Where do tea trees grow?

Cold Hardy Tea Plant

Grow Your Own Tea Organically

Freshly made tea tastes far superior to any tea you’ll find in a market. If you enjoy the soothing comfort of a warm cup of tea, why not grow your own to relish every day? The Cold Hardy Tea Plant is one of the hardiest of all the Camellia sinensis, with smaller, narrower leaves especially preferred for making green and black teas. Your tree has been groomed and will ship ready for you to start making your own tea right away.

These make attractive hedges. If you are growing for several people, a hedge is a great way to grow your plants. They do well in containers too, so if you live in colder areas, just bring the plants indoors for a few months. In fall and winter, you’ll have the added bonus of small white flowers that will perfume the area with their delicious fragrance!

Even better is the fact that the Cold Hardy resists tough conditions with ease. The caffeine in the leaves gives the Cold Hardy immunity so that it stands up to pests, diseases and temperature extremes.

A few plants will supply you with a lifetime of delicious tea, fresh and as pure as possible! It will grow to a very large shrub if left on its own. To use it for tea production, which uses only the new growth at stem tips, you will want to keep it pruned to about 3 or 4 feet to make it easy to harvest and to keep it producing fresh new stems.

Plus, you get a ton of health benefits. This is a descendant of the original tea plant, first used in China thousands of years ago for medicinal purposes. There are countless benefits to brewing your own tea. First, you’ll know that no dangerous chemicals or pesticides were used on the plant. The health advantages of drinking tea are remarkable. Full of antioxidants, it has been proven to lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Many drink it for its ability to assist with weight loss.

And it’s long-living. Enjoy a lifetime supply of delicious, fresh tea leaves and save thousands of dollars! One tea plant can produce for over 100 years. Just snip off the leaves and dry. Use them fresh or store them. Some people like to grow extra to give away as healthy gifts. One thing is certain – you’ll have this plant for a very long time.

Order now – grow your own hardy Cold Hardy Tea plants and start enjoying truly superior tea!

Planting & Care

The tea plant (or Camellia sinensis) has been used for centuries for its health benefits regardless of the tea color. The drink is also known for its incredible antioxidants, caffeine boost, nutrients and other medicinal compounds. It’s hard to say just how long people have enjoyed tea for its health benefits but what can be confirmed is that it has been used as a beverage for over 5,000 years! The leaves of the plant are what primarily make up the beverage and is typically green, white, black or Oolong in appearance. Typically grown outdoors in USDA growing zones 6-9, a tea plant can also be successfully grown in a container to enjoy your favorite hot beverage year round.

Choosing a location: Your tea plant will be happiest in a full to partial sun location. If possible, try to put it in a spot that it will be protected from strong winds. Space multiple plants at least three feet apart from one another. Tea plants enjoy a moist, well draining, acidic soil (ph range of 6-6.5 or lower).

Planting directions (in ground):
1) An acidic soil is best for the tea plant and using soil meant for rhododendrons will help maintain a happy tea plant.
2) Make your hole twice the size of the root ball and just as deep.
3) The rhododendron soil is ideal for the back filling of the hole which will introduce some acidity for the tea plant.
4) Spread a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the base of the bush to help retain moisture while simultaneously combating competing weeds from growing.

Planting directions (potted):
1) Select a pot with good drainage that is about twice the size of the root ball. Drainage is important as tea plants hate to have “wet feet.”
2) Use a well draining, acidic soil to fill the bottom third of the pot, and center your new tea plant. Carefully fill the soil in around the root system and be sure to leave the root crown (where the root ball meets the trunk) just above the soil surface.
3) Bright, indirect light is the best location for your newly potted tea plant with a steady temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
*Tip: To encourage blooming on the bush, change the surrounding temperature to a window of 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit after the buds begin to appear in winter season.
4) As the bush grows it will need periodic repotting. Typically once every 2-3 years (or as needed) the roots will outgrow the pot, so move up to a slightly larger container and be sure to trim the roots so they fit proportionately.

Watering: Your tea plant will require at least one weekly watering (mulch helps retain moisture so be sure to spread a good 2-3 inch layer around the base). Keep an eye on the area during the hot season as you might need to move up to a dual watering weekly. Try to avoid doing a “rain down” style of watering as this can promote fungal issues.

