Tea-tree

Melaleuca alternifolia. Leptospermum. The fresh and dried leaves are the part of the plant that is used.

The leaves are harvested as needed. The crushed foliage is aromatic because of the high oil content. The oil content varies greatly between species, often depending on the climatic conditions.

Functions of tea-tree

The leaves and the oil extract from the leaves has antiseptic qualities and will kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. It is also used as an infusion taken internally to stimulate the immune system in cases of glandular fever and chronic fatigue syndrome. Tea-tree:

  • is used as a wash in the treatment of abscesses, boils and acne and to counteract the effects of fungal infection such as athlete's foot and ringworm. It can be made into a warm douche as a wash for the vagina to treat vaginal thrush and itching.
  • is used for the treatment of cold sores, gingivitis and mouth ulcers. The cold sores are treated with infused oil as soon as the first tingling appears. An infusion is made as a mouth wash or gargle for mouth ulcers.
  • infusion or wash can be used to treat warts, sores and any superficial infection. It will help to prevent them from spreading and assist in their healing.
  • oil can be dabbed onto bites and stings to take away the pain and reduce the swelling.
  • infusion can be used to stimulate the immune system to counter the effects of cystitis and urethritis.
  • oil can be used to treat head lice. The oil is combed through the hair and left in overnight. The oils is shampooed out in the morning. Adding the oil to shampoos will assist in keeping the lice away. Add infused rosemary, lavender and thyme oil to increase its effectiveness.

Dosages

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonsful of the leaves and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes.

Wash: A wash is a warm infusion that is spread over the skin with a clean cloth or cotton ball.

For the gardener

This melaleuca likes a sunny position with a moist (almost swampy) soil. It prefers the warm sub-tropical regions, although it can withstand light frosts. The plant will benefit from a light pruning and it can be made into a hedge.

It can be grown from seeds planted in the spring or from tip cuttings that are taken in the summer.

References

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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