The origin of tea tree oil and what it’s used for

By Aiden Clarkson on March 11, 2011

You may have heard of tea tree oil before, or seen it featured as an ingredient in a beauty product. It isn’t unusual to see tea tree oil body washes and face scrubs. But where does it come from, and what else is it used for?

Where it’s from

Tea tree oil, often known as melaleuca oil, is taken from the leaves of the “tea tree” which is native to the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. The tea tree is actually called the Melaleuca alternifolia1, but it’s fair to say that it’s more common name is a lot easier to pronounce and remember!

What it looks like

The oil taken from the tea tree varies between a pale yellow and nearly clear colour. It is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves; although these used to have a different purpose2. Not to be confused with the trees that today provide us with black and green tea, the tea tree leaves were used as a substitute for the real thing. This is where its name originates.

What it’s used for

Tea tree oil has been used for many years, including by the Australian aboriginals. They used tea tree topically on their skin for a number of uses. Today, the most common form of tea tree oil is as a pure essential oil, although it is found elsewhere too. The oil is often referred to as “refreshing”3; it has a distinctive smell that sets it apart from the rest.

Aside from as an essential oil, tea tree oil is also a common ingredient in creams, ointments, lotions, soaps, shampoos and other beauty care products. These particular products, as well as tea tree essential oils, can be found in all good health food shops in the UK.

1 Wikipedia. (2011). Tea tree oil.

2 About – Alternative Medicine. (2011). Tea Tree Oil.

3 Holland & Barrett. (2011). Tea tree.

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