Tea Tree Leaves For Immune System Support

  • Batool HassanBS Microbiology (Clinical and Food Microbiology), Jinnah Univ for Women, Pakistan

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OVERVIEW

Do you know plants do more than  just perform photosynthesis and serve as a part of the food chain? In this article, you will read about the amazing natural solutions  offered by botanicals. Plants have been used for various purposes since ancient times and continue to be utilised today. Science has conducted extensive research and many botanical species are now integral medicine and healing. One notable example is the tea tree plant, scientifically known as Melaleuca alternifolia. This small shrub-like tree is native to the Australian region and offers numerous benefits. 

Introduction

The tea tree is a small tree standing about 20 feet tall, characterised by its bushy crown and a whitish paper-like bark. Its needle-like leaves are soft and are only a millimetre wide. An interesting feature about the tea tree leaves is their alternate arrangement along the stem, hence its scientific name ‘alternifolia’ due to its leaf arrangements.1 

One of the most popular tea tree products is tea tree oil, which is popular for its  numerous benefits to the skin and overall health. However, less is known is the significant role tea tree leaves play in supporting the immune system. The immune system acts as the body’s natural defense mechanism against foreign particles, toxins and germs. Various factors like diet, age, lifestyle, and medical conditions can affect its function, necessitating support. 

Nature has preserved many marvels that benefit mankind, and botanicals are extensively researched and used in herbal and pharmaceutical industries to manufacture remedies and promote human health. Tea tree leaves consist of bioactive compounds with t anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, which contribute to strengthening the immune system. 

Nutritional components of tea tree leaves

Many studies and research conducted on the tee tree have described the nutritional components of its tree leaves, which consist of antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Moreover, the leaves are found to have bioactive compounds such as terpinen-4-ol, α-terpinolene, α-terpinene, and γ terpinene, which possess high antioxidant properties. Due to these chemical properties of the tea tree leaves, they hold significant  importance in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and food industries.2

Mechanisms of tea tree leaves on the immune system

The bioactive compounds found in the tea tree leaves, specifically terpinen-4-ol exhibit both anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, synergistically supporting the immune system in  fighting diseases and infections.  

Anti-inflammatory properties

When  the body faces infection or injury, inflammation occurs as a natural defense response. Left untreated, inflammation can become chronic and lead to health problems. Terpinen-4-ol, present in tea tree leaves, possesses anti-inflammatory properties, shown to reduce skin inflammation rapidly, within just 30 minutes of application.3  

Antimicrobial effects

Research has shown that tea tree leaves have anti-microbial properties, effective against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.4 Tea tree oil derived from the leaves stimulates white blood cells to fight against germs and infections, thus strengthening the immune system. Trepenin-4-ol, the main compound responsible for anti-microbial activity, slows the growth of bacteria and pathogens. According to research, tea trees are a great anti-microbial agent against E.coli (Escherichia coli), and S aureus (Staphylococcus. aureus), and Salmonella (Salmonella enteritidis).3

Enhancement of immune function

Australian Aborigines have traditionally used tea tree leaves for immune support. While tea tree leaves offer immune-boosting benefits, they should complement a healthy diet and lifestyle, not replace them. They are best used as  preventive curative agent, rather than substitutes for daily routines and dietary requirements. 

Scientific evidence and research finding

Studies related to the immune-boosting effects of tea tree leaves

Several research studies demonstrate the effectiveness of tea tree leaves in boosting immunity. For instance, a study has shown that a type of acne, primarily affecting women during adulthood, caused by the dermatological pathogen known as Acne. vulgaris, which results in scarring, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation, can be effectively treated using the anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil extracted from the leaves.5 

Additionally, research on rats infected with Trypanosoma evansi showed that tea tree oil provided effective immunity.6 

Comparison with other immune support supplements

There is a variety of immune support supplements in the market that are essential to daily needs to fight against germs and ensure a strong immunity, but in contrast to all those supplements, tea tree leaves are a natural source of enhancing and building a strong immune system as they consist of antioxidants such as vitamin C, polyphenols, and flavonoids.

Practical applications and consumption

Different ways to incorporate tea tree leaves

There are many different ways to incorporate tea tree leaves into daily routines, with one popular approach being the use of tea tree oil, extracted from the leaves.

  • In ancient times, Australians used  tea tree oil to treat coughs, cold, and skin conditions. Its antioxidant properties help reduce skin inflammation and regenerate skin cells. Contact dermatitis is a skin disease that can cause extreme irritation, itchiness, and pain. Tea tree oil has proven to reduce these symptoms of contact dermatitis by up to 40% surpassing standard medications. 
  • Tea tree extract contributes significantly in oral health and hygiene, found in toothpaste, mouthwashes, and oral hygiene products. Its antimicrobial properties helps prevent the formation of plaques, ensuring oral cleanliness and fresh breath  
  • Tea tree extract’s antiseptic qualities make it a common ingredient in hand sanitizers and disinfectants, effectively eliminating pathogenic bacteria.
  • For those seeking a natural remedies for scalp dryness and dandruff, tea tree leaf extract’s anti-fungal properties offer relief. Adding the extract oil to shampoos reduces dandruff and prevents scalp dryness.
  • It also treats athlete’s foot disease, scientifically known as, tinea. pedis. This contagious fungal infection, if t left untreated, can spread and worsen. Tea tree oil  reduces infection and shows significant clinical improvement. 

Potential side effects and precautions

Tea tree oil being concentrated, can irritate the skin if used undiluted. It is recommended to dilute the essential oil before using it, it can be diluted with another carrier oil such as jojoba oil or coconut oil. Also, keep in mind that the tea tree leaves extract or essential oil is not to be ingested, as it can be toxic.

Dosage and usage

  • Tea tree oil can be used undiluted for some purposes but it is best and recommended to use it when diluted. You can look up concentrations from 5-50% of tea tree oil and can use up to eight weeks8,3
  • The tea tree oil can be used only topically as it can be toxic if swallowed. Since it is recommended to use diluted, the extract of the tea tree leaves can be added with any carrier oil such as coconut oil, jojoba oil and hemp seed oil. Also it can be added to skin and hair products such as shampoos, hair oils, lotions and, creams

Side Effects

While tea tree is safe for topical use, ingestion  can be toxic and may lead to side effects such as:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination (ataxia)
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Coma 

If it is orally ingested seek immediate help from a healthcare provider. 

FAQs

Can I use tea tree essential oil on my skin daily?

Yes, you can use it daily. It is recommended to do a small patch test before regular use to ensure compatibility with your skin type.

Is tea tree leaf extract edible?

No, it should not be ingested. If ingested orally, it can cause toxic side effects. 

How many drops of tea tree extract can be added to any carrier oil or creams?

Typically, 2 to 3 drops of tea tree extract can be added to carrier oil or creams.

Is tea tree good for anti-aging?

Yes absolutely, it regenerates new skin cells and also rejuvenates the skin by removing impurities.

Summary

  • The innate properties of the tea tree leaves support the immune system with its natural nutrient profiling which makes it a natural immunity booster, a cure, and a vast area of medicine and research. Tea tree extract and essential oils are easily available and they can be incorporated into your daily routine and lifestyle to enhance your well-being. 
  • The tea tree oil extracted from the tea tree leaves is internationally recognised for its therapeutic and anti-microbial properties.
  • Tea tree leaves have been used traditionally for strengthening the immune system by the Australian Auborigines for thousands of years.
  • The main anti-oxidant component that helps boost the natural defense mechanism is terpenin-4-ol.
  • Tea tree is for topical use only.

References

  1. The benefits, uses, and history of tea tree oil & the tea tree pla [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 16]. Available from: https://www.saje.com/blogs/ingredient-garden/tea-tree
  2. Borotová P, Galovičová L, Vukovic NL, Vukic M, Tvrdá E, Kačániová M. Chemical and biological characterization of melaleuca alternifolia essential oil. Plants [Internet]. 2022 Jan [cited 2024 Feb 16];11(4):558. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2223-7747/11/4/558
  3. Health [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 16]. Tea tree oil: benefits, uses, side effects, and more. Available from: https://www.health.com/tea-tree-oil-7187505 (source?)
  4. Iacovelli F, Romeo A, Lattanzio P, Ammendola S, Battistoni A, La Frazia S, et al. Deciphering the broad antimicrobial activity of melaleuca alternifolia tea tree oil by combining experimental and computational investigations. International Journal of Molecular Sciences [Internet]. 2023 Jan [cited 2024 Feb 16];24(15):12432. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/24/15/12432
  5. Nascimento T, Gomes D, Simões R, da Graça Miguel M. Tea tree oil: properties and the therapeutic approach to acne—a review. Antioxidants [Internet]. 2023 Jun [cited 2024 Feb 16];12(6):1264. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/12/6/1264
  6. Baldissera MD, Da Silva AS, Oliveira CB, Vaucher RA, Santos RCV, Duarte T, et al. Effect of tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) on the longevity and immune response of rats infected by Trypanosoma evansi. Research in Veterinary Science [Internet]. 2014 Jun 1 [cited 2024 Feb 16];96(3):501–6. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0034528814000885

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Batool Hassan

BS in Microbiology (Clinical and Food Microbiology Specialization), Jinnah University for Women, Pakistan

Batool is a graduate in Microbiology and has several years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. She further pursued certifications of medical writing and has embarked on the journey to contribute as a writer in the healthcare care and medical sector.

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