The tea tree plant, formally called Melaleuca alternifolia, is native to Australia. Though the leaves of this plant have been used for quite some time to heal wounds, the oil itself wasn’t extracted and widely used until the 1920’s.
The popularity of tea tree oil waned after World War II, with the onset of effective antibiotics. It regained popularity in the 1970’s, in the shift towards more natural products. Tea tree oil is believed to have a lot of healing properties, such as being antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic. It has been effective at treating acne, dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, scabies, athlete’s foot, and even lice. In fact, tea tree oil is more effective at getting rid of lice than popular over-the-counter remedies.
Because of its strength, you should always dilute tea tree oil before using. Undiluted tea tree oil can cause redness, blistering, and itching. Tea tree oil should also never be swallowed because it can cause severe digestive and nervous system issues. This may be confusing, as many natural toothpastes and mouthwashes boast it as an ingredient. They are able to do this because toothpaste and mouthwash are not intended to be swallowed.
Tea tree oil is also toxic to animals, and should never be used to treat an animal’s ailment. Even topically, since it can be ingested while grooming. Don’t be discouraged by those warnings. It’s powerful stuff that should surely be handled with care, but that power is also exactly what makes it so amazing. You can find tea tree oil, in its purest form, in the Health & Beauty section of your local natural foods store. If you look around, you should also be able to find it in an array of creams, ointments, soaps, and shampoos. There is even tea tree dental floss and tea tree deodorant; perfect for attacking the nasties where they start.