The Melaleuca alternifolia tree, also known as the tea tree, is the plant that is harvested to produce the concentrated essential oil of the tea tree known as tea tree oil. The leaves of the tea tree are what is used to produce the tea tree oil. The Melaleuca alternifolia tree is very difficult to kill, and if the tree is cut down and reduced to a stump, new shoots will rapidly appear and the tree will again grow into a full size tea tree. The only way to effectively kill the tea tree is to dig out the roots system from the ground. The ability of the tea tree to regenerate itself is a great asset to those involved in tea tree oil production. Regular pruning of the tea tree actually stimulates new growth.
Each tea tree leaf contains many tiny sacs that contain the essential tea tree oil. When the leaves are harvested they must be processed to collect the oil. A steam distillation unit can be used to separate the oil from the leaves using hot steam. Hot steam is pumped into large containers which have tea tree leaves in them. The steam bursts the tiny sacs on the leaves that hold the tea tree oil. The oil and steam are then sent to a condenser and the oil is siphoned from the water and is filtered. Approximately one percent of the total weight of the leaves is actually tea tree oil, so only a small amount of oil is produced even from heavy loads of tea tree leaves.
Since Melaleuca alternifolia is a fast growing tree, some trees can be harvested approximately 12 to 15 months after they have been planted. Harvesting the tea tree at different times of the year has shown that the quality and quantity of the tea tree oil produced from the tea tree fluctuates depending upon what season the leaves are cut in. Australian tea tree producers have noticed that tea tree oil yield tends to be lower in the winter months.
As a result of modern cultivation and farming methods, tea trees are being grown in areas other than Australia. California is one part of the world that is also now home to tea tree plantations.
Melaleuca alternifolia's Chemical Constituents
There are several different varieties of tea tress growing in the land of Australia, and many of these tea trees produce essential oils with healing characteristics. But only Melaleuca alternifolia has the best chemical constituents and is therefore used to produce tea tree oil. Trees that produce the best oil generate oil that is high in the chemical known as terpinen-4-ol and low in the chemical known as cineole. A high terpinen-4-ol content and a low cineole content allows the tea tree oil to be safer and have a wider range of uses. Terpinen-4-ol has several different desirable properties and does not cause side effects. Conversely, although cineole's medicinal properties are useful for treating colds, a low cineole content is necessary for therapeutic purposes; a high cineole content is not desirable for healing inflammation and wounds.
To get the right type of tea tree oil that has the correct levels of chemical compounds present in the oil, you need to procure your tea tree oil from a reputable dealer. The Australian Tea Tree Industry Association has their own set of regulations that help to ensure the quality of tea tree oil. According to the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association, only oil produced by the Melaleuca alternifolia tree is acceptable. Additionally, the oil that is produced by Melaleuca alternifolia trees must have a specific amount of terpinen-4-ol and cineole. The Australian standard number AS 2782-1985 for Melaleuca oil mandates a terpinen-4-ol content greater than 30% and a cineole content under 15%. You should try and avoid lower quality blends of tea tree oil that do not contain desirable concentrations of terpinen-4-ol and cineole. Before you purchase tea tree oil make sure the supplier and source are both reputable.
By ensuring you get the right type of tea tree oil, you can be more certain that your use of tea tree oil for a yeast infection will be effective.
- Ali, Wlvis A. et. al., The Tea Tree Oil Bible, copyright 1999 (p.17 tea tree oil comes from leaves)
- Drury, Susan. Tea Tree Oil: A Medicine Kit in a Bottle. (chapter 3 harvesting the oil)
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334616/ -- The Australian standard number AS 2782-1985
***This article and the material on this website MAY have slight errors. Make sure you check out our disclaimer.