For potted tea plants, wait until the top 2-4 inches of the soil become dry before any additional watering. Only water enough to where you see it escaping the drainage holes and stop. Do not allow the pot to sit in water.

Fertilizing: For the first year, during active growing in spring and summer, apply a 1/2 lb. of a slow release, complete fertilizer every two months. For each following year, add an additional 1/2 lb. to each application. Broadcast the fertilizer around the base of the tree at least six inches from the base of the tree to avoid root burn and then water thoroughly.

From spring to the fall season, use a liquid, acidic fertilizer every three weeks on your potted tea plant. For the best results, dilute the formula to half the strength of the recommended amount.

Pruning: Once your tea plant gets to be around 5 feet tall, prune back the bush in the early spring season. Always make your cuts at a 45 degree angle with sterilized clippers. Rubbing alcohol and boiling water are easy ways to sterilize your tool(s). Cut back the top growth to about 3-4 feet tall. Always remove any damaged, dead or crowded branches to maintain the shape and size of the plant.

Potted tea plants should be pruned back yearly after the blooming period. Just like the in-ground tea plant, be sure to remove dead, damaged, or crowded branches. Cut the stem back towards the base of the bush. You can cut individual branches to just past a leaf node or bud.

Harvesting: The youngest leaves on your tea plant tend to make the best tea. The youngest are typically the last few leaves and the bud. Set the leaves to dry out of the sun for about 2 hours and then pan heat or steam to stop the leaf’s oxidation. Try to keep the heat fairly high during this process (500 degrees fahrenheit) for about 15 minutes while continuously shaking and/or stirring to prevent scorch or burning. Leaves can now be dried in the oven or in a dehydrator, stored in an airtight container and left in a cool dry area for storage.

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Leptospermum scoparium (Tea Tree)

Leptospermum scoparium (Tea Tree) is an upright evergreen shrub with small, aromatic (when crushed), needle-like leaves and showy flowers in late spring and summer. Borne along the stems, the blooms may be single or double, in shades of red, pink or white depending on the varieties. Attractive to bees, they give way to small woody capsules containing tiny seeds, that hang on for a long time after the petals drop. Native to Australia and New Zealand, this shrub adds ornamental appeal to the landscape year-round.

  • Grows up to 6-10 ft. tall and wide (180-300 cm).
  • Easily grown in acidic, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun or light shade. Provide regular irrigation during the first summer in the garden. Once established, cease watering in mild coastal areas, or provide monthly irrigation in inland areas. Tolerance for drought and poor soil make this plant suitable for cultivation in dry Mediterranean climates.
  • Deer resistant
  • Great for beds and borders, coastal gardens, Mediterranean gardens, gravel and rock gardens or containers.
  • Virtually disease and pest free. Root rot may occur in overly moist soils.
  • Propagate by seed (species) or semi-hardwood cuttings (cultivars)
  • Minimal pruning required. Prune after flowering to maintain shape and encourage bushier, more floriferous growth. Never cut into bare wood as new growth is unlikely to sprout.
  • Main cultivars include:
    Apple Blossom – Double light pink flowers. 8 ft. tall and wide (240 cm)
    Burgundy Queen – Dark burgundy double flowers. Upright, dense shrub to 12 ft. tall (3.6m) and 10 ft. wide (3m)
    Red Damask – Deep red, fully double flowers. Dense medium-sized shrub to 5-8 ft. (1.5-2.5m)
    Helene Strybing – Single, deep pink flowers with a dark center. Open, upright and arching growth habit to 10 ft. tall and wide (3m).
    Red Ensign – Single, deep, rich-red blooms with a dark center. Upright, dense shrub to 8-10 ft. (2.4-3m) with dark red leaves and
    Silver & Rose – Profuse, rose pink, green-centered flowers. Dense, compact shrub to 4-5 ft. and wide (1.2-1.5m)
    Snow White – Profuse, double white, green-centered flowers. Dense, compact, shrub to 4-5 ft tall and wide (1.2-1.5m)

Tea Tree Oil


Bundjalung Aborigines who historically resided in what is now known as New South Wales, Australia would pick the leaves from the tea tree plant, break them (like aloe leaves.) Then, to heal burns, cuts, and insect bites they would rub the leaves over their skin. They also ground the leaves into a fine paste as wound dressing. Those crushed leaves were also applied over the body as an insect repellant. They taught Captain Cook how to boil the leaves to create a spiced tea, so Cook called the plant a “tea tree.”

