Join Dr. Michele Burklund, our Chief Science Officer, to talk about the medicinal uses of tea tree oil. Learn how the Aborigines knew the healing power of this plant long before science could prove it, how industrial factories used it to prevent employee infections in the 1950’s and the current science including tea tree oil’s broad antimicrobial actions.
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Right below, you will find the transcript of this video.
(00:00) – So most people have most likely already have heard of tea tree oil. It’s available in most grocery stores or drug stores. But today, we’re really gonna talk about the science to see exactly how it works and what it’s really effective against. My name is Dr. Michele Burklund, I’m the Chief Science Officer here at Puriya. And a lot of what I do is the research and formulations, writing the medical literature. And every week on Fridays at 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time, I am here with you. And this is a little bit different this week, I’m gonna talk about a specific plant. So sometimes where I answer questions, sometimes where I talk about different elements or conditions. And this time, we’re talking about one of my favorite plants, tea tree essential oil.
(00:48) – So it comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia which is a small native tree to Australia. And it’s been used in traditional medicine by Aborigines for centuries. And a lot of the native Australians crushed the leaves to kind of break up and get the essential oils out and inhale it for coughs and colds or even apply it directly to their skin. So they did that long before we had the science to actually back it up. And there’s two pretty interesting stories here. So during World War II, tea tree oil was considered so important for its medicinal uses in the Australian army and the soldiers, that they were actually supplied oil as part of their military kits. So that’s part of a story. It’s never officially been verified, but legend has it that even back then in World War II, every soldier had tea tree oil with them to help battle infections and ward off bugs and other things along the way.
(01:55) – And interestingly enough too, they also used tea tree oil during that time in factories. So factories where they were making different metal pieces and other things, there was a high risk of infections for people getting little slivers or other things inside their skin getting infected and so they actually used it back then to prevent infections against the worker. So it has a very interesting history for a long time and a lot of effective uses in traditional medicine. But today, we’re gonna kinda go into some of the studies that show which specific bacteria or fungi strains it’s effective against and how we can use this in daily life too.
(02:44) – So first off, what I wanna talk about is how the essential oil is extracted. And I have a picture here because it’s actually produced by a steam distillation process. And it’s important to kind of look at this and picture how these leaves have the oil part, the essential oil is removed from the water and it’s highly concentrated. So while you’re looking at this, it’s interesting because in order to produce just a small amount of essential oil, it requires a huge amount of leaves. So for example, a single pound of essential oil, let’s say from rose petals, can be up to 10,000 pounds of rose petals for one pound of oil or 250 pounds of lavender to make one pound of lavender essential oil. So essential oils are highly, highly concentrated plant extracts. They are much different than teas or infusions because a huge amount of plant is concentrated and then just those volatile oils, as essential oils, are actually extracted. So it’s a very potent way and it’s a very powerful medicine because of that too.
(04:02) – So what I wanna show you here is when you extract the essential oil, you get all of these different constituents and there’s hundreds of them. But the graph you’re looking at right here is actually the most studied constituents of the tea tree essential oil which is thought to have a lot of the medicinal components. There’s a lot of research on each specific constituent that I’m listing here, and then also it’s specific actions against different bacteria and fungi. So I wanted you to take a look at this so you can kind of picture it. So we go from the leaf and then we extract it and highly concentrate it and then we’re looking at these medicinal constituents here as well.
(04:54) – So this was a great article I wanted to talk about. Let me grab this for a moment. So this is a very generalized clinical trial on a review of all applications of tea tree oil actually in dermatology. And what’s so unique about tea tree, especially compared to different essential oils. It’s a very broad spectrum antimicrobial covering different bacteria, different fungi and different yeast. So this clinical trial discussed a lot of potential in bacterial, viral, fungal infections affecting the skin and it’s mucosa and then it also actually looked at its ability to improve wound healing as well. So this was a great one to give you a broad picture of how it can be used in helping with the skin in a lot of different areas that way. So that’s what’s so great about tea tree oil. Not only can soldiers in an army use it, factory workers trying to prevent wounds but it’s great for fungal infections, skin infections and we’re gonna get into even some ways that it can help clean the air and repel bugs as well.
