The healing and cleansing powers of tea tree oil, derived from a shrub-like tree called the Melaleuca alternifolia, have been passed down for thousands of years by the indigenous people of Australia. For centuries, the leaves of the tea tree plant were used to cure most of their common ailments, for everything from inhaling the vapors to soothe coughs, to treating skin infections and improving sleep.
Tea tree oil is one of the most extensively researched essential oils out there. It all started in 1923, when an Australian chemist, Arthur Penfold, discovered that the antiseptic activity of tea tree oil was 12 times stronger than that of the commonly used carbolic acid or phenol.
Ever since, tea tree oil has been well-known for its cleansing, antimicrobial and skin-boosting properties, which is the reason for its addition to many of the shampoos, face washes, skin creams and lotions available today.
Here's what tea tree oil can do for you:
1. Clear acne
Tea tree oil reduces inflammation and helps to calm an acne-prone skin. According to Australian researchers, tea tree oil works as well as a 5 percent solution of the the top-selling acne remedy, benzoyl peroxide.
To successfully treat acne, Readers Digest recommends diluting a few drops of tea tree oil in 20 to 40 drops of witch hazel, which can then be applied to the affected areas once or twice a day with a cotton swab. When using this remedy, it is best to stay out of the sun, as tea tree oil makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays.
Speaking to Women's Health, Kim Nichols, M.D. and consulting dermatologist at Avon, explained that tea tree oil is an excellent moisturizing aid. It acts as a transport vehicle to help moisturizing molecules penetrate into the skin. Therefore, it is best to apply a tea tree oil base before applying your daily skin moisturizer.
3. Eliminate foot odors
Smelly feet aren't much fun and can be very embarrassing. Luckily there is a cheap, effective and simple foot soak you can use to get rid of sweaty, stinky feet. Place 1 tablespoon each of dried rosemary, dried sage and fresh or dried ginger in a large saucepan with water. Bring to a gentle boil, remove from heat, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture and add 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon Epsom salts and 10 drops tea tree essential oil. Pour herb and essential oil blend into a foot spa or shallow basin. Top with extra water and add ice for a cooling effect. Soak your feet for 15 minutes.
The aromatic herbal blend will help reduce sweatiness, and the tea tree oil will kill the germs that cause foot odor, leaving your feet fresh and clean.
4. Soothe an itchy scalp or skin
Tea tree oil has been shown to relieve burning and itching inflammation of the skin and scalp. Add a few drops to a carrier oil or neutral lotion such as coconut oil or witch hazel, and apply to the affected area for instant relief. According to Nichols, daily use of tea tree based products can also help people overcome skin conditions such as psoriasis.
5. Promote healthy nails
Tea tree oil can be used to soften dry, cracked or ragged cuticles. Tea tree's antimicrobial properties will help kill fungus or bacteria that may be in or around the nail. Add a few drops of tea tree essential oil to jojoba or avocado oil, and massage your nails with the mixture on a daily basis to soften cuticles and prevent splitting.
6. Remove your make-up
Tea tree oil, when diluted in a carrier oil, works as an excellent natural, non-alcohol-based way to remove make-up.