In the early 1990s scientists in the University of Western Australia’s School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences began a study of essential tea tree oil. Their purpose was to investigate and verify the medicinal properties of tea tree oil, especially the oil’s antimicrobial benefits. Tea tree oil has demonstrated its wide spectrum of ability in healing bacterial, fungal, and viral infections in the laboratory. These researchers have since advocated its acceptance as a topical antimicrobial agent.


Tea tree oil is produced by steam distilling the leaves of the Australian Melaleuca alternifolia. The M. alternifolia is a plant species which grows only in Australia and is native to Northern New South Wales. Harvesting the leaves from tea trees isn’t easy. They grow in swamps infested with snakes and insects. Machinery won’t work under those conditions, so the leaves must be cut by hand. Workers use machetes to cut suckers off the stumps and then use a cane knife to strip the leaves from the branches. The tea trees’ growth appears to actually increase when regularly cropped. No damage is done to the trees or the surrounding ecosystem because machinery can’t be used. The leaves are then placed in a steam distiller on racks. Oil is drawn from the leaves, floating on top of the water in collection tanks. The tea tree oil goes through a filtration process before it is poured into a container. As the oil has gained in reputation and popularity, tea tree plantations have been established where the product is grown organically.


The plant oil contains more than 100 separate components. These are mostly monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and their alcohol forms. Tea tree oil is comprised of at least 30% terpinen-4-ol which causes most of its antimicrobial activity. This component, with specific levels of 13 others, are required for tea tree oil to meet the International Standard for Oil of Melaleuca.

Medicinal use

Tea tree oil has proven effective in treating skin infections. Whether the cause of the infection is bacterial, fungal or viral, the oil works to heal it. Although it provides strong pharmaceutical medication, tea tree oil doesn’t show dangerous side effects. This pale yellow or colorless oil smells similar to eucalyptus. Although it contains more than 100 compounds, so far only 79 have been specifically identified. Some of these compounds have been found nowhere else in nature.

Tea tree oil is efficacious in various dilution in treating acne, arthritis, athletes foot, bladder infections lice, herpes lesions, warts. Tea tree oil may be diluted with olive oil and rubbed onto an irritated or inflamed area as in the case of arthritis or gout. Added to bath water, it soothes the entire skin area.

Soothes skin

Tea tree oil can relieve symptoms of minor burns, chapped lips, rash from chicken pox, dandruff, dry skin,eczema. The natural oil also acts as an antiseptic to treat minor cuts and even hives and shingles.

Alleviates colds

A few drops placed on a hot wash cloth and held over the nose to breathe through alleviates symptoms of head colds, earaches, asthma, and bronchitis.

Value of natural treatment

The popularity of natural treatments for health problems is once again gaining momentum. In past history, before “modern” medicine, natural medicine was the only treatment available. Over the centuries native peoples found many plants which effectively treated various illnesses. Today, with the problems that have risen from overuse of antibiotics and other medications, and the side effects caused by the use of many of these, the old is becoming new again. Due to the wide spectrum of viral, microbial, and fungal pathogens against which tea tree oil is effective, its use is becoming more widely established.

Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Herb Plant

Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) Herb in 1 Litre Pot

Tea Tree is native to Australia, where it thrives in the areas along streams and in swampy marshlands. As the climate in the UK is that much cooler than Australia, Tea Tree would need to be treated as a tender plant and brought indoors over the winter months.

The slender trunk holds elegant branches with green linear leaves that are long and narrow. It is related to the mrytle and Tea tree will flower with white blooms that go on to produce cup-shaped fruit, but it is unlikely to flower in a cooler climate. It is a shrub which given the right conditions will grow to 2 metres in height.

Tea Tree is also known as narrow-leaved paperbark, narrow-leaved tea-tree, narrow-leaved ti-tree, or snow-in-summer.

Herb Usage

Tea Tree is most notable for its essential oil which reputed to be both anti-fungal and antibiotic. This is produced on a commercial scale, and marketed as Tea Tree Oil. It has been used in Australia as a traditional medicine by the indigenous people to treat coughs and colds , in a poutice to treat wounds, or as an infusion for sore throats and skin aliments.

