What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a small tree native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. Tea tree oil has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Native Australians crush tea tree leaves to extract the oil, which is then inhaled to treat coughs and colds or applied directly to the skin for healing.
Tea tree oil contains several compounds, including terpinen-4-ol, that have been shown to kill certain bacteria, viruses and fungi. Terpinen-4-ol also appears to increase the activity of your white blood cells, which help fight germs and other foreign invaders. These germ-fighting properties make tea tree oil a valued natural remedy for treating bacterial and fungal skin conditions, preventing infection and promoting healing.
Keep reading to find out some of the amazing benefits of Tea Tree Oil.
Tea tree oil makes an ideal natural sanitizer. Studies have shown that it kills several common bacteria and viruses responsible for causing illness, including E. coli, S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae. A study testing several types of hand wash shows that adding tea tree oil to the cleansers boosted their effectiveness against E. coli.
- Insect Repellent
Tea tree oil can help keep pesky insects away. One study found that 24 hours after being treated with tea tree oil, cows had 61% fewer flies than cows not treated with tea tree oil. Furthermore, a test-tube study revealed that tea tree oil had a greater ability to repel mosquitoes than DEET, the most common active ingredient in commercial insect repellents.
- Natural Deodorant
Tea tree oil’s antibacterial effects may help control underarm odor related to perspiration. Sweat itself does not smell. However, when secretions from your sweat glands combine with bacteria on your skin, a moderate to strong odor is produced. Your underarm area contains a large concentration of these glands and is mainly responsible for what is commonly referred to as “body odor.” Tea tree oil’s bacteria-fighting properties make it an ideal natural alternative to commercial deodorants and antiperspirants.
- Treats Minor Cuts and Scrapes
Injuries that result in broken skin make it easy for germs to enter your bloodstream, which can lead to infection. Tea tree oil can be used to treat and disinfect minor cuts and abrasions by killing S. aureus and other bacteria that can cause infection in open wounds.
In addition to preventing infection in cuts and abrasions, tea tree oil may also encourage wound healing. Research has shown that tea tree oil helps reduce inflammation and triggers the activity of white blood cells that are instrumental in the healing process. In a small study of 10 people with wounds, adding tea tree oil to conventional wound treatment led to decreased healing time in all but one participant.
- Fights Acne
Tea tree oil can be a powerful weapon against acne. Several studies have shown that it helps reduce the amount and overall severity of acne. In one study, applying a 5% tea tree gel to acne lesions was shown to be more than three times as effective at reducing the number of lesions than a placebo. It was nearly six times as effective in reducing severity. In another study, tea tree oil was found to be as effective against acne as benzoyl peroxide, the most common anti-acne medication.
- Soothes Skin Inflammation
Tea tree oil can help relieve inflamed skin. A common form of skin irritation is contact dermatitis, which occurs when skin comes in contact with an allergen, such as nickel. Exposure to the allergen leads to red, itchy and sometimes painful skin. Animal and human research suggest that applying tea tree oil may help reduce the severity of these symptoms. In a study comparing the effects of different treatments for contact dermatitis, tea tree oil was found to reduce symptoms by 40%, which was significantly more than standard medications applied to the skin. In addition, tea tree oil may provide relief from bug bite reactions by reducing the itching, redness and swelling that occurs when your body releases histamine to defend against the insect’s saliva.
- Controls Dandruff
Dandruff, or white flakes of dead skin that fall from the scalp, isn’t dangerous. However, it can be annoying and embarrassing. Although there is little published research on tea tree oil’s effectiveness in treating dandruff, one controlled study suggests that it may be helpful. In this four-week study, the group who used a shampoo containing tea tree oil had a 40% improvement in dandruff. Moreover, the tea tree group reported significant improvements in dandruff severity, itchiness and greasiness.
- Relieves Psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition characterized by outbreaks of red, itchy, scaly skin. Although there are medications that can improve symptoms, the condition itself is chronic and there is no known cure. Tea tree oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds, which, according to emerging evidence, may be helpful for easing psoriasis symptoms.
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