Tea tree oil has a long history of use as a skin soothing salve.
In 1770, Captain James Cook, of the British Royal Navy, landed in Australia and eventually his expedition came to what is now New South Wales. The native aborigines showed him how to make a tea that helped block scurvy.
The natives told Capt Cook and his crew members about the healing power of the tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifola). They had used the leaves for centuries for a wide variety of ills, such as cuts, wounds, colds and other systemic diseases.
Later, when Europeans began settling in Australia, they learned about the healing nature of the leaves, and began using them as a folk remedy.
Over time, the scientific community became intrigued by the tea tree plant and began research into it’s medicinal usefulness.
Even early research revealed that it was a powerful antiseptic bactericide and by World War II, it was used, with great success, to treat a debilitating foot fungus in Australian military personnel. Originally, the plant was native only to a small area in New South Wales, but the worldwide demand for the oil is so great, thousands of trees have been planted for oil production. Tea tree oil is now recognized as an effective treatment for cuts, burns, abrasions, insect bites, athlete’s foot, infections, sunburn, and acne.
The healing agent in tea tree oil is terpinene and, to be effective, any oil you buy should contain at least 30% of terpinen-4-ol.
Tea tree oil can be used undiluted and does not need to be mixed with carrier oils, such as olive or almond oil. For use on babies or young children, though, you should dilute the oil in a carrier.
On pets, use only on areas of the body which cannot be licked, as it has been found to be toxic if ingested by some animals.
In humans, the oil should not be ingested. While it is not considered toxic, it is meant for external use only. While it is true that the aborigines and Capt. Cook did ingest a tea made from the leaves, the oil is much more concentrated and there is no guarantee of safety if it is ingested.