Known locally as honey myrtles or bottlebrush trees, tea tree oil can be found in over 100 different variations throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Australian aboriginal people have used tea tree oil for thousands of years to treat cuts and wounds. Leaves are crushed and applied directly to the wound beneath a mud pack.
19th century European settlers learned about tea tree oil from the Aboriginals, and now the modern scientific community is beginning to research the bactericidal and germicidal properties of this wonderful product.
A natural astringent, it is increasingly used by those who have oily skin or hair. It can be applied to the skin to help remove oily secretions, or applied to the scalp before shampooing to help clean greasy hair. Other uses include treating cuts, scratches, sunburn and cold sores.
The active ingredients include cineole and terpinen. Both are bactericidal and germicidal, but cineole can be a powerful skin irritant. Thus herbalists prefer to use species with low cineole and high terpinen contents.
Aromatherapists use it widely, appreciating its warm, nutmeg-like scent. This property makes it popular in spicy wintertime diffusions during the cold and flu season.