The Australian Tea Tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, is being used to produce an essential oil known as Tea Tree oil. The oil is usually extracted from the leaves and stems of the plants using a steam distillation process, and marketed as a natural healing agent for diverse uses. It is one of the more promising natural healing agents on the market today, with evidence from scientific studies to back up claims of its healing properties.
Among the benefits of tea tree oil is its ability to fight infectious agents: bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The fact that it has activity against these pathogens makes it ideal as a topical antiseptic for wounds, burns, acne, insect bites and localized infections. (Tea Tree oil may cause irritation to the skin if applied directly in concentrated form. As well, it should not be taken internally: its safety as an oral remedy has not been established. ) It is recommended by alternative healing practitioners for fungal infections of the skin, hair, and nails, and it has also been used as a natural treatment for lice and mites.
Other Tea Tree oil uses include aromatherapy, and as an anti-inflammatory and an agent to clear the nasal passages in head colds. Rubbed on the skin, it is said to penetrate well and act as a painkiller. Scientific study has not yet verified the benefits of Tea Tree in all of these applications; however the antiseptic qualities of the oil are well documented, at least in the research laboratory setting.
The antifungal benefits of Tea Tree oil make it a good alternative healing remedy for fungal nail infections, something that is badly needed in an area where the choice of treatments is basically limited to old home remedies or expensive and possibly dangerous prescription drugs. Many natural remedies for fungal nail infections now contain the oil in various concentrations, sometimes combined with other essential oils or herbal extracts thought to have antifungal action. This has become one of the top Tea Tree oil uses.
Most topical treatments for nail fungus infections are not very effective because they do not penetrate the nail to contact the fungus directly. One of the benefits of Tea Tree oil as a topical treatment applied to nails is that it seems to be able to penetrate the nail unusually well, working its way down through the layers of keratin until it reaches the fungus where it is growing near the nail bed. Other antifungal Tea Tree oil uses include topical treatment of skin infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. It is truly a multipurpose first aid and natural treatment remedy.
R. Drysdale is a freelance writer with more than 25 years experience as a health care professional. She is a contributing editor to Tea Tree Oil , a blog dedicated to the treatment of fingernail and toenail fungus.