Tea tree oil is an essential oil distilled from the Australian plant Melaleuca Alternifolia. It has been used medicinally by Australian Aborigines for centuries and was identified as an antiseptic by the New South Wales chief chemist in the 1920s. In the decades since, tea tree oil has also been found to have substantial anti-fun-gal, antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activity.
The oil of Melaleuca Alternifolia has more than 100 components. The most abundant of these is terpinen- 4-ol which makes up at least 30 per cent and has an important role in the oil’s antimicrobial activity. Levels of 15 components are stipulated in the Inter-national Standard for Oil of Melaleuca, Terpinen- 4-ol type (ISO 4730).
Tea tree oil has a long history of use for medicinal purposes. It was identified as an antiseptic by the New South Wales chief chemist in the 1920s. Many tea tree oil products are listed as antiseptics by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Considerable research, much of it by the Tea Tree Oil Research Group at The University of Western Australia, has revealed tea tree oil to be effective as an antibacterial, antifungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of tea tree oil prompt-ed an investigation of its effectiveness in treating acne prone skin. A clinical trial involving 124 teenage patients evaluated the effectiveness of 5% tea tree oil gel in treating mild to moderate acne prone skin when compared with 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion (a commonly used topical young skin treatment).
The results showed that both 5% tea tree oil gel and 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion had a significant effect in ameliorating the patients’ skin by reducing the number of inflamed and non-inflamed lesions.