Ingredient Highlight: Tea Tree Essential Oil

This week, we will be making use of Tea Tree Essential Oil as an ingredient. Therefore, I decided to start the week out with an overview of this highly useful oil. 

Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternafornica) Essential Oil is usually extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca Tree using steam. This oil has an herbal, medicinal smell to it. 

Infamous for its anti-bacterial qualities, Tea Tree Oil is undergoing a great deal of study for possible use against Staphylococcus aureus; an anti-biotic resistant bacterial infection. 

In the world of aromatherapy, Tea Tree Essential Oil is also considered an anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. A search through Pub Med will show current research supporting these claims. 

I have to acknowledge that there is a nasty little rumor that the “small quantity” ingestion of Tea Tree Oil caused breast enlargement in a 4-year old boy. First of all, it is not recommended that any child 6 years or younger ingest any essential oils. (Although the ingestion of a small quantity of child-safe essential oils by young children is highly unlikely to cause harm. So if your 3-year old child takes a swig from his bottle of coconut massage oil that contains 2% Lavender Essential Oil, I really wouldn’t panic. He probably only drank the equivalent of a teaspoon of coconut oil and about 30-50 little lavender buds.) 

There is another case where a 10 year old apparently also developed breast enlargement after using a hair product by Paul Mitchell that was said to contain Tea Tree Oil. According to world-renowned essential oil safety expert, Robert Tisserand and his book, Essential Oil Safety, the products contained neglible amounts of Tea Tree Oil and since Tea Tree Oil is very poorly absorbed by the skin, it is highly unlikely the gynecomastia was caused by the Tea Tree Oil. 

So I really wouldn’t take the Tea Tree and breast enlargement scare too seriously. 

Regarding the use of this first-aide essential oil, Robert Tisserand only cautions against using Tea Tree undiluted on the skin. He recommends a maximum dermal use level of only 15% to avoid skin irritation. 

One of my favorite uses for Tea Tree is air purification. I like to place 3-6 drops in my essential oil diffuser everyday to help combat any nasties that may be floating around in the air. Of which I have forgotten to do lately and my son and I currently have a cold. Go figure. 


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