(06:17) – So a very popular treatment with tea tree oil is that it’s actually able to help acne quite a bit because, acne, a lot of it can be caused by specific strains of bacteria. And this study showed that the use of tea tree oil products significantly improved mild-to-moderate acne and the product was very well-tolerated as well. So it can be a great alternative to harsher chemicals but it is very potent. So you have to remember that.
(06:54) – Now, fungal infections is actually a great topic. And there were so many different trials to kind of get into and talk about fungal infections and the power of tea tree oil but I chose this specific one. It’s a little bit of an older clinical trial, but it analyzed so many different fungi strains. So for example, Trichophyton species is responsible for fungal infections like athlete’s foot, ringworm or jock itch. Or Malassezia is responsible for tanning rash. So we have these specific strains of bacteria we wanna focus on and see can tea tree oil or its constituents be effective against the exact anti-fungal… Fungus strains we’re looking for because there’s a lot of great essential oils out there and then we need to know is it effective against the most common fungus?
(07:53) – So I liked this clinical trial a lot because it’s a test tubed clinical trial, but it evaluated all these different strains. So it found that tea tree oil had activity against 26 different strains of dermatophytes species, 54 yeast, and 32 Candida albicans strains including 22 different Malassezia strains. So this is huge. It looked at… It has such a great broad antimicrobial activity, and I thought this was just a great way to show that there is a lot of potential with tea tree oil for so many different things from common infections that you can get like athlete’s foot or ringworm or even jock itch.
(08:43) – And the next one is great. Now, I’ve actually used this a lot personally, too, traveling in different areas. And it’s used as a bug repellent. And I liked this clinical trial here, let me see if I can find this one, because it discussed how it can be quite a good bug repellent as well. So this was a test tube study that showed that tea tree oil showed a lot of promise and could even be more powerful than DEET as a potential bug repellent against mosquitoes. So of course, I always say, “Go out and see if it works for you. Everybody’s skin is different of how you tolerate essential oils, directly on your skin and if it is effective for you,” but that would be great. Instead of having this highly toxic chemical, like DEET, you can use a plant-based product like tea tree essential oil.
(09:53) – Okay. And this is a very interesting application which I didn’t really think about until I started researching a little more about tea tree oil was how it has potential to help indoor air quality. So this study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health looked at tea tree oil as an indoor air quality treatment. So the trial stated that like 90% of the time, people are indoors and fungal spores have become a leading complaint in different indoor environments from home and working areas. So they took a look at several different anti-fungal treatments from industrial disinfectants, ethanol, vinegar and tea tree oil. And this study concluded that tea tree oil was actually the most effective anti-fungal tested against all the potential fungi and has the potential for use in residential and commercial settings. And so I thought that was a great use that we don’t normally think of for something like tea tree oil but it can really help in air quality in the home as well.
(11:07) – So I think tea tree oil has a lot of great uses. Traced back hundreds of years from the Aborigines to the soldiers in World War I and World War II. And now, proven effective for things like acne, skin infections and common fungal infections and even bug repellent and indoor air quality. So one thing I actually want to touch on to today is that I want to remember… I wanna remind everyone that tea tree oil is not to be taken internally. So when I talk about it has great antimicrobial effects against bacteria and this and that, it’s great on a topical level but it’s so concentrated. This is a very, very concentrated essential oil, and it can be poisonous when swallowed. So do not take tea tree oil internally, only use it for external use. And it can actually be quite irritating on the skin, if you put it directly on. So it’s always advised if you’re going to be using the oil, mix it with a nice carrier oil too. So mix it into olive oil or something to dilute it down as well.
(12:24) – So I want to remind all of you guys to have an amazing weekend. And also next week, we have an interview with Serena Dyer, the daughter of Wayne Dyer. And we’re gonna be talking about spirituality, how to find balance, self-awareness, lots of great topics. So tune in next week for that. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you can get reminders of what we have going on every week, what topic we’re gonna cover, who we’re gonna interview, and a lot of great information on health and wellness. So have an amazing weekend, and I will see you next week. Take care.