Tea Tree oil for acne


  • Health
  • Sunday, 05 Jan 2003

A flowering Tea Tree ... the oil is gentle on the face and non-irritating to the delicate skin cells.

TEA Tree oil is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, a species of Tea Tree, which is native to only the northeast region of Australia. During the Tea Tree plant's long evolutionary history, the oil stored in leaves and branches acted as a natural defence against disease and acted as an effective repellent against many destructive insect pests.  

Pure Tea Tree oil is colourless or sometimes pale yellow, and has a pleasant characteristic smell. It is extremely unique as it has a broad range of antiseptic, germicidal, bactericidal and fungicidal properties. The Aborigines of Australia were the first to discover the anti-bacterial powers of the Tea Tree by crushing the leaves and sprinkling them liberally over injury to treat cuts, wounds or any kind of skin infection. They also inhaled crushed leaves to clear nasal and chest congestion. 

Although analysis shows that Tea Tree oil is 10 times stronger than carbolic acid as an antiseptic, it is non-poisonous and is virtually non-irritant, even to sensitive tissues. These healing properties make Tea Tree oil one of nature's best-kept secrets.  

Today, the oil of the Tea Tree plant is not only used for cuts, burns, abrasions, skin infections, insect bites, boils, candida and tinea, but has been hailed as the perfect remedy for acne and pimples.  

Is acne a problem? 

Acne or pimple is a common skin condition afflicting about 80% teenagers. It may also strike adults as a result of pre-menstrual syndrome, menopause, stress or unhealthy diet and lifestyle. Although not life-threatening, a tiny pimple or acne may have the power to dampen confidence and self-esteem, especially in young adults who are just honing their social skills. 

Acne is generally caused by hormonal changes in the body, which result in an increase in the activity of the oil-secreting sebaceous glands. The excessive production of the oil (sebum) eventually leads to blockage of the ducts, hair follicles and pores. This allows the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes to overgrow and promote inflammation, leading to the eruption called acne.  

Tea Tree oil in action 

Most acne preparations in the market contain strong antiseptics that focus on drying up the acne. The result may be good initially, but in the long run, one may end up with dreadfully dehydrated and sensitive skin.  

Unlike other medicated lotions or creams for acne, Tea Tree oil is gentle on the face and non-irritating to the delicate skin cells, yet leaves you with a soothing, cooling sensation after use.  

Tea Tree oil also possesses the unique ability to penetrate deep beneath the surface of the skin, helping to clear up stubborn acne which often takes ages to heal. A face wash formulated with Tea Tree oil and other soothing herbs like Calendula and St John’s Wort is an excellent choice for a daily cleanser.  

Many individuals who have tried dabbing the 100% pure Tea Tree oil onto blemishes with a cotton bud after cleansing have had extremely pleasing results. A water-based skin repair gel formulated with just 5% Tea Tree oil, Myrrh, Echinacea and Chamomile will also deliver similar results effectively. These herbs not only help reduce redness and inflammation of acne-prone skin, but promote rejuvenation and total healing of the skin. 

Case study 

Jennifer aged 28 has been suffering from an acne problem since her teens. She has consulted a dermatologist for help, but to no avail. Initially, her acne was all cleared after a course of antibiotics, but her problem recurred a few months later.  

The worst fear for Jennifer is to look at herself in front of the mirror every morning. Because of her acne, she is not comfortable meeting up with people nor is she comfortable socialising with friends. She's very frustrated with what she has to go through and finally decided to give herbal medicine a try. 

Treatment programme 

Jennifer was prescribed with a herbal mixture containing Milk Thistle, Dandelion and Echinacea. As a liver tonic, Milk Thistle optimises function of the liver, which is vital for detoxifying the body. The diuretic action of Dandelion improves the body’s system of toxin elimination.  

In combination, these herbs aid in cleansing the body from toxin build-up. Echinacea, on the other hand, has blood-cleansing properties besides being an immune-boosting herb. It helps to clear the system and purifies the blood. 

In addition to liquid herbs, Jennifer was asked to consume an anti-free radical formula that includes beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and the mineral zinc. Beta-carotene, vitamins C and E are important components for skin repair. The mineral zinc helps normalise oil production from sebaceous glands and prevents scarring.  

Essential fatty acids (EFA) are needed for the formation of the lipid layer of the skin. Jennifer was also advised to take evening primrose oil, which is a rich source of omega-6 EFA, to improve smoothness and softness of her skin at the same time. 

As part of the treatment programme, diet and lifestyle factors cannot be overemphasised. Junk food is the main culprit that deprives the skin of essential nutrients. Jennifer was told not to snack on junk foods like she used to, but to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables instead. The consumption of a wide variety of greens is also helpful in clearing her bowels everyday. This is to avoid waste products from accumulating in the bowels, which can cause severe acne.  

Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily is also a must for her to flush out toxins.  

Taking care of the body from the external is as important as taking care of the body from within. Jennifer needs to adhere to a daily skin care routine. She was advised to cleanse her face day and night using a skin care range based on Tea Tree oil.  

Jennifer was also reminded not to press and pick the acne. Squeezing may damage the skin, creating secondary infection and leaving permanent scars. She was to use minimum make-up and keep her long hair away from her face as greasy make-up and oily hair only aggravate acne. Last but not least, inadequate sleep and stress can be triggering factors for skin outbreaks. Jennifer needs to try her best to manage them well. 

Results 

After four weeks, a slight improvement was observed. She was to continue with the herbal mixture and nutritional supplements as well as the healthy diet and lifestyle regime.  

Twelve weeks later, her acne problem was under control with minimal scarring. The glow on her face has brought back her confidence and determination, and she smiles into the mirror everyday, appreciating the right choice that she has made.  

The article above is written by a panel of writers with qualifications in Herbal Medicine and Natural Healthcare. For more information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my . 

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