Medicinal Herbs used in Wildcrafted Herbal Products' Therapeutic Creams and Compounds

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Medicinal Herb: Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

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Tea tree is a small tree, growing to a height of 22 feet, with narrow, soft, alternate leaves and yellowish flowers the shape of bottlebrushes. One of more than 30 species of "paperbark' trees native to Australia, tea tree belongs to the Melaleuca genus, and is closely related to Melaieuca leucadendron (the source of cajuput oil) and Melaleuca quinquenervia (which produces niaouli oil). The name Melaleuca comes from the Greek melas (black) and leukos (white) - referring to the contrast between the dark- green foliage, which appears black, and the loose, paper-thin and very white bark.

Melaleuca alternifolia thrives in a relatively small area of New South Wales, in swampy low-lying land surrounding flood-prone river systems. Because tea tree favors rather remote wetlands, harvesting the leaves for their oil is difficult.


Tea Tree

Botanical Name:

Melaleuca alternifolia


Other Names:
Ti Tree, Tea tree, Australian tea tree

Parts Used:
Essential oil, the leaf

Active Compounds: 
Essential oil containing a range of terpenes and sesquiterpenes.

In 1770, Captain James Cook and his party came upon a grove of trees thick with sticky, aromatic leaves that they later found made a spicy tea. The "Tea Tree", as it was called by Captain Cook, became a valued bush remedy used by the early European settlers.

However, it was not until after the First World War that serious attention was given to the plant's specific medical uses. In 1923 an Australian government scientist discovered that the essential oil from the tea tree is 12 times stronger as an antiseptic bactericide than carbolic acid (the standard). Research continued, and tea tree became recognized, as a powerful disinfectant, non- poisonous and non-irritating.

Indeed, among the essential oils valued for their anti-infectious properties, tea tree has few rivals. Powerfully antibiotic - literally "against life" - the oil is nevertheless supportive to the life of the body and immune system, and may be safely employed for a wide range of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. The oil also helps prevent the recurrence of infection.

Traditional Applications in Herbal Medicine:
Anti-microbial, analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-infectious, antiparasitic, antiviral, balsamic, cardiotonic, cicatrisant, immune tonic, neurotonic, phlebotonic, general tonic, vulnerary.

The essential oil of Tea Tree is an important anti-microbial. Many people make exaggerated claims about the effectiveness of this herb; there are very few scientific evidence to its usefulness.

A list of conditions that Melaleuca oil has been suggested for include:
sinusitis, the common cold, sinus blockage, laryngitis, coughs, apthous ulcers, boils, cuts, bites, sunburn, miliaria, parasites, head lice, herpes simples, herpes progenitalis, impetigo, psoriasis, infected seborrhoeic dermatitis, ringworm of the scalp, ringworm, athletes foot, fungal infections of the nails, thrush, trichomonal vaginitis.


The oil is for external use and in people with sensitive skin it should be diluted with a bland fixed oil such as almond oil. There is currently a wide range of products on the market that contain the oil. These include toothpaste, soap, shampoo.


Non toxic, non-irritant.

No information available. Some herbs are known to react with your medication. Please consult your physician before starting on any herb.

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