Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of a small tree native to Australia, Melaleuca alternifolia. Although it is known as the tea tree, it is not the Chinese plant that produces black and green tea for drinking, and its oil is for external use.
Tea tree oil has been used as a traditional medicine by aborigines for centuries. These native Australians crush tea tree leaves to extract the oil, which is then inhaled to treat coughs and colds or applied directly to the skin for healing.
Today, it is widely available as a 100% undiluted or "neat" oil. Diluted forms are also available, ranging from 5-50% strength in products designed for the skin.
Tea tree oil contains several compounds that have been shown to kill certain bacteria, viruses and fungi, including one which also appears to increase the activity of white blood cells, which fight germs and other foreign invaders in the human body.
These germ-fighting properties make this amazing oil a valued natural remedy for treating bacterial and fungal skin conditions, preventing infection and promoting healing.
It has over a dozen modern uses. Let’s take it from the top – starting with your hair.
HAIR AND SCALP INFECTION
Injuries that result in broken skin make it easy for germs to enter your bloodstream, which can lead to infection.
These in turn begin to cause other symptoms such as dandruff, itchy scalp, and eventually thinning and balding.
Dandruff, or white flakes of dead skin that fall from the scalp, isn't dangerous. However, it can be annoying and embarrassing enough that in the $15 billion US shampoo market, the bestseller is an anti-dandruff shampoo.
Tea tree oil is a relatively new entrant into the shampoo market, where its anti-dandruff and other beneficial qualities are causing it to rapidly gain popularity.
In one controlled four-week study, the group who used a shampoo containing tea tree oil had a 40% improvement in dandruff. Moreover, the tea tree group reported significant improvements in dandruff severity, itchiness and greasiness. The study concluded that it may help reduce the severity of dandruff and improve other symptoms. It is notable that there were no negative effects experienced in this study.