Tea tree oil, with its distinct (some would say unpleasant, others like it) camphorous scent has been utilized in natural medicine throughout the years for many uses. Most of these uses relate to its naturally potent antibacterial qualities. It has risen quickly as an effective addition to natural acne treatments and cleansers and is a pivotal ingredient in my own Aura Sensory Natural Acne Soap along with another potent antibacterial lavender.
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is a steam-distilled extract that comes from the leaves of the melaleuca tree which is native to Australia. Until about 12 years ago, those of us in the US were still relatively unaware of this essential oil and its many benefits.
In natural medicine, tea tree oil was used not only as a topical antibacterial agent to help clean wounds, abrasions and burns and prevent infection. It was also used as an anti-fungal agent, utilized for treating things like athlete's foot, nail fungus and other fungal infections.
Topical Applications for Tea Tree Oil
Perhaps the most well known use for this oil is for the topical treatment of acne. One of the largest components of the acne skin condition is bacteria. Although the root cause is excessive sebum production, bacteria is the secondary cause. This is because it is the cause of the inflammation that occurs after it is caught in the pores, trapped by the fly paper like qualities of sebum.
This inflammation is what you see when you observe large or small acne pustules on the skin. It can result in either blackheads or whiteheads anywhere on the body, though it is most commonly manifested on the face. If you remove bacteria from the equation, you’ve made it much harder for acne to form.
Not only does it help reduce topical bacteria, which in turn reduces acne breakouts but it also works as a mild toning agent. This means that it helps to close the pores back up and reduce their size. It can help to give the skin a more uniform, smooth appearance which is of course the desired outcome! In addition, it is non-drying to the skin and gentle enough to use on a daily basis.
Tea tree oil is excellent as an antibacterial agent when topically applied to the skin. It has even been used when diluted as a mouthwash to help treat oral candidiasis. Other conditions such as fungal infections, warts, sun burned skin, certain types of warts are also treated using this essential oil.
As mentioned earlier, the oil has a very strong camphorous smell, similar to Vick’s Vaporub and other heavy menthol products. Because of this strong scent, it has excellent nasal-clearing abilities. It can be used as a therapeutic steam to help clear the nasal passages, break up excessive mucus and soothe sore throats. I've found that just taking a whiff from pure tea tree oil often clears my nasal passages.
Tea tree oil has also proven effective as an additive to shampoo and scalp treatments for people with dandruff. Solutions as little as 5% can work very well as a preventative treatment for dandruff due to its therapeutic scalp-soothing properties. Its natural toning properties along with the fact that is is an oil, which lends moisture to the scalp, make it ideal for helping to clear dandruff.