Antibiotics are falling worldwide creating SuperBugs resistant to drug but tea tree essential oil benefits show us that EOs may be the answer!
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Melaleuca Alternifolia hails from Australia, and has been used as a traditional remedy on the eastern coast for centuries. Crushed tea tree leaves soothe cuts and wounds in medicinal poultices. Inhaled vapors treat respiratory illness and discomfort. Finally, in 1923, tea tree oil uses and antiseptic benefits were scientifically validated when Arthur Penfold discovered the essential oil was a dozen times stronger than carbolic acid!
With this knowledge in hand, Australians brought the benefits of tea tree oil with them as they fought in World War II. Around this time, pharmaceutical antibiotics came on the scene, disparaging the use of natural remedies. Just a few short years after Western science proved the efficacy of a centuries old traditional remedy, the same science threw it by the wayside. In the ‘60s, the disdain was so heavily felt that the tea tree oil uses and industry collapsed completely, only recently making its return to global popularity.
Antibiotic Overuse – A Public Health Crisis
One word spoken by the World Health Organization (WHO) has rocked the health world, confirming what natural health practitioners have warned us about for years: superbugs.
The overuse of antibiotics and antimicrobial treatments is creating drug resistance, a public health threat in which bacteria, a fungus, or a virus can become completely resistant to drugs – a superbug that can withstand all treatment. The WHO statement on superbugs cautioned,
This means that standard treatments no longer work; infections are harder or impossible to control; the risk of the spread of infection to others is increased; illness and hospital stays are prolonged, with added economic and social costs; and the risk of death is greater—in some cases, twice that of patients who have infections caused by non-resistant bacteria. (1)
It’s no wonder that the White House’s National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (2) report recently stated, “The development of non-traditional approaches that are less likely to drive resistance is an important step in breaking the cycle of drug development immediately followed by the development of resistance.” Included in the list of proposed non-traditional therapeutic strategies were phytochemicals and essential oils.
When prescription medications are taken for their antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal effects, far more than the targeted concern is destroyed. The gastrointestinal system probably fares the worst, with beneficial microbial life disrupted, destroying your natural gut health. To restore balance, energy and healing efforts are directed toward this damage, taking away from other healing and wellness efforts. Essentially, a spiral of insufficient gut flora reduces immunity, diverts restorative energy, and weakens the body, which is then susceptible to more infections that would need more treatment, and the cycle goes on. You can see how superbugs can quickly become lethal.
Superbug H041 is a sexually transmitted disease that was discovered by public health officials in Japan in 2011. Researchers and natural health professionals agree that this is a frighteningly dangerous health threat. Professor Cathy Ison of the National Reference Laboratory for Gonorrhea expects that it will become untreatable soon. (3) Health officials in the US called for over $50 million in immediate education and awareness funding to help mitigate the dangers of H041. (4)
This is just an example of superbug transmission that should concern us even if we aren’t practicing unsafe sex, because it demonstrates the capability superbugs have to threaten public health.
Many Uses for Tea Tree
Should they allocate more money to engineer even stronger, more potent antibiotics that will inevitably become useless or – worse- enhance the problem as bacteria evolve permanent resistance? Or, in a novel approach, could Congress approve measures to fund research toward the best ways to use natural, established, effective solutions like essential oils? I see much more long term potential in the latter, and here are some of the reasons why.
Slowly, science is catching up in explaining why tea tree oil uses are such an effective antimicrobial agent. Over three hundred studies have been done that refer to tea tree oil’s antimicrobial benefits. We know that centuries of use were warranted, but now we are seeing reasoning for Melaleuca’s effectiveness in traditional remedies for conditions such as:
- Bacterial infections
- Cold sores
- Congestion and respiratory tract infections
- Fungal infections
- Head lice
- Dry cuticles
- Insect bites, sores and sunburns
- Boils from staph infections
And this list doesn’t even include the tea tree oil uses in the cosmetic industry and general home uses, such as make-up removers, laundry detergents and deodorizers because of the antimicrobial benefits.
Although the scientific literature is very quiet regarding specific essential oil protocols, many people have found the following to be helpful:
- Apply diluted tea tree oil on the bottoms of feet. Proper dilution depends on individual sensitivity: 2-3 drops each of oregano and tea tree oil per 1 Tablespoon of carrier oil as a good start for adults. For children use extra caution, and be sure to use even more carrier oil.
- Put 1 drop of tea tree + 1 drop of oregano in a gel capsule filled with carrier oil and consume. For people battling a serious illness, consider taking up two capsules a day.
Returning to its basic foundation as an antibiotic, a 2013 Phytomedicine study weighed the safety factors involved with taking essential oils alongside traditional antibiotics. The essential oils, including tea tree oil, were safe and free of adverse reactions taken in conjunction with popular antibiotics ampicillin, piperacillin, cefazolin, cefuroxime, carbenicillin, ceftazidime and meropenem. (5) If you absolutely must take an antibiotic course, it may be beneficial to add the benefits of tea tree oil alongside it.
