Tea Tree


Commonly known as "medicinal tea tree", it is a native tree to Australia, a particularly rare species indigenous to one small part of the world - the North East coastal region of New South Wales, has the ability to combat a broad range of pathogenic bacteria and fungi. The amazing therapeutic properties of the Melaleuca alternifolia leaves were known for hundreds of years by the Aborigines who frequented a lagoon where leaves from this species had fallen and actually created a 'natural' antiseptic bath. The oil made from Tea Tree has many applications, including cuts, burns insect bites and infections. Its germicidal action is apparently increased in the presence of pus and damaged tissue, and the oil is also effective in the treatment of Athletes Foot and other fungal infections. It's effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including those

that cause flu, colds, herpes blisters, shingles, candida, thrush, and chicken pox. As a bonus, it stimulates the immune system and increases the production of white blood cells. It is mostly used to treat mouth, urinary tract, and vaginal infections, but it hastens the healing of wounds, diaper rash, acne, and insect bites. It protects the skin from radiation burns, encourages the regeneration of scar tissue, and reduces swelling. The vapors of Tea Tree Oil added to hot water can be inhaled for the treatment of sinus, bronchial and throat infections. Tea Tree Oil dental care products have been found to give enhanced protection against periodontal disease and gingivitis. It may also be applied to control

cold sores. A preparation that contains the oil is used to treat dry sockets. A tea tree oil shampoo, or any natural shampoo with 2% tea tree oil (10 drops to an eight- ounce bottle), will help to unblock clogged hair follicles, moisturize the hair and keep the scalp free of bacteria and fungal problems. Dry hair requires a gentle, non-detergent based product; a 2% solution of tea tree oil in a moisturizing shampoo will help to unblock sebaceous glands and encourage the flow of the body's own moisturizing oils, while clearing away unsightly dead skin cells. For oily skin, a gentle tea tree oil moisturizing shampoo will help cleanse the scalp of bacterial and fungal irritations and help to disperse dead skin cells. The oil may be used to treat thinning hair and kill head lice.

Now for the bad news; tea trees are only hardy to zone 10, but will survive in 9 if given protection on frosty nights. They like full sun, and can stand heat, wind, poor soil, drought, and salt air. While drought tolerant, they will do better with moderate watering as long as the soil is fast draining. Tea trees can be propagated by either seed or cuttings. Germination of the seed of Melaleuca species is usually quite easy by normal seed raising methods. No special pretreatment is needed. Germination should occur in 14 to 30 days, depending on the species.

A common method used for germination of the tea tree is the "bog method" where the pot containing the seeds is placed into a saucer of water until germination occurs. This results in moisture reaching the seeds by capillary action and ensures that the seeds do not dry out. Propagation of the tea tree from cuttings is generally a reliable method. Cuttings about 75-100 mm in length with the leaves carefully removed from the lower half to two-thirds seem to be satisfactory. "Wounding" the lower stem by removing a sliver of bark and treating with a rooting hormone both seem to improve the success rate.

The oil is obtained through a steam process under pressure. A pressure cooker with a copper tube attached to the steam valve may be used. The distilled liquid must be allowed to sit so the oil can rise to the top. It can be skimmed off with a syringe or turkey baster. Keep in mind the home produced tea tree oil will not be as high of quality as what is produced commercially. Do not take the oil internally and remember to do a patch test on the inside of the arm to test for sensitivity.


Extra seed can be stored in a cool dry place in a tightly sealed jar. The extra storage time will reduce germination so saved seeds should be planted thicker. If the seeds are not left in the packets, copy the plant name and its cultural requirements and place it in the container with the seeds. Two tablespoons of dry powdered milk in 2 layers of tissue will help keep the seed dry.


"An inspiring garden has many disguises, but its objective is always the same: To uplift your spirit and quench your creative soul."


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