The distinctly fragrant oil comes from the 2-meter tall tea tree shrub most known to be found on the coasts of southeastern Australia. Originally used by the indigenous Aborigines for medicinal purposes, it has become a well-known essential oil for topical use, aromatherapy and hair care.
It takes 12-15 months for a tree to reach harvesting height from just a seedling before the oil can be extracted from the leaves using steam distillation.
Tea tree oil is known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Our bodies naturally produce sebum, which acts as a protective layer for our hair roots and skin. It protects our skin from dryness and microbes. As shampoos and soaps strip our hair and skin of our body's natural oil, it makes sense to use moisturizers and oils that include these protective benefits.
Tea tree in shampoos isn't just for their aroma. Tea tree oil is used for its anti-dandruff properties. Andrew Satchell et al found in their research that shampoo with even 5% tea tree oil helped to treat dandruff and the accompanying symptom of itchiness after washing their hair daily for 4 weeks. While some may not have dandruff, it may still be preferred to use Tea Tree as a preventative measure.
Tea tree oil is considered an essential oil. Unlike carrier oils such as coconut and almond oil, tea tree can be harmful when used directly on the skin without first diluting it sufficiently. Why? At high concentrations, tea tree oil can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions.
The tea tree plant is not the same as the one that makes cups of tea. It's from a completely different plant family. It should also never be consumed orally. Even though this is a hair care article, we just wanted to share this warning, just in case.
Its benefits of acting as a microbial oil have made it a popular remedy in alternative medicinal uses and it's best to use in small dosages.
One of the benefits of growing tea tree shrubs is that they are “naturally pest resistant” and thus don’t require pesticides. Essential oils are considered good potential pesticides in themselves, so farmers can find it easier to organically grow this wonderful shrub.
With one of the highest densities of hair follicles on the body, the scalp absorbs chemicals quickly. Having fewer harmful chemicals from pesticides used in farming means fewer harmful chemicals found in the end products we use on our skin and hair. Unfortunately, pesticides can be found even in food-grade oils like olive oil, but tea tree oil's natural pest-repellant means good news for us.