It wasn't until 1920, when Australian chemist A. R. Penefold began researching and documenting the many uses of tea tree oil that it was realized how unique this plant truly was. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties were discovered and tea tree oil was soon being used commercially in the fields of surgery and dentistry.
Because tea tree oil was inexpensive and easy to come by, it was used in many household applications as well, including:
-- Remedies for fungal infections
-- Treatments for skin conditions, including acne and eczema
-- Remedies for lice
-- General disinfecting
Some of the properties that make tea tree oil available for such wide use include the fact that it can be used directly on the skin and mucus membranes without irritation. It can be used to treat colds and chest conditions by adding a small amount to a steam bath. Combing a small amount through the hair effectively treats dandruff and prevents lice and nits.
Tea tree oil is also an effective agent for good oral health. A dab of tea tree oil can help prevent a cold sore from developing and can take the sting out of a canker sore. A rinse made up of a few drops of tea tree oil and 2 ounces of water can be used as a mouthwash to prevent and treat gingivitis. This same rinse can also be used to treat thrush, a fungal infection of the tongue and throat that can often be found in people who have compromised immune systems.