This has occurred in the wake of a handful of reports that using the oil neat could cause rashes, allergies and even feminization in boys, and that undiluted, the oil degrades rapidly, becoming more potent. Although it won't affect cosmetic products using the oil in concentrations of less than 1 per cent, last month, the EU asked firms that make the undiluted oil to produce evidence that the oil is safe to sell to the public.
According to Robert Tisserand, the pioneering aromatherapist and prin-cipal of the Tisserand Institute in London, the press evidence cited was "selectively quoted" and "flawed and misleading". Although the neat oil can cause skin allergy in susceptible individuals, he says that the claim that it degrades rapidly has been exposed as flawed by Christine Carson at the University of Western Australia.
In the view of WDDTY, tea tree oil is not only safe, but an essential remedy due to its extraordinary antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and painkilling benefits.
The oil is distilled from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a tree native to Australia. Tea tree oil is a miracle cure for . . .
A 5-per-cent tea tree oil lotion, although slower to work, is more effective-and has fewer side-effects-than 5-per-cent benzoyl peroxide (Med J Aust, 1990; 53: 455-8). Suggested dosage: Apply one drop of pure oil to the blemish or acne lesion three times a day.
Cold sores: Tea tree gel (6 per cent) results were promising (J Antimicrob Chemother, 2001; 48: 450-1). Suggested dosage: Apply gel or pure oil to the affected area several times a day.
Skin rash/inflammation: Oil applied neat cleared up nickel-induced contact skin hypersensitivity (Inflamm Res, 2005; 54: 22-30). Suggest-ed dosage: Apply it neat to the rash until it clears up.
Sore throat: Tea tree oil is effective against oral bacteria, suggesting benefit by soothing sore throat as well as treating bad breath (Oral Microbiol Immunol, 1994; 9: 202-8). Suggested dosage: Mix 8-10 drops of pure oil with 0.5 oz of water and gargle. Repeat two to three times within 20 minutes. Do not swallow.
Head lice: Tea tree oil worked when applied in an alcoholic solution to the scalp (Complement Ther Nurs Midwif-ery, 1996; 2: 97-101). Suggested dosage: Add 10 drops of neat oil to regular shampoo or hair rinse and use daily.
Dandruff: Tea tree can inhibit the development of seborrhoeic derma-titis and dandruff. A four-week Australian study found a 5-per-cent tea tree oil shampoo significantly improved scaliness, itchiness and greasiness in patients with mild-to-moderate dandruff (J Am Acad Derma-tol, 2002; 47: 852-5). Suggested dosage: Add a few drops of pure oil to your regular shampoo and use daily.
Fungal infections such as athlete's foot. Suggested dosage: Apply 4-10 drops of neat oil to the affected area. The infection should clear in a few days, but continue to apply for a further two weeks to ensure total eradication of fungus.
Tea tree oil or lotion works just as well, if not better than, over-the-counter medications to heal canker sores, burns, herpes, impetigo, infections of the nail bed and psoriasis. It rarely produces side-effects at low concen-trations, although there have been cases of allergic reactions resulting in dermatitis (Dermatitis, 2004; 15: 67-72). To determine susceptibility, do a patch test first.
Buy tea tree oil from a healthfood store. Be sure to avoid oxidation by storing the bottle in a cool dark place.
Isabel Atherton and Joanna Evans
Use tea tree for . . .
- Inflammation. Tea tree is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. In one clinical trial, 27 volunteers were injected with histamine to cause skin inflammation. Treatment with tea tree oil caused the inflammation to subside (Br J Dermatol, 2002; 147: 1212-7). Tea tree oil can also help against other inflammatory conditions such as osteomyelitis (inflammation of bone) caused by bacterial infection (Am J Infect Control, 2004; 32: 402-8).
- Hospital superbugs. In one hospital study, tea tree was effective against stubborn skin infections due to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (J Hosp Infect, 2004; 56: 283-6).
- Candida albicans. This yeast type of fungus can overrun the vagina, mouth or rectum, and travel via the bloodstream to affect the throat, intestines and heart valves. Tea tree oil used by HIV patients with oral thrush showed promising antifungal properties (Rev Iberoam Micol, 2000; 17: 60-3).
- Chronic gingivitis and other gum disease. As a gel, tea tree oil significantly reduced chronic gingivitis, characterized by tender red, swollen gums that bleed easily-with no adverse side-effects (Aust Dent J, 2004; 49: 78-83).
- Your pets' skin problems. When dogs with itchy skin lesions and other forms of dermatitis were treated with tea tree oil cream, 71 per cent were healed after 10 days, compared with 41 per cent treated with a plain cream. What's more, the tea tree cream worked significantly faster than the plain cream for the two most common problems: itchy skin and hair loss (Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr, 2004; 111: 408-14).