This week’s Weekly Ingredient Knowledge Drop is about Tea Tree Oil.
Tea Tree – The leaf of the tea, or ti, tree had a long history of use by the indigenous peoples of Australia to treat skin ailments as well as respiratory ones. The aroma of the oil is warm, spicy, medicinal and volatile.
On the label it is otherwise known as: Melaleuca oil
What is it? An aromatherapy oil. The aroma is cleansing, purifying, uplifting.
What does this ingredient claim to do/what is it known for?- Known for its anti fungal/antibacterial benefits, tea tree oil’s wide spectrum of action has made it traditionally useful in: treating mouth sores and inflamed gums; treating herpes infections; support when fighting respiratory infections; treatment of skin ailments such as acne, warts, and skin tags. It has recently been studied for the treatment of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the ‘superbug’ that affects immuno-comprimised hospital patients. This antibiotic resistant staph has been effectively treated with Tea Tree oil in some cases; however, a blend of well-known antimicrobial oils may have a better effect against this particular rare, yet dangerous, infection.
It can be used ‘neat’ (applied directly without dilution) as a treatment for small cuts and scrapes to both soothe the area and prevent infection.
What natural and/or cruelty free products have I tried that contain this ingredient? – The list is a long one. Some of my favorites include: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shampoo, *Giovanni Tea Tree Shampoo, and *Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash, *Evan Healy Tea Tree Gel Cleanser, *Desert Essence Tea Tree Mouth Wash
Conclusion: Bunk or Buy? Safe or Avoid? – SAFE & effective! BUY! Tea tree oil is safe and effective at fighting infections without harming tissues, but the higher concentrations of Terpinen 4 OL (the active antiseptic in tea tree) can be slightly drying to sensitive/dry skin types. It should not be ingested. I highly suggest keeping some Tea Tree oil around the house.
Tip: Tea tree oil (25% and 50%) was better than placebo in treating tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) in one clinical trial–look for higher concentrations of Terpinen 4 OL. If you’re shopping around for a good tea tree oil; the higher the percentage of terpinen, the stronger the antiseptic properties. Some products may or may not list this information, but one brand I like and use is Thursday Plantation, who is kind enough to list their percentages on the product. Another option to keep in the house for antiseptic sprays and for light duty like healing cuts, torn cuticles, and small scrapes is the *Lavender/Tea Tree Blend from NOW. Always buy essential oils in dark brown or amber bottles to protect the integrity and stability of the oil.
*Available at Perelandra Natural Foods in Brooklyn