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History of Tea Tree Oil – Safety and Efficacy

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History of Tea Tree Oil – Safety and Efficacy

The antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties of the Tea Tree Oil Melaleuca alternifolia are legendary and have long been used in complimentary medicine in Australia. Unique to the country and native to northern New South Wales, the local Aborigine tribes were the first to discover this special tree and used the evergreen leaves to great effect.

Officially identified by the Chief Chemist in New South Wales as an antiseptic in the 1920’s, the immigrants that came to the country soon discovered that this unique essential oil was more effective against bites, stings and infections than anything else they had in their medicine box. In fact, during World War II the Australian army commandeered all supplies of Tea Tree Oil to equip each soldier with a small bottle of ‘the magic healing oil’.

Essentially still a ‘cottage industry’, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that New South Wales pioneered research into the cultivation of the Melaleuca alternifolia. This researched lead to the first commercial plantation of trees in 1986, and now, together with many other large scale plantations, this area is able to cater for worldwide demand for this remarkable oil.

METIQUE® uses Tea Tree Oil produced by Novasel Australia Pty Ltd – the only Australian company whose ongoing research is supported by the Australian Federal Research Organisation.

Australian Tea Tree Oil is extracted from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, which grows naturally only in Northern New South Wales, Australia. There is over 150 species of Melaleuca in Australia but only one type, Melaleuca alternifolia, produces oil that is simultaneously non – irritant to the skin and antiseptic. The healing powers of Tea Tree Oil have been known for centuries by the Aborigines, who crushed the leaves and made poultices to wrap the skin- healing burns, cuts, bites, and stings. Their legends describe a ‘magical lake’ with healing powers, surrounded by Tea Trees. In 1923, Dr Arthur Penfold reported to British Medical Journal that he had tested the oil for antiseptic efficacy and surprisingly found that this oil had 11 times stronger activity than the standard antiseptic at the time, carbolic acid. A s it did not sting or irritate the skin (as carbolic acid did), it quickly became the number one choice for antiseptic. A problem was that the Melaleuca alternifolia trees only grew in swampy areas and it was difficult to harvest the leaves (which hold the oil). When World War 2 erupted, the Australian Army sourced all the Tea Tree Oil available, as it was the best possible preventative treatment against infection from cuts, bites and wounds. When antibiotics were discovered later on during World War 2, interest in Tea Tree Oil faded. Antibiotics were seen to “cure everything” and could be made synthetically and in large quantities. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that the interest in natural raw materials started again, and in 1986 the world’s first Tea Tree Oil plantation was established at 10 tonnes. Today there are several Tea Tree Oil farms in Australia and annual production is estimated at over 400 tonnes, most of which is exported. There have also been attempts to grow Tea Trees in Asia, China, Africa and USA; however the only oil that has been thoroughly tested for efficacy and safety comes from Australia. The Federal Research Organisation, RIRDC, has supported the research into farming, efficacy and safety of Tea Tree Oil. Today, RIRDC supports research, if the project is of high international standard and if there is an industry partner who is willing to fund part of the research. Novasel Australia Pty Ltd, the developer of METIQUE®, is the only Australian company whose standard of research into Tea Tree Oil has qualified for support from RIRDC over the last few years. Safety and Efficacy : Tea Tree Oil is now one of the most studied essential oils in the world. Following calls for reports on its regulation, safety and efficacy the Australian Tea Tree Oil Industry Association and RIRDC (Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation) worked closely together to Research and Develop the first comprehensive analysis dossier for Australian Tea Tree Oil completed in 2007. In summary they conclude:

  • Australian Tea Tree Oil is a safe and effective product.

  • Multiple studies have demonstrated the capacity for Tea Tree Oil to act as an antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory agent.

  • The brochure ‘The effectiveness and safety of Australian Tea Tree Oil’ can be downloaded at

  Tea Tree Oil Products Limited Hammonds Green Cottage, Framfield, East Sussex. TN22 5QH

email Telephone number 01825 890236

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