Tea tree oil is commonly used as a topical antiseptic agent because of its antimicrobial properties, especially in the treatment of acne. It is also known to reduce inflammation and may be effective in the treatment of fungal infections such as Athletes foot.

Buy Tea Tree Online

Our Potted Tea Tree Herb Plants are generally available to buy online between March and September

Tea Tree

Scientific Name: Melaleuca alternifolia
Common Name: Tea Tree
Other Common Names: Nd
Plant Type: Perennial
Where To Plant: Full Sun to Partly Shady
Soil Types: Average
Zones (See US Zone map): 11+ or Greenhouse
Germination: Medium
Number of Seeds Per Pack: 100
Uses: Medicinal
Notes: Tea tree oil is good for skin infections, burns, bruises, cuts, herpes, warts, yeast infections, gingivitis, and other problems.

MELALEUCA ALTERNIFOLIA. Worldwide demand for the antiseptic oil distilled from the leaves has exploded over the past decade. The oil has proven antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties which makes it valuable for skin infections, burns, bruises, cuts, herpes, warts, yeast infections, gingivitis and many other conditions requiring a powerful antiseptic. Can be applied directly on sensitive tissues without irritation. Australian aborigines have long used the crushed leaves for skin infections. The English explorer Captain Cook brewed a spicy and refreshing tea from the leaves. Small tree or shrub with narrow bright-green leaves. Easy to grow in containers.
Price: $4.95/pkt

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Any statement made concerning medical conditions treated with this herb is not intended as sound medical advice. The seeds are NOT to be ingested only planted. Herbs need to taken only with the guidance of a trained physician or established herblist.

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Melaleuca Tea Tree Uses – How To Care For Tea Trees In The Garden

The tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is a small evergreen that likes warm climes. It is attractive and fragrant, with a definitely exotic look. Herbalists swear by tea tree oil, made from its foliage. For more information on melaleuca tea trees, including tips on growing a tea tree, read on.

About Melaleuca Tea Trees

Tea trees are native to the warmer regions of Australia where they grow wild in tropical and subtropical swampy areas. You’ll find many different types of tea trees, each with its own dramatic variations in needle and blossom shades.

Melaleuca tea trees attract attention in your garden. Tea tree information suggests that one of the most attractive features is the trunk, with its gorgeous, papery bark.

If you are thinking of growing a tea tree, note that the tree can get 20 feet tall. It spreads out too, to 10 or 15 feet wide. Be sure to site it with enough room to grow, or else keep the pruners handy.

Growing a Tea Tree

If you live where the weather is warm, you can plant melaleuca

tea trees in your garden. Otherwise, growing a tea tree in a container is a valid alternative. You can position it in outdoor sun during summer, then move it inside for winter.

When you are growing a tea tree, you may be surprised by how fast your tree develops. Tea tree information tells us that Melaleuca tea trees in warm locations can grow several feet a season. Tea trees in cooler regions won’t grow as fast.

Your tea tree won’t flower until it has been around for a few years. But when it does, you’ll notice. The blossoms are frothy, and you’ll find a variety of colors available.

How to Care for Tea Trees

When you are learning how to care for tea trees, think warmth. Don’t plant Melaleuca tea trees outside in your garden unless you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 8 or above. The trees need sun to thrive, whether they are planted indoors or out. They will not be happy in shade.

As far as soil goes, make sure it drains easily. The plants just won’t thrive if drainage is limited. Grow them in acidic or neutral soil that is moist. Speaking of…don’t forget irrigation. Even outdoor plants need watering during dry spells. For those growing a tea tree in a container, regular irrigation is essential. Tea trees are not one of those potted plants that like drying out between drinks. Keep that soil a bit moist at all times.

Melaleuca Tea Tree Uses

Melaleuca tea tree uses run from ornamental to medicinal. The small trees are lovely additions to a warm-climate garden and also make a lovely potted plant.

The trees also have medicinal uses. Melaleuca tea tree uses center around the essential oil obtained from the leaves and twigs. Herbalists consider tea tree oil an important natural antiseptic.

The oil can be used for treating stings, burns, wounds and skin infections. It is said to stimulate the immune system and serves as an effective treatment against both bacterial and fungal infections. The essential oil is also used in aromatherapy.

11 benefits of tea tree oil

There is some evidence to show that tea tree oil may have several uses.

1. Antibacterial

Share on PinterestTea tree oils have been used in Australia as an ointment for close to 100 years.

The oil has been used for almost 100 years as a healing treatment in Australia, particularly for skin conditions. Today it is used for a number of conditions.

Tea tree oil is probably best known for its antibacterial activity.

Some research suggests that the broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity associated with the oil comes from its ability to damage the cell walls of bacteria. More research is needed to understand how it might work.

2. Anti-inflammatory

Tea tree oil may help quell inflammation, possibly due to its high concentration of terpinen-4-ol, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties.

In animal tests, terpinen-4-ol was found to suppress inflammatory activity in cases of mouth infection. In humans, topically applied tea tree oil reduced swelling in histamine-induced skin inflammation more effectively than paraffin oil.

3. Antifungal

A review of the effectiveness of tea tree oil highlights its ability to kill a range of yeasts and fungi. The majority of the studies reviewed focus on Candida albicans, a type of yeast which commonly affects the skin, genitals, throat, and mouth.

Other research suggests suggests that terpinen-4-ol enhances the activity of fluconazole, a common antifungal drug, in cases of resistant strains of Candida albicans.

4. Antiviral

Some studies show that tea tree oil can help treat certain viruses, but research is limited in this area.

5. Acne

Share on PinterestTea tree oil is distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health advise that research into the effects of topically applied tea tree oil in people is limited.
However, the oil may be useful for a number of skin complaints.

Acne is the most common skin condition. It affects up to 50 million Americans at any one time.

One study found a significant difference between tea tree oil gel and a placebo in treating acne.

Participants treated with tea tree oil experienced improvement in both total acne count and the severity of the acne.

This builds on earlier research which compared 5 percent tea tree oil gel with 5 percent benzoyl peroxide lotion in treating cases of mild to moderate acne.

Both treatments significantly reduced the number of acne lesions, although the tea tree oil worked more slowly. Those using the tea tree oil experienced fewer side effects.

6. Athlete’s foot

Symptoms of athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, were reduced through topical application of a tea tree oil cream, according to one study.

A 10 percent tea tree oil cream appeared to reduce the symptoms as effectively as 1 percent tolnaftate, an antifungal medication. However, the tea tree oil was no more effective than a placebo in achieving a total cure.

More recent research compared higher concentrations of tea tree oil on athlete’s foot with a placebo.

A marked improvement in symptoms was seen in 68 percent of people who used a 50 percent tea tree oil application, with 64 percent achieving total cure. This was over double the improvement seen in the placebo group.

7. Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a form of eczema caused by contact with an irritant or allergen. Several treatments for contact dermatitis were compared, including tea tree oil, zinc oxide, and clobetasone butyrate.

Results suggest that tea tree oil was more effective in suppressing allergic contact dermatitis than other treatments. However, it did not have an effect on irritant contact dermatitis.

Keep in mind that tea tree oil itself may induce allergic contact dermatitis in some people.

8. Dandruff and Cradle Cap

Share on PinterestTree tree oil can be used to soothe cradle cap on an infant’s scalp.

Mild to moderate dandruff related to the yeast Pityrosporum ovale may be treated with 5 percent tea tree oil, according to one study.

People with dandruff who used a 5 percent tea tree oil shampoo daily for 4 weeks showed significant improvements in overall severity, as well as in the levels of itchiness and greasiness, when compared with a placebo.

Participants experienced no negative effects.

Another study found tea tree oil shampoo effective for treating children with cradle cap.

It is possible to be allergic to tea tree oil. To check for a reaction, put a little shampoo on the infant’s forearm, and rinse. If no reaction occurs in 24 to 48 hours it should be safe to use.

9. Head lice

Head lice are becoming more resistant to medical treatments, so experts are increasingly considering essential oils as alternatives.

Research compared tea tree oil and nerolidol – a natural compound found in some essential oils – in the treatment of head lice. The tea tree oil was more effective at killing the lice, eradicating 100 percent after 30 minutes. On the other hand, nerolidol was more effective at killing the eggs.

A combination of both substances, at a ratio of 1 part to 2, worked best to destroy both the lice and the eggs.

Other research has found that a combination of tea tree oil and lavender oil was effective at “