammation conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Combining two teaspoons of tea tree oil with two teaspoons lavender essential oil and one teaspoon coconut oil creates a powerful potion that soothes and heals itchy, irritated skin.
It is a hand sanitizer
Because tea tree oil has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, it makes a great hand sanitizer. Just add a few drops to your favorite homemade hand sanitizer recipe to reap these powerful benefits.
It is a dental health miracle
Although tea tree oil is not recommended for ingestion, it makes an excellent ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash because of its antimicrobial abilities. It kills stubborn mouth germs and odors, and it diminishes gingivitis and tooth decay.
Oral health experts have recently begun adding tea tree oil to their products, so be sure to look at the ingredient list on the back of the packaging the next time you buy toothpaste.
It hydrates skin
Tea tree oil possesses the ability to help the skin retain moisture. When used regularly, it cures even the driest skin. Simply combine tea tree oil with almond oil and smooth over skin. Use daily for soft, supple, moisturized skin.
It soothes razor burn
Due to its strong antiseptic properties, you can use tea tree oil to stop the pain and irritation of the small cuts and razor burn you sometimes get when shaving. It also eliminates the redness as well. Just dilute the oil with water, soak a cotton ball in the mixture, and then apply liberally to the affected area.
It stimulates hair growth
When used as a hair care product, tea tree oil penetrates deep within the hair shaft to nourish each strand. When the oil is used as a massage agent on the scalp, it hydrates the skin, increases circulation and stimulates the follicles for better hair growth.
The key to using tea tree oil as a hair care agent is to combine it with a carrier oil such as almond oil or jojoba oil and massage the scalp gently for several minutes. Do this once a week for healthy long locks.
It stops dandruff and kills lice
Tea tree oil’s strong infection-fighting and hydrating abilities make it a great tool for fighting lice and dandruff. When applied at the first sign of lice, it begins killing adults and their eggs almost instantly.
As a dandruff fighter, it gets rid of flaky, itchy scalp in under a week. Simply add a few drops of tea tree oil to a carrier oil and work it into your hair and scalp. Let it rest for up to 20 minutes and then wash out.
It removes makeup
Makeup removers can be harsh on skin, but natural tea tree oil does the job just as well and leaves your skin in better shape.
All you have to do is add a drop or two to some coconut oil or canola oil and apply over your face using a cotton ball. Let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes and then rinse well with lukewarm water.
It repels insects
Although tea tree oil has a fresh, pleasant scent, most insects hate the smell and will stay as far away as possible. When used as an insect repellent, it deters mosquitoes, flies, lice and most other insects in and around your home and person.
Simply add a few drops of tea tree oil to water in a spray bottle and use on countertops to ward off ants and cockroaches. Combine a drop or two of the oil to a carrier oil such as coconut oil and spread over skin to keep bugs at bay.
It is an anti-fungal
Tea tree oil has been used for years as an anti-fungal treatment. It works wonders on conditions such as athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, genital infections and the like. It even cures ringworm, warts, and corns too. To reap tea tree oil’s antifungal benefits, just combine a few drops with a carrier oil and apply liberally to the affected area regularly.
It relieves cold symptoms
Thanks to tea tree oil’s strong fragrance, it provides powerful cold symptom relief when used as a steam inhalation. The best way to get relief from head congestion, stuffy nose, and chest congestion is to add tea tree oil to a bowl of steaming water and breathe in the vapors.
Cover your head with a towel to form a tent over the bowl to keep the steam inside as you breathe deeply. This strong aromatherapy treatment will open clogged airways and alleviate cold symptoms quickly.
It cures acne
Tea tree oil’s antimicrobial abilities are the reason it works so well to treat this age-old skin problem. The oil penetrates deeply to clear pores and kill bacteria and even helps lighten the dark spots left behind by previous acne breakouts.
To use as an acne treatment, add a few drops of tea tree oil to one teaspoon honey and one teaspoon yogurt. Apply all over your face, leave for a minute or two and then rinse off with lukewarm water.
This treatment is as effective as other acne treatments but without all the negative and harsh side effects.
It eliminates body odor
Again, because tea tree oil is so effective at killing bacteria, it makes a great deodorant. It kills bacteria on the skin that is responsible for body odor, especially under the arms.
You can make a homemade deodorant using tea tree oil and just a couple of other ingredients you probably already have around the house.
