Uses of tea tree oil
A renewed interest in natural substances has increased the availability of tea tree oil as a home remedy, and has also inspired research into its composition and beneficial properties. While it should never be taken internally due to potential toxicity, it is fantastic for topical treatment at home of:
- hair growth
- ingrown hair
- superficial wounds
- bug bites
- athlete’s foot
- fever blisters
Tea tree oil also acts as an anti-oxidant. It has been established in several preliminary studies that MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is susceptible to topically-applied tea tree oil. Additionally, it is being studied for its potential use a treatment in some forms of cancer. While those are all rather lofty applications for tea tree oil, it also has benefits for personal care and cosmetic use.
For your scalp
As an antifungal agent, a shampoo or scalp massage oil that contains tea tree oil helps get rid of dandruff and cradle cap. Tea tree oil is an effective solvent for sebum and other dirt or oily buildup on the scalp and hair, so it can be used to help provide a clear, clean surface that can absorb moisture and conditioning products more readily. Additionally, scalp massage with tea tree oil can help stimulate blood flow and reduce inflammation in the follicular cells, which may help enhance hair growth.
It is very important to dissolve tea tree oil into another oil medium prior to applying it to the skin and hair though, as it can be very irritating and drying when used in its undiluted form. Use tea tree oil cautiously. It is not recommended for daily use.
Compared to other oils
How does tea tree oil differ from other botanical oils often used for hair and skin care? Botanical oils, such as coconut oil, shea butter, olive oil, jojoba oil, and almond oil are obtained via the pressing and mechanical extraction of the fats within the fruits from which they are procured. These fats, called triglycerides, are large molecules comprised of glycerin with three medium chain fatty acids bonded to it. The hydrophobic nature and physical structure of these oils enable them to behave as excellent lubricants and emollients for hair and skin. Tea tree oil is an essential oil, which is obtained via steam distillation, fractional distillation, or solvent extraction of the leaves or stems of a plant. The resultant product is a mixture of volatile organic compounds that have distinctive smells and useful properties, but which do not have the structure to act as lubricants or emollients for hair or skin.
This article was originally published on August 2013 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.