You are currently viewing Tea tree essential oil: history, properties and uses

Tea tree essential oil: history, properties and uses

The Melaleuca alternifolia tree, commonly known as tea tree, is an endemic Australian species, originating specifically in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, located in the east of the country.

Belonging to the Myrtaceae family, like the eucalyptus, this evergreen tree is capable of reaching 7 meters in height. It usually grows in humid areas near rivers, streams or lakes, usually becoming the predominant tree in the environments in which it prevails.

Its essential oil is one of the most popular globally, being used in a wide range of products that range from cosmetics for skin care to cleaning items.

It is usually obtained by steam distillation of its leaves, and its smell is aromatic and camphorous, with a penetrating freshness. Its main active component is terpinen-4-ol, which can represent up to 40% of this oil.



The Australian Aboriginal Bundjalung people were possibly the first to take advantage of the qualities of the tea tree thousands of years ago. According to its oral tradition, its leaves have powerful healing properties, turning the lakes in which they naturally fall into sacred places where they performed ceremonies and even gave birth.

Its use in different home remedies was common in their culture. They used the leaves of this tree in ointments with which to heal wounds, crushing them to later boil them in water and inhale their vapours with the aim of treating fevers, coughs and colds.

The origin of its common name – tea tree – was first used when Captain James Cook and his crew discovered that they could boil the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia to prepare an aromatic tea.

The 1920s would have to come for Arthur Penfold to begin experimenting with the extraction of essential oil from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, documenting its antimicrobial activity for the first time in history, thus turning it into a natural antiseptic of international fame.

Years after Penfold’s research was published, tea tree oil became part of the first aid kit of Australian soldiers during World War II.



Tea tree essential oil has, among others, antiseptic, antifungal and antiparasitic properties.

In addition to being widely recognized in aromatherapy, tea tree essential oil is especially popular in:

  • Products intended for home cleaning.
  • Acne treatments.
  • Commercial soaps and shampoos.

A study published by the journal Parasitology Research seems to show that tea tree essential oil is more effective than nerolidol in eliminating head lice (Pediculus capitis), both in its nymph and adult stages.

At Destilerías Muñoz Gálvez we develop fragrances with Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil intended for all types of applications, turning its multiple properties into an essential part of countless aromatic compositions.

Would you like your product to have the freshness of tea tree essential oil? Please, contact us without obligation.