Out of your tree

Tea tree oil is Australia's natural wonder drug, says Colette Harris
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Indy Lifestyle Online
If Tea Tree oil didn't already exist, some pharmaceutical company would be spending millions trying to invent it. Or maybe not, since one bottle of the stuff does the job of the dozens of synthetically manufactured creams which make up their profits.

Australian aborigines have used tea tree oil for centuries, and by the Second World War it was issued as standard in the first-aid kits of the Australian army and navy. Now, most Aussie families have a bottle of it knocking about the house for use as a general household cleaner and disinfectant, an antiseptic for cuts, grazes and skin conditions such as eczema, and even for chicken pox, poor circulation and getting rid of toothache. It also discourages parrots from self-mutilation and forms the front-line defence against the hospital "killer bug" MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Over here, it is best known as an excellent treatment for spots.

So, what is the secret behind the versatility of this miracle substance? "Tea tree oil is such a good, all round oil because of its complex chemical composition," says Marion Fewkes at Shirley Price Aromatherapy. "All essential oils comprise a large number of different chemicals which work together, balancing each other's effects. This balancing effect isn't present in a pharmaceutical product made from a single concentrated chemical, because there isn't a 'quenching' effect from other chemicals." "It's a very versatile oil," explains Tisserand aromatherapist Mark Church. "It can help in lots of different conditions because it's such a powerful antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting substance."

Tea tree oil's secret lies in the combined strength of its three main chemicals, each of which has its own powerful healing properties. Terpinen-4-ol is an alcohol which is a bactericide and an anti- infectious, antiviral, stimulating, warming, general tonic. 1,8 Cineol is mucolytic, making it is useful for coughs, colds and congestion, as well as boosting the immune system. There is also t-terpinene, which is antiseptic, anti-bacterial, calming and anti- inflammatory. In total, there are around 50 substances in tea tree oil, their combinations producing other useful effects.

Ben Soper, 28, swears by tea tree oil as a cure for athlete's foot. "It is fantastic at zapping it before it starts," he says. Cathie Wiselan, 25, sings tea tree's praises for getting rid of a skin infection that she had suffered from for nearly 18 months. "I had tried everything," she explains, "including antibiotics, antiseptic creams on prescription and homeopathy. I started using tea tree gel and after two weeks it disappeared. It has never come back."

The Tea Tree Oil Encyclopaedia by Karen and Don Mackenzie costs pounds 9.99 including p&p and a free 10ml bottle of tea tree oil. Call 01530 264 191 or send a cheque made out to Karedon Publishing to Freepost (MID 06163), Ibstock, Leicestershire, LE76 6BS.