By the start of World War II, doctors, surgeons, dentists, veterinarians, and housewives were using tea tree oil for its many healing and antiseptic properties. A bottle of tea tree oil was a standard issue in every first aid kit for Australian Army and Navy soldiers. In addition, bush cutters were exempt from doing national service because the production of tea tree oil was considered of highest importance.
While the popularity of tea tree oil was growing, so was medical science. By the 1950’s, antibiotics were introduced and penicillin became known as the “wonder drug.” Antibiotics became stronger and stronger and everyone wanted them.
The tea tree oil industry went into a sharp decline, the oil nearly forgotten. The developing drug manufacturers were not interested in natural or preventive medicine. The big money was in controlling symptoms to perpetuate continual use of the drugs.
However, additional research in the early 1960’s and 70’s initiated a tea tree oil revival. Medical practitioners began to document the positive effects of tea tree oil for a variety of ailments such as acne, chicken pox, abrasions, abscesses, athlete’s foot, canker sores, dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, stings and bites, shingles, wounds, and infections.
Since the discovery of tea tree oil, research has repeatedly shown that it has six distinctive properties, as acknowledged by the FDA:
1. Natural antiseptic and fungicide. The oil kills germs, bacteria, and fungus, including staphylococcus, streptococcus, and E-coli. It helps prevent infection and promotes healing.
2. Penetrating. Since the oil carries healing benefits far below the top layers of the skin, it goes to the source of the problem.
3. Soothing. The oil relieves pain, stinging, and itching. It is seven times more soothing to the skin than aloe. It soothes and heals even stubborn skin irritations.
4. Natural solvent. The oil dissolves residue and acts as a natural cleanser and disinfectant. Because of its solvency, it works well in both personal care products and cleaning products.
5. Non-caustic. It is safe and non-irritating for most skin types. However, people with sensitive skin should use the oil cautiously at first.
6. Aromatic. It has a soothing, therapeutic aroma and is often used in vaporizers or humidifiers.
With widespread popularity of tea tree oil, the demand for high-quality oil was inevitable. In 1967 the Australian Standards Association set a standard for the oil based on the key components—Terpinenen 4-ol and Cineole. There are many oils that technically can be called “tea tree oil.”
To be sure that you have the authentic Australian tea tree oil, it must state on the label that it is the oil of the Melaleuca alternifolia. It should also contain more than 35% Terpinen 4-ol and less than 10% Cineole.
Poor quality oil may produce disappointing results. Therefore, it is important to know your supplier and make sure the oil you purchase is of high therapeutic value. Tea tree oil of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree is truly one of nature’s best gifts for healing and immunity.
Sources: That Amazing Tea Tree Oil! by Karen MacKenzie, The Melaleuca Wellness Guide by R.M. Barry Publications, Australian Tea Tree Oil First Aid Handbook by Cynthia Olsen. For questions on how to use tea tree oil, email Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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