The wonders of Tea Tree oil

Scientists believe that tea tree oil's remarkable properties are due to 100 different 'medicinal' chemical constituents.
Here we tell you why it makes an essential addition to your family medicine chest.
Bacterial Infections Mounting evidence suggests that tea tree oil may treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections such as the superbug MRSA better than orthodox antiseptic skin preparations.
Because of its multiple resistance to conventional antibiotics, MRSA can often flourish unchecked in wounds, causing problems with the healing process and, in the worst cases, blood poisoning, gangrene and even death.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia found that every MRSA strain they tested was killed by a 0.5 pc solution of the oil - a finding recently replicated in Britain by Giles Elsom, a microbiologist at the University of East London.
'We've found tea tree oil to be safe and effective in cases where conventional, more toxic, anti-microbial treatments have failed,' says Mr Elsom.
Thrush Tea tree oil is effective against the Candida albicans yeast that causes thrush. In a study published in the Journal Of Anti-Microbial Chemotherapy, a concentration as low as 0.25 pc killed 90 pc of Candida albicans samples grown in the laboratory.
Julia Lawless, author of Tea Tree Oil (Thorsons, £3.99), recommends treating thrush with a solution made by mixing 20 drops of tea tree oil in 100ml purified water.
For vaginal thrush, a tampon soaked in this solution should be inserted in the vagina, and changed every 24 hours.
For oral thrush, Lawless recommends diluting pure tea tree oil to 50 pc with water and dabbing this solution on the affected area with a cotton bud twice daily for three days.
Athlete's Foot Research shows that tea tree oil can also ease athlete's foot. In a study at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, New South Wales, tea tree oil was equally as effective as a standard anti-fungal treatment at relieving the scaling, inflammation, itching and burning caused by the infection. Julia Lawless recommends treating athlete's foot by applying neat oil to clean, dry toes.
Cuts and Grazes According to Professor Tom Riley of the University of Western Australia's Department of Microbiology, tea tree oil used at the right concentration is a good antiseptic and disinfectant for domestic use, and can be used for abrasions and cuts.
'The chemical composition of tea tree oil means it has the ability to penetrate the skin extremely well, which previous antiseptics and disinfectants have not done,' says Professor Riley. 'It also has some anaesthetic effects, which may help to stop it stinging.'
Julia Lawless suggests applying a few drops of neat tea tree oil to cleaned cuts and grazes before applying an adhesive plaster.
Acne Researchers compared the effects of a water-based gel containing 5 pc tea tree oil with a lotion providing the same concentration of benzoyl peroxide (a standard pharmaceutical treatment).
Clinical assessment and self-reporting of side-effects demonstrated that tea tree oil was not as fast-acting as benzoyl peroxide, but was equally successful at reducing the number of blackheads, whiteheads and acne spots after three months. Tea tree oil was also far better tolerated by facial skin.
Oral Hygiene Researchers at Zurich University have demonstrated that tea tree oil is highly active against the oral bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and conditions such as gingivitis, mouth ulcers and bad breath. Laboratory tests performed on volunteers by Thursday Plantation Laboratories, the world's first commercial plantation producers of tea tree oil, confirm these findings.
How safe is Tea Tree Oil? Robert Riedl, technical manager at Thursday Plantation Laboratories, says: 'Always buy oil from a reputable source. Brown bottles, which are designed to keep out sunlight, are best. 'But at the very least make sure that you keep the oil in a well-sealed glass container in a cool, dry place away from direct light.
'Sensitive skin may still react to the neat oil, but specially formulated shampoos, antiseptic creams, lozenges and soaps contain lower, but still effective, concentrations that are much less likely to irritate.
'To be effective, shampoo should provide 1pc to 2 pc tea tree oil, antiseptic skin creams at least 5 pc and soap around 2pc.'