Almost everyone has heard of Tea Tree Essential Oil and a little perhaps about its antiviral, antibacterial, anti fungal and antiseptic qualities but few people realise there is more than one Tea Tree Oil; all with similar attributes but varying strengths.
Tea Tree is, in fact, a name we have given to a range of different plants that have these particular attributes. They fall into three distinct groups…..
Best known of all is Malaleuca alternifolia which is generally sold under the name of Tea Tree but Malaleuca Leucodendron Cajeputii (The White Tea Tree) is gaining in popularity and smells rather better then the former mentioned. Nerolina Essential Oil is Malaleuca quinquenervia and is also a native of Australia. It is used more often to lift the fragrance of other oils in the perfume industry adding more lustre to the lavendery resinous notes required with a woody undertone. Niaouli (usually pronounced Nooli) is Malaleuca viridiflora and native to New Caledonia and Australia. Its use is confined mainly to its insect repellent qualities but also in medicinal applications. It has a slightly more campherous aroma than other Malaleucas.
In the Leptospermums there is Manuka which many people know through the honey that bears its name made from the efforts of the local honey bee at pollen collecting from the Manuka plant. It looks a little like Heather in its appearance and is Leptospermum scoparium. It is up to 20 times stronger in its attributes than its regular Australian Malaleuca counterpart. Lemon Scented Tea Tree is Leptospermum petersonii and, as its name suggests, it has a distinct lemony aroma and is most used in insect repellents but has the same broad antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial qualities as regular Tee Tree.
Fragonia is the trademarked name of the only Agonis in the Tea Tree family of plants, native, again, to Australia. It is Agonis fragrans and around 50 times stronger in its attributes than the regular Tea Tree cousin. It is much talked about and an “Oil of the Moment” as its comes under intense scrutiny for its reported abilities at killing pernicious microbes and fungal infections.
All the Tea Tree oils have antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, anti fungal actions but to varying degrees and most are native to the Southern Hemisphere, particularly Oceania ( Australia and surrounding islands ) The Australians are funding the new planting of various of the species in Papua, Vanuatu and a number of other small countries within their sphere of influence that also share similar habitat to both strengthen the various species and to ascertain how variations in climate and soil conditions might also produce chemical constituent variants over time. It is one to watch.
Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea