Tea Tree Oil

Teatreekent Hello, Naturally Healthy People!

A recent useful posting by an American doctor, Astrid Pujari, M.D., on the use of tee tree oil in the management of fungal toenail infections has inspired me to write more on this very useful plant oil.

Tee tree oil is an essential oil derived from the leaves and branches of the tea tree of Australasia.  While toxic when taken orally, as Dr Pujari points out, it has a multitude of uses when used topically.

The natural oil has a varied composition of terpene hydrocarbons, cineol and other alcohols.  In fact more than 100 different compounds have been found in tea tree oil.

It has antibacterial and antifungal action in vitro (ie in labroratory conditions, rather than in live animals). It may even be effective against MRSA (methicillin-resistance staphylococcus aureus).

It is used mainly as an antiseptic, and was used traditionally by Australian aboriginals for athletes foot, bites, cuts and stings. There is some evidence for its effectiveness in skin problems such as acne, eczema, head lice, psoriasis and bacterial infections of the skin.

Adverse reactions include local rashes and allergy, and one source says drowsiness and other CNS effects, diarrhoea, irritation of the oral mucosa, and vomiting, but these are presumably on oral intake only. Effects in pregnancy and breast feeding are unknown.

In animals, tea tree can be used topically, even undiluted, for wounds, thrush in horses (a bacterial infection of the frog of the foot, quite different to the fungal infection in humans), ringworm, and fungal, viral and bacterial infections generally. It can also be used in aloe vera gel or seaweed gel for topical applications. 

For urine infections, it can be applied topically to the skin in between the back legs of dogs and horses, but there have been occasional reports of adverse effects such as severe inflammation and even temporary paralysis. 

A few drops can be added to a bucket or bowl of drinking water for urine infections and as an immune stimulant, but the animal should also have access to plain drinking water so that it can make a choice.

Tea tree oil is an invaluable adjunct to any family medicine cabinet!

Have a great week, naturally healthy people!


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