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Tea tree oil: nature’s antifungal

Location, location, location: The secret to getting the very best tea tree oil.

The geographic sourcing of a natural medicinal ingredient can have a major impact on the quality and effectiveness of the ingredient. Tea tree oil is a prime example of the importance of proper sourcing.

The essential oil of the tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia) has become an increasingly popular ingredient, both as a 100% pure oil and as an addition to cosmetic formulations such as creams and shampoos.

Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal and antimicrobial with a wide variety of beneficial uses. Used in its pure form, tea tree oil can be applied directly on fungal nail bed infections to help improve symptoms. When diluted to a 5% concentration in carrier oils such as olive oil, tea tree oil can be used to help treat acne. Other reported traditional uses of tea tree oil include treating bacterial and staph infections, cold sores, dandruff, allergic skin reactions, athlete’s foot, head lice, insect bites and assisting wound healing.

With any natural ingredient, the best material comes from plants grown in their native environment. In the case of tea tree oil, the perfect sourcing area is the land “down under” – Australia. Tea tree oil has been commercially produced there since the 1920’s, but had already been used for centuries by the Bundjalung people of Australia for its medicinal properties.

Health First® brand Tea Tree Oil is sourced directly from the farms of the fertile Bungawalbyn Valley in New South Wales, Australia. The natural biosphere of the Bungawalbyn Valley is where the tea tree plant originated and evolved on our planet. Studies have shown that the tea tree species in this region has a traceable history going back over 36,000 years. The farms where Health First® tea tree plants are harvested are home to “mother trees” that are more than 1,000 years old and still providing quality seed for new generations of plants. Growing and harvesting the trees in their region of origin reduces the need for extra fertilizers, insecticides and other treatments and ensures that the best blend of natural components are produced by the plant as it adapts to its environment. Sourcing tea tree from its original geographic region also helps to guarantee that proper harvesting and steam distillation extraction is conducted by experienced personnel using the best tried-and-true methods.

The main active ingredient in tea tree oil that delivers its antifungal and antimicrobial properties is considered to be terpinen-4-ol. This compound can account for 30-48% of the oil content. However, there are hundreds of compounds that make up tea tree oil, many of which are still unidentified. For example, it is still unknown which of these compounds triggers the terpinen-4-ol activity in the plant; the synergy of all the compounds in tea tree oil is the key to its medicinal effectiveness.

Unfortunately, inferior tea tree oil products are showing up in the marketplace more often as the use of the oil continues to expand. The problem is two-fold. Some oils are being sourced from secondary growing regions such as China, India and northern Africa and lack the medicinal profile of the Australian oil. Other tea tree oils contain some authentic oil, but have been adulterated with synthetic ingredients to reduce cost. A study released by the Australian Tea Tree Industrial Association (ATTIA) in 2016 demonstrated that 75% of the “Australian” tea tree oil products sold in the US marketplace were adulterated. Commonly, this oil is being blended with byproducts from other oils such as sandalwood, eucalyptus and pine oil. The adulteration can range from 30% to 100%. Often these fake products can cause skin irritations. As such, it is important to know that you are purchasing true Australian tea tree oil. The Health First® brand of tea tree oil bears the “Naturally Australian Products” logo, reassuring Canadian consumers that only the best, authentic Australian tea tree oil from the Bungawalbyn Valley is in the bottle.

When choosing your tea tree oil, always look for the “Naturally Australian” symbol to get the very best that nature has to offer.

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