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Tea Tree Oil: Versatility in a Bottle

By Krista Elliott

When it comes to personal care, beauty and health, I tend to fall somewhere in between hippie-dippie granola and all-chemicals-all-the-time. If I can find a natural product that is reasonably easy to find, not ridiculously expensive, and does what I want it to do, then why wouldn't I use it instead of an artificial substitute? 

There's one natural product, though, that has a permanent place of honor in my medicine cabinet: Tea tree oil. 

This humble little bottle of oil is one of the most versatile things in our house. In fact, it's right up there with white vinegar in the Useful Hall of Fame, as far as I'm concerned. 

What is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is oil that is taken from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, a narrow-leaf tree that is native to Australia. Commercially extracted since the 1920s, it's now distributed widely around the world. Toxic if ingested, it has a smell that is best described as a cross between camphor and mint. In its pure form, it's too strong to be used directly on the skin, but diluted in water, coconut oil, or witch hazel, it's a surprisingly useful antimicrobial and antifungal solution.

Tea tree oil is pretty humble in appearance, and in cost. But the real magic happens when you discover its many uses. 

Acne Relief: If an unsightly pimple is making itself at home on your face (and it's always right before a big event, isn't it?), tea tree oil diluted in witch hazel is shown to work just as well on acne as commercial spot treatment products. 

Fingernail Friend: Plagued by nasty nail fungus? Undiluted tea tree oil rubbed into the affected nails works amazingly well at eradicating fungus, making your toes sandal-ready again. 

All-Around Antiseptic: A bit of diluted tea tree oil is a handy solution for cuts and scrapes. If you keep some in your camping bag, you'll also be happy to know that a bit of it rubbed on your ankles and wrists will help deter mosquitoes.

Fungus Fighter: Fungal infections of the skin, like jock itch, athlete's foot, ringworm, and skin yeast, are common in the warmer months, and are notoriously difficult to clear up. Rubbing some diluted tea tree oil into the affected area (when it is clean and dry) is amazingly effective at clearing up these fungal infections, leaving your skin healthy and itch-free. And a few drops mixed into your shampoo are great for clearing up dandruff and itchy scalp, leaving your hair fresh and your scalp clean and comfortable. 

The uses for tea tree oil are long enough to fill a book, so make some room for it in your medicine cabinet, and enjoy the many benefits it brings!

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