Tea Tree Essential Oil Diffuser Benefits and Techniques
The storied reputation of the tea tree finds its roots in the historical practices of the Aboriginal Australians. The plant was used for a variety of everyday practices from building shelters to treating common ailments.
Modern-day commercial production of tea tree oil started in the early twentieth century after Australian chemist Arthur Penfold studied its therapeutic qualities. The demand for tea tree oil grew even further after the rise of plant-based skincare in the ‘70s. This prompted commercial plantations to be established beyond the plant’s native soil and in other parts of the world. The essential oil is now widely recognized for its role in skin care, respiratory remedies, and aromatherapy.
If tea tree oil is not already a staple in your wellness routine, read on for a dive into its extensive therapeutic effects and the many ways you can use it.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, an evergreen tree native to Eastern Australia. The plant belongs to the Myrtaceae family, a group of woody trees and shrubs with commercially important species such as clove, eucalyptus, and guava. Tea tree grows in a variety of soils, from swamps to saltpans. It is commercially grown in Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Ireland, and parts of South Africa.
The essential oil is extracted by steam distilling the leaves of the plant. The essential oil yield of tea tree oil varies according to season and the soil it grows on. Generally, the plant yields a lower quantity of essential oil during winter.
Tea tree essential oil appears clear and has a fresh, medicinal scent with herbaceous notes. The scent is potent and fresh, making tea tree oil a popular choice for aromatherapy. It has a calming and relaxing effect while not being sedative.
Chemical Composition and Therapeutic Effect
The chemical profile of tea tree oil has been widely researched to better understand its health benefits. Studies have identified six broad chemotypes in the tea tree species, differing by their terpinen-4-ol, terpinelone, and 1,8 cineole content. In all of these variations, terpinen-4-ol remains the most dominant compound while the percentages of the other components vary.
The strong anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anxiolytic, analgesic, mucolytic, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory qualities of tea tree oil stem from its unique composition of useful biological compounds. The sections ahead spotlight the most prominent compounds in tea tree oil.
1,8 cineole is a monoterpene found in essential oils of the Myrtaceae, Lamiaceae, and Zingiberaceae plant families. It is also known as eucalyptol and has been used to treat issues related to respiratory health such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.
A 2014 report published in the scientific journal Drug Research notes its healing effect on inflammatory airway diseases. The paper establishes that tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that reduce secretions of inflammation-induced mucus. The authors of the report express confidence in the use of 1,8 cineole as a long-term therapy for the management of asthma and inflammatory lung diseases.
A subsequent study delved into the mechanisms through which 1,8 cineole exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Researchers found that the compound interacts with two important transcription factors in the body, NF-κB and Nrf2. Both factors play a central role in the immune system and inflammatory response of the body, making their activation useful.
Linalool is a terpene compound that has been quite popular in the scientific community for its efficacy as a phytomedicine. Scientific explorations have found potential applications of the compound in stress and anxiety management and depression treatment.
The usefulness of linalool for brain health has been attributed to its low molecular weight and its fat-soluble nature. These qualities allow the compound to pass the blood-brain barrier and interact with brain receptors. A 2022 analysis of linalool studies found that linalool can affect dopamine and serotonin levels while modulating pathways associated with mood and emotions. The review also identified that linalool played a role in the reduction of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine.
A separate research study on the interactions of linalool with the nervous system found that it had possible anti-convulsant effects. The compound was found to regulate NMDA levels in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that it could delay the onset of seizures.
Terpinen-4-ol is a monoterpene that has been most widely examined for its effects on inflammation. There is strong support that terpinen-4-ol can affect at least five known signaling molecules, namely TNFα, IL-1β, IL-8, IL-10, and PGE2. This reinforces the capabilities of terpinen-4-ol as a potent anti-inflammatory compound that has several applications in immunomodulation and infection control.
Alpha and Beta Pinenes
Alpha and beta pinenes are isomers of a common monoterpene compound found in many essential oils. Both molecular variations have a similar woodsy scent reminiscent of pine woods; however, they differ in their biological activity.
Comparatively, alpha pinenes have more wide-ranging effects, including anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antioxidant capabilities. Studies have also confirmed that alpha-pinene may affect chemicals in the brain, protecting the nerve cells and reducing anxiety.
