Tea tree oil, derived from the leaves of the tea tree, is a natural wonder remedy with a variety of applications. In this article, we will discuss the origin, production methods and skin care benefits of tea tree oil, as well as some precautions when using it.
Origin of Tea Tree oil
Tea tree oil is a valuable extract derived from the leaves of the tea tree, botanically known as Melaleuca alternifolia. This special tree is native to Australia and has been valued for its healing properties by the indigenous peoples of this country for centuries. It mainly thrives in Australia’s wetland areas, such as the swamps of New South Wales and Queensland.
The tea tree, also known as the Melaleuca tree, is a striking and versatile appearance. This evergreen tree can typically reach a height of 7 to 25 meters and has a compact crown with lush green leaves.
The leaves of the Tea Tree are narrow and lance-shaped, with a glossy dark green appearance. When you bruise the leaves, they emit a pleasant scent.
The Tea Tree tree is also characterized by its small, white to cream-colored flowers that grow in panicles or clusters. These flowers have a delicate appearance and emit a sweet, honey-like scent, often attracting bees and other pollinating insects.
Production methods: from leaf to bottle
It is a precious natural extract and is extracted from leaves. But how exactly does this valuable process take place?
1. Harvesting the leaves: The process begins with the careful harvesting of the leaves from the tea tree. This is usually done by hand or using special machines, and the leaves are collected from healthy trees.
2. Steam Distillation: The plucked leaves are then subjected to steam distillation, a process that is both old-fashioned and effective. During steam distillation, the leaves are placed in a large distillation chamber. Steam is introduced and heats the leaves, releasing the essential oil in the leaves.
3. Separation of oil and water: The released oil is guided upwards together with the steam. The combination of oil and steam is then led to a condenser, where it cools and condenses. This results in a mixture of water and oil.
4. Separation of oil and water: The water and oil mixture is then separated. Since oil does not dissolve in water, this is a relatively simple process. The tea tree oil floats on top of the water, which is easy to separate.
5. Refinement and Purification: The resulting oil is still not completely purified. It may contain impurities and excess water residue. To obtain a pure, high-quality tea tree oil, the oil often undergoes a further purification process to remove any unwanted particles.
6. Final product: After this process you will end up with a clear, colorless to pale yellow liquid with a characteristic, medicinal odor. This oil is rich in bioactive compounds, including terpenes, terpinen-4-ol, and other compounds that give it its powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Skin care benefits
The benefits of tea tree oil extend to its remarkable antimicrobial properties. This oil is known for its powerful ability to fight bacteria, fungi and viruses. This makes it a valuable tool in the treatment of various skin problems.
One application of tea tree oil that has received a lot of attention is the treatment of acne. Tea tree oil has the ability to effectively combat bacteria that are often involved in the development of acne. At the same time, it can reduce the inflammatory response in the skin.
In an open-label, uncontrolled Phase II pilot study, 14 participants applied tea tree oil products to their faces twice daily for 12 weeks and were assessed at 4, 8, and 12 weeks. This study shows that use of tea tree oil products significantly improved mild to moderate acne and that the products were well tolerated.
Another clinical study involving 124 patients examined how effective and skin-friendly a gel containing 5% tea tree oil is in treating mild to moderate acne, compared to a lotion containing 5% benzoyl peroxide. The results of this study showed that both 5% tea tree oil and 5% benzoyl peroxide had a significant effect on improving acne in patients by reducing the number of inflamed and non-inflamed lesions (blackheads and closed comedones), although tea tree oil started to work more slowly. Encouragingly, patients treated with tea tree oil experienced fewer side effects.
However, it is important to emphasize that acne is a complex condition and tea tree oil alone may not be enough to cure it completely, and in some cases it may return. A complete skin care routine and, in certain cases, medical advice may be necessary to effectively control acne.
Fungal and skin infections:
Tea tree oil has also proven its value in treating fungal infections. Consider annoying conditions such as fungal nails or skin folds that are sensitive to infections. The natural antifungal properties make tea tree oil an effective and safe choice.
A study investigated which treatment is effective and well tolerated for the condition onychomycosis, or fungal nails. The two treatments compared were a 1% solution of clotrimazole (anti-fungal) and 100% tea tree oil. The study was conducted on 117 patients with proven onychomycosis. These patients were divided into two groups. One group received the 1% clotrimazole solution twice a day and the other group received 100% tea tree oil, which was applied for 6 months.
At 6 months, results were comparable between the two groups in terms of culture-based healing (clotrimazole = 11%, tea tree oil = 18%) and clinical assessment documenting partial or complete improvement (clotrimazole = 61%, tea tree oil = 60%). Three months later, approximately half of each group reported continued improvement or healing (clotrimazole = 55%; tea tree oil = 56%). So both the anti-fungal solution and 100% tea tree oil had similar effects.
Also think about..
It is important to be careful with tea tree oil in combination with sunlight. This oil has the potential to increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, which can lead to hypersensitivity reactions, sunburn, or even skin discoloration. This happens because of the components in the oil, such as terpenes, which make the skin more sensitive to UV rays.
When using tea tree oil in your skin care routine, you should take extra care if you plan to have extended sun exposure. Here are a few tips:
- Use Tea Tree oil at night: Apply tea tree oil-based products preferably at night. This minimizes exposure to sunlight after use.
- Sunscreen is a must: If you do use tea tree oil and you have to go outside, make sure you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
- Dilute Tea Tree oil: Consider diluting tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or coconut oil, before applying directly to the skin. Undiluted tea tree oil can cause irritation, especially in people with sensitive skin.
- The oil is mild to moderately irritating to the skin, but when it oxidizes it becomes more allergenic. The main substances that cause allergic reactions are ascaridol, terpinolene, α-terpinene, 1,2,4-trihydroxymenthane, α-phellandrene and limonene.
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In other words
Tea tree oil is a valuable addition to your skin care routine, but it is essential to use it correctly and consider the possible side effects. If you are unsure, consult a dermatologist before applying tea tree oil to your skin.
While you are here
There are plenty of natural oils that can help with a wide range of skin problems. However, with the abundance of options on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right oil for your specific needs. This article sheds light on some natural oils that can be beneficial for common skin problems such as dry skin, acne, eczema, signs of aging and pigment spots. Plus, we share valuable insights on what to look for when selecting a skin oil and what do’s and don’ts to consider when using it.