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Melaleuca alternifolia


Melaleuca alternifolia

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Tea tree oil, melaleuca oil

Original Habitat

Tea tree oil is one of the most popular essential oils, used across the globe. The essential oil is derived using the steam-distillation process and is clear to very pale yellow in colour. It has historically been used to treat infections such as boils, vaginal and skin infections. It has been used to treat mouth sores, acne, burns, and psoriasis. This small tree is only found in the northeast region of New South Wales, Australia.

Plant Part Used



The essential oil of M. alternifolia is used in many over the counter products such as toothpaste, mouth rinse, anti-biotic ointments, soaps, dandruff shampoos and various creams and lotions. It has a long history of use in antiseptics and disinfectants. Tea tree oil was approved by the Australian dental professionals as an antiseptic as early as the 1930s.[1] It was also administered to soldiers during World War II for its disinfectant attributes. In therapeutic aromatherapy, it is used primarily as single oil, but is also found in some formulations.


The moderately viscous oil is steam distilled from the leaves and is a pale-yellow or yellow-green liquid with a spicy camphor-like aroma. The overall quality of production may result in a dramatic difference in the antimicrobial activities of the oil.

Chemical Constituents

Terpenols: Alpha-terpineol (5%)
Terpinen-4-ol (40%)
Terpenes: Alpha and gamma terpenes (6-18%)
Paracymene (15%)
Sesquiterpenes (8%) [2][3][4][5]

Note: This monograph reports on this essential oil in regard to its potential use in the French school of aromatherapy, as well as reporting any additional science that has been published. The ratings range from +, indicating a lower therapeutic value, to ++++ indicating a higher therapeutic value.

Medicinal Uses

Important disinfectant with a wide range of uses +++
(Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella, Candida, Lambliasis)
Immunostimulant (Ig A and Ig M) +++
Antiasthenic and neurotonic harmonizer +++

Anti-inflammatory– An in vitro study examined the essential oil of M. alternifolia as a possible modulator of the inflammatory/non-specific immune response. At 1%, the oil increased the secretion of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-4. The oil demonstrated its antioxidant activity and also reduced the formation of inflammatory cells.[6]

Antibacterial This essential oil has traditionally been used and acclaimed as an effective antiseptic. An in vitro study examined M. alternifolia against MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) a difficult to treat pathogen commonly seen in hospitals. MRSA demonstrated susceptibility to the oil.[7] It has been shown that terpinen-4-ol, one of the major constituents of M. alternifolia, possesses strong anti-staphylococcal activity [8] making the use of tea tree essential oil a reasonable approach to treating superficial Staph infections.[9]

Antifungal- Historically and currently, the essential oil of M. alternifolia, has been used as a topical application for fungal infections. This use has been strongly supported by in vitro and in vivo studies that suggest a variety of applications for the oil such as a treatment for Candida albicans, and some types of dandruff.[2][10]

Traditional Use

Bacterial, candidosic, viral and parasitic infections in all areas ++++
Before radiotherapy +++
General and nervous fatigue ++
Varicose veins, hemorrhoids ++
All cutaneous infections +++

Nail Fungal Infections- A double-blind, multi-centre, randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of topical tea tree oil or clotrimazole in nail fungal infections, also known as onychomycosis. The results showed that both treatments in combination with debridement improved nail appearance and symptomology.[11]

Acne- Based on tea tree oil’s antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, a study involving 124 patients with acne compared benzoyl peroxide against a topical tea tree oil gel. The results showed that both treatments had positive on effects on acne. The benzoyl peroxide group experienced positive results more quickly while the tea tree oil group experienced fewer side effects.[12]

Tinea Pedis- Three groups were assigned to tea tree oil, 1% tolnaftate, or placebo creams for the treatment of tinea pedis (commonly known as Athlete’s Foot). The tea tree oil and tolnaftate demonstrated significant symptom improvement over placebo but were equal to placebo in curing the condition.[13]

Contraindications and Precautions

Those with sensitive skin may develop contact dermatitis.[14] In fact, some researchers are stating that contact dermatitis is becoming more and more common in Australia.[15] This may limit topical use in some patients.

A recent study stated that essential oils should be used with caution when taking antibiotics. Tea tree oil showed antagonistic effects when combined with antibiotics for the treatment of Candida.[16]

Keep away from animals, as it can be deadly.



[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]

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  1) Cultivation

  2) Safety

  3) Medicinal Herbs


1.     Penfold AR, et al. Some notes on the Essential oil of M. alternifolia. Aust J Dent. 1930:417-418.

2.     Mondello F. In vivo activity of terpinen-4-ol, the main bioactive component of Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel (tea tree) oil against azole-susceptible and -resistant human pathogenic Candida species. BMC Infect Dis. 3 Nov 2006;6:158.

3.     Carson CF, Mee BJ, Riley TV. Mechanism of action of Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil on Staphylococcus aureus determined by time-kill, lysis, leakage and salt tolerance assays and electron microscopy. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Jun 2002;46(6):1914-1920.

4.     Shellie R, Mondello L, Dugo G, Marriott P. Enantioselective gas chromatographic analysis of monoterpenes in essential oils of the family Myrtaceae. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 2004;19(6):582-585.

5.     Verghese J, Jacob CV, Kunjunni KCV, McCarron M, Mills AJ, Whittaker D. Indian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia cheel) essential oil. Flavour and fragrance journal. 1996;11(4):219-221.

6.     Caldefie-Chézet F. Potential anti-inflammatory effects of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil on human peripheral blood leukocytes. Phytother Res. May 2006;20(5):364-370.

7.     Carson CF. Susceptibility of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia. J Antimicrob Chemother. May 1995;35(3):421-424.

8.     Ferrini AM. Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil possesses potent anti-staphylococcal activity extended to strains resistant to antibiotics. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2006;19(3):539-544.

9.     Halcón L. Staphylococcus aureus and wounds: a review of tea tree oil as a promising antimicrobial. Am J Infect Control. Nov 2004;32(7):402-408.

10.  Nenoff P. Antifungal activity of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) against pathogenic fungi in vitro. Skin Pharmacol. 1996;9(6):388-394.

11.  Buck DS. Comparison of two topical preparations for the treatment of onychomycosis: Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and clotrimazole. J Fam Pract. Jun 1994;38(6):601-605.

12.  Bassett IB. A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust. 15 Oct 1990;153(8):455-458.

13.  Tong MM. Tea tree oil in the treatment of tinea pedis. Australas J Dermatol. 1992;33(3):145-149.

14.  Knight TE. Melaleuca oil (tea tree oil) dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol. Mar 1994;30(3):423-427.

15.  Williams JD. Recurrent allergic contact dermatitis due to allergen transfer by sunglasses. Contact Dermatitis. Aug 2007;57(2):120-121.

16.  Van Vuuren SF. The antimicrobial activity of four commercial essential oils in combination with conventional antimicrobials. Lett Appl Microbiol. Apr 2009;48(4):440-446.

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