The biggest benefit of using this type of deodorant, besides no body odor, is the fact that you’re not putting any of the harmful ingredients typically found in traditional deodorants on your body.
Homemade Recipes using Tea Tree Oil
Because tea tree oil offers so many benefits for health, beauty, and household use, it’s important to know a recipe or two so you can take advantage of them all. Below are a few of the most popular tea tree oil recipes you may want to try.
1. Homemade Deodorant
Benefit: Eliminates body odor all day long
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 5 tablespoons coconut oil 16 drops tea tree oil
- Combine baking soda and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat coconut oil in microwave 15-30 seconds until liquid. Add tea tree oil and stir.
- Pour combined oils into the bowl containing the powders and mix thoroughly.
- Store finished product in an airtight container.
You can store this homemade deodorant in the refrigerator where it will get solid and become usable like a traditional stick of deodorant, or you can store it at room temperature and apply it using your fingers. Use it as often as you’d use store-bought deodorant.
2. Hair Growth Formula
Benefit: Unclogs hair follicles and nourishes roots
- Carrier oil (coconut, almond, jojoba, olive) – enough to cover your particular hair length
- 3-5 drops tea tree oil
- Warm the carrier oil slightly.
- Add tea tree oil and mix well.
- Massage mixture into scalp for several minutes, then wash hair using a mild shampoo.
You will experience a refreshing, tingling sensation on your scalp as you massage. Apply this mixture to your hair and scalp a few times a week for best results.
3. Moisturizing Hair Mask
Benefit: Hydrates and nourishes hair for a healthy, shiny appearance.
- 1 cup plain yogurt or one large avocado mashed
- 10 drops argan oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 5-7 drops tea tree oil
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth and creamy.
- Apply mixture to the hair, making sure it is covered from root to tip.
- Leave in for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.
Apply this hair mask once a month for deep conditioning .
4. Overnight Acne Treatment
Benefit: A mild antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory acne treatment suitable for sensitive skin
- 2 teaspoons aloe vera gel
- 2-3 drops tea tree oil
- Combine both ingredients thoroughly
- Apply to affected area
- Leave for at least 4 hours or overnight
- Rinse or wash normally
This concoction is mild enough for sensitive skin and should be used nightly for best results.
5. Disinfecting All-Purpose Household Cleaner
Benefit: Cleans, disinfects and refreshes most hard surfaces in the home
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon tea tree oil
- 10 drops favorite essential oil for scent (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to mix.
Use this mixture on any hard surface (countertops, floors, toilets, etc.). Simply spray evenly then wipe away. This all-purpose cleaner even works on mirrors and windows without leaving streaks.
6. Insect Repellent (Adults only)
Benefits: Keeps bugs from pestering and biting
- Witch hazel
- 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
- 30 drops tea tree oil
- Pour a 20:20 mixture of water and witch hazel into a spray bottle.
- Add the vegetable glycerin and tea tree oil, then shake gently to mix.
- Spray all over your body to repel bugs.
Avoid spraying into eyes.
Re-apply this bug repellent when the scent begins to wear off. Use only on adults, as this recipe is quite potent.
7. Toenail Fungus Fighter
Benefit: anti-fungal and antimicrobial; kills toenail fungus quickly
- 1/2 cup warm apple cider vinegar
- 6 drops tea tree oil
- 2 drops sandalwood, peppermint, patchouli or thyme oil *your choice)
- Add all three ingredients to a basin filled with ankle-deep warm water.
- Soak your foot(feet) for 15-20 minutes, then dry.
Repeat this procedure several times a week until toenail fungus is gone.
8. Antiseptic Cream
Benefits: Helps heal cuts, scrapes, rashes, insect bites and skin infections
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1/3 cup dried lavender
- 1/3 cup dried calendula
- 4 tablespoons beeswax pellets
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 10 drops tea tree oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- On the stovetop, use a double boiler to melt the coconut oil over low heat. Add in the olive oil as the coconut oil melts. When liquefied, add in the dried lavender and calendula, allowing them to infuse for 30 minutes.
- Place a coffee filter in a small bowl and pour the infused oil through it to catch the herbs.
- Return the oils to the double boiler and turn on the low heat. Add the beeswax and stir until melted. Add the honey and stir again.
- Turn off the heat and add in the tea tree oil and lavender oil.
- Pour the mixture into an airtight container. Stir frequently as the mixture sets.
- Once set, store at room temperature.
This antiseptic cream will keep for up to 12 months.