Lately, I’ve wondered more than once about what is Tea Tree Oil? There are spray bottles standing around the yoga studio where I go with water mixed with this stuff, and I always spray some on my beloved purple yoga mat after every class, assuming that I’m doing it some good.
As it turns out, Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant native to Australia. It is no relative of the tea plant. Not even close! According to the American Cancer Society: “Tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed. It has been reported to cause drowsiness, confusion, hallucinations, coma, unsteadiness, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach upset, blood cell abnormalities, and severe rashes. Tea tree oil may cause hearing loss when used in the ears. It should be kept away from pets and children.” Great… so why am I putting this stuff on my yoga mat?
Tea tree oil contains terpenoids, used as topical antibacterial and antifungal lotions in a range of products including antiseptics, deodorants, shampoos, and soaps. Historically, the leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which is how tea tree oil got its name. Tea tree has a long history of traditional use. Australian aboriginals used tea tree leaves for healing skin cuts, burns, and infections by crushing the leaves and applying them to the affected area. Do not confuse Tea Tree Oil with tea oil, the sweet seasoning and cooking oil from pressed seeds of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) or the tea oil plant (Camellia oleifera).
So there. You can now safely file this under useless random information…but next time you see some Tea Tree Oil, don’t be tempted to take a swig!