Not only does it indicate a promising natural alternative to antibiotics in terms of resistance, but as an affordable remedy and cost effective solution, as well.
8 Tea Tree Essential Oil Benefits
There are countless ways to enjoy tea tree benefits for your health and these eight top the list.
1. Infections and Wound Care
Studies (6) show that tea tree essential oil can be as effective in eradicating MRSA (7) (methicillin‐resistant Staphylococcus aureus) as commonly used antimicrobial drugs. Research has shown that a 5% tea tree oil solution has been shown (8) to be effective in removing MRSA on the skin.
2. Cleaning and Killing Germs
Since the 1940s, researchers have been looking at the antimicrobial powers of tea tree oil by testing it against several bacterial strains. The data (9) shows that even a low dose of tea tree can kill bacteria and a stronger concentration is even effective against E. coli!
Application: For every ounce of carrier or liquid, add 20 drops of tea tree oil to your DIY cleaning solutions to disinfect your home and homemade hand sanitizer recipes.
3. Get Rid of Fungus
Tea tree oil has been successfully tested on toenail fungus (10) and athlete’s foot (11), and the >evidence (12) demonstrates it may heal fungal infections in general. This oil is a safe bet to add to your treatments for ringworm, and impetigo as well!
Application: For athlete’s foot, mix 1/2 cup arrowroot and 1/2 cup baking soda and add 3 drops each of basil, tea tree, sage, and clove essential oils. Apply to your socks and shoes after laundering and apply to your feet before putting on your socks.
4. Mold Be Gone
Struggling with nasty mold in your shower, dishwasher, or washing machine? Tea tree oil is the solution! Science has proven (13) its effectiveness in blocking mold on produce used in commercial foods.
Application: Add a few drops of this oil to your cleaning solutions or to your washing machine and dishwasher cleansing cycles.
5. Acne and Dandruff
If you are battling these conditions, tea tree oil can help. Research has found (14) that it is as effective as common acne treatments and it successfully treats dandruff (15) as well. It also reduced scalp itchiness and greasy hair.
Application: Be sure to add a few drops of tea tree into your shampoo recipes!
6. Itchy Skin Conditions
Speaking of itchy skin, tea tree oil can help with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions, including poison ivy rashes. Its anti-inflammatory powers have been proven (16) to reduce psoriasis in the lab.
Application: Add a few drops of tea tree oil to Mama Z’s Skin Serum recipe to help heal these conditions.
Because of its antibacterial properties, tea tree oil is an excellent deodorizer for everything from laundry to cleaning. Add 2-3 drops into your liquid laundry detergent, mixing well.
Application: Its ability to combat body odor also makes it a great choice to add your homemade deodorant recipes!
8. Oral Health
Because it doesn’t taste great, you might not think of tea tree oil for your oral health. However, studies suggest that it is effective in fighting plaque (17) and bad breath (18), as well as for sanitizing your toothbrush (19).
A Note About Estrogen and Tea Tree
As with any strong oil, potency should be considered with regard to safety, and some have suggested that tea tree may be toxic and too strong to use. Officially, thanks to a study out of the Journal of Ethnopharmocology, researchers have deemed it non-genotoxic, and as centuries of wisdom and use have indicated it is safe when used correctly. (20) Simple antibiotic safety principles should be observed, such as confirming bacterial infection before treatment, using only what you need, and protecting your esophagus by ingesting 1-2 drops in gel capsules with carrier oil.
The only reason why we’re even having this discussion is because of a poorly researched 2007 New England Journal of Medicine article titled, “Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils.” The long and the short of it is that three boys obscurely developed idiopathic cases of prepubertal gynecomastia (when boys experience enlarged, tender breast buds) for a short period of time (1 – 5 months).
It was determined that all three patients were using either a shampoo, lotion, soap or balm that included lavender oil and tea tree oil as ingredients. The researchers extrapolated that these essential oils were “estrogenic” based off of a preliminary in vitro evaluation. In their words, “On the basis of the three case reports and the in vitro studies, we suspect that repeated topical application of over-the-counter products containing lavender oil or tea tree oil was the cause of gynecomastia in the three patients.” (21)
There are several epidemiological reasons why this conclusion is false and is out of the scope of this article to cover each one, but I’ll leave you with this thought: just because lavender and tea tree oils were two common ingredients in the products that these three boys were using, does not prove that they were the cause. This is a classic statistics blunder that many make. “Correlation does not imply causation,” because there are countless other variables that not being considered (diet, environmental triggers, medicines, and etc.).
Suffice it to say that essential oils safety expert Robert Tisserand emphatically states that, “Lavender [and tea tree] oil does not mimic estrogen nor does it enhance the body’s own estrogens. It is therefore not a ‘hormone disruptor’, cannot cause breast growth in young boys (or girls of any age), and is safe to use by anyone at risk for estrogen-dependent cancer.” (22) And Tisserand’s conclusion has been supported by more recent research.
In 2013, for instance, the International Journal of Toxicology published a study confirming that lavender is not estrogenic, at least in female rats. Whether it is for humans remains to be seen, but there is literally no research to prove otherwise. (23)