Beta pinenes, on the other hand, contribute mostly towards bronchodilatory effects, relaxing the airways and allowing more air into the lungs. This yields useful applications for the management of conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease.
Although alpha and beta pinenes have distinct properties, research indicates that there are instances when the compounds exhibit a synergistic effect when present together. Findings of a 2011 study demonstrate that the two pinenes jointly inhibited the spread of infectious bronchitis virus, a contagious respiratory disease.
Diffusing Tea Tree Oil: Answers to Common Queries
Tea tree oil is a potent volatile concentrate that may be dangerous if used incorrectly. In recognition of this, this section clarifies concerns and queries regarding the use of tea tree oil for aromatherapy.
How Do I Choose the Right Tea Tree Oil for Diffusing?
Not all tea tree oils are equal. Some tea tree oils are adulterated with synthetics or carrier oils that may lower the therapeutic efficacy of the essential oil.
To choose a high-quality essential oil, look for the botanical name on the bottle or the website and ensure that it is derived from the correct species, Melaleuca alternifolia. You can find the scientific name of Wholesale Botanic's tea tree oil by checking the bottom of the product label.
In addition, ensure that the essential oil comes in a dark glass bottle. This is important to ensure that the essential oil does not degrade or break down while in storage.
Can I Diffuse Tea Tree Oil Around Pets and Children?
Tea tree oil is toxic for both pets and children when ingested or taken internally. As such, it is discouraged to diffuse tea tree oil in the presence of pets and children as it may cause adverse reactions.
For cats and dogs in particular, any exposure to tea tree oil, whether through aromatherapy or topical contact, can be dangerous. This is because when diffused, tea tree oil droplets may land on the fur and skin of the pet, which they might accidentally ingest when cleaning themselves.
Can I Diffuse Tea Tree Oil in a Humidifier?
Traditional humidifiers are not suitable for use with essential oils. If you have an essential oil humidifier that explicitly mentions compatibility with essential oils, then you may diffuse tea tree oil in a humidifier.
Ensure that you start with a small amount of tea tree oil, taking care to consider the sensitivities of the people around you. Also, clean the humidifier regularly to avoid build-up in the machine.
Benefits of Tea Tree Oil Aromatherapy
Tea tree oil was used in traditional medicine by Australian indigenous communities for its health benefits. Modern research has revealed many benefits of the essential oil, from improving respiratory health to boosting the immune system and aiding the management of chronic illnesses. Its effects on the nervous system and the brain have also been a focus of scientific research.
The following sections explore the various health benefits of diffusing tea tree oil to give you ideas for using it in your routine.
Potentially Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Tea tree oil has a calming, woodsy scent that has a relaxing effect on the mind and body. It is excellent for diffusing at the end of a tiring to help wind down and prepare for bedtime. Tea tree oil is also suitable to use during the day to catch a break from an overwhelming or stressful routine.
Components in tea tree oil such as pinenes and linalool have been evidenced by scientific studies to have anxiolytic effects. A 2010 study investigated the role of inhaled linalool in reducing social anxiety, stress, and state anxiety. Outcomes of the study indicated that essential oils with significant linalool content reduced stress and anxiety while also increasing social interaction in subjects.
The anxiolytic activity of pinenes has been comprehensively studied across various experimental models. A study in 2015 determined that alpha-pinene diminished anxiety in subjects when inhaled for an hour. The authors of the study also established that the compound interacts with neurotransmitters in the brain, suggesting a potential mechanism for its therapeutic effect.
Exhibits Possible Neuroprotective Effects
Among the diverse therapeutic applications of tea tree oil, its impact on brain health has also become the subject of multiple scientific inquiries. A 2023 systematic review of the anti-inflammatory effects of tea tree oil and its components revealed significant neuroprotective and immunomodulatory effects.
The review uncovered multiple action mechanisms through which tea tree oil interacts with the nervous system. It has the potential to reduce the levels of reactive oxygen species, lowering oxidative stress and reducing damage to components of nerve cells. This has important implications for the management of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Potentially Exhibits Anti-Convulsant Properties
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which patients suffer recurring seizures caused by changes in the electrical activity of the brain. Research has uncovered that cerebral oxidative stress increases the risk of seizures by disrupting nerve impulses and electrical rhythms. Harmful agents known as reactive oxygen species damage cell membranes, affecting the uptake and release of neurotransmitters. This causes hyperexcitability, a phenomenon where neurons become more easily activated and lead to abnormal electrical patterns.
As a result, essential oils with compounds that reduce oxidative stress in the brain may act as anti-convulsants. Tea tree essential oil contains several compounds that have been scientifically investigated for their anticonvulsant and neuroprotective activity.
A 2017 study found that exposure to linalool in low concentrations lowered neuronal excitability in subjects. Another scientific inquiry into the effects of terpinen-4-ol, the dominant compound in tea tree oil, revealed that it had a protective effect against seizures. In addition, alpha and beta pinenes also have antioxidant effects that can potentially reduce cerebral oxidative stress.
May Promote Good Sleep and Reduce Insomnia
Aromatherapy is a popular treatment for improving the quality of sleep and managing insomnia. Among other essential oils that have a sleep-promoting effect, tea tree oil has a notable capacity to induce sedation.
A randomized trial in 2017 tested the effect of a tea tree oil blend in reducing stress and enhancing restful sleep. 30 participants were instructed to inhale the tea tree essential oil blend for four weeks. In the second week of treatment, there was a significant difference in sleep quality between the treatment and control groups. At the end of the trial, participants in the treatment group were found to sleep longer and experience less interrupted sleep.
Another examination conducted in 2018 compared the sedative effects of tea tree oil and lavender essential oil on chemotherapy patients. Chemotherapy patients experience increased stress levels and incidence of sleep disorders. Both essential oils were found to improve sleep quality, with tea tree oil demonstrating a superior effect.
Addresses Respiratory Infections and Possibly Clears Airways
Tea tree oil is often used in inhalation therapies for respiratory conditions due to its antibacterial, antiviral, and mucolytic properties. A study published in 2015 explored the potential of tea tree oil in addressing bacterial and fungal pneumonia. Outcomes revealed that tea tree oil had remarkable anti-microbial and anti-fungal activity both in vitro and in vivo.
The authors also compared the efficacy of tea tree oil to that of penicillin, noting similar levels of resistance. An additional benefit observed was that tea tree oil reduced inflammation in the lungs by directly acting on the infected tissue when inhaled.
Furthermore, tea tree oil contributes to respiratory health by relaxing the airway muscles and improving breathing. It contains 1,8 cineole a compound that has expectorant, mucolytic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties. A study exploring the mechanisms of 1,8 cineole found that it reduces excessive mucus production by moderating the production of mucin genes such as MUC2 and MUC19.
Using Tea Tree Oil Safely
While generally well tolerated when used cautiously, tea tree oil may cause adverse effects when used incorrectly.
Tea tree oil is not meant for ingestion and is toxic to adults, children, and pets when taken internally. It can cause serious side effects such as decreased heart rate, loss of consciousness, and inflammation of lung tissues. As such, tea tree oil should be kept away from children and pets to avoid accidental ingestion.
For inhalation, tea tree oil should be diffused in a well-ventilated environment. If diffused for long periods, it may cause headaches and vertigo in certain individuals. Ensure to always use the essential oil in moderation, and avoid inhaling directly from the bottle.
For topical application, tea tree oil should be diluted and patch-tested before use. If used undiluted, tea tree oil may cause rashes and irritation.
If any symptoms of discomfort persist after using tea tree oil, make an appointment with a healthcare provider to address any complications.
Essential Notes on Diffusing Tea Tree Oil: Benefits and Tips
With its remarkable chemical profile and therapeutic capabilities, tea tree oil is an excellent tool for creating a clean and healthful environment. Diffusing tea tree oil in your living space will not only neutralize odors but also eliminate any airborne microbes and potentially improve respiratory health.
It is also useful for adding freshness to your surroundings and to foster relaxation and mental clarity. Always choose a tea tree oil from a reliable supplier, like Wholesale Botanics, so that you can feel confident in the oil’s composition and benefits.
However, even when you do, it is important to keep in mind that tea tree oil does not function as a standalone treatment for any health conditions. If you intend to use tea tree oil to treat or address specific medical concerns, consult your healthcare provider for an opinion. This will ensure that the essential oil does not interact with any medications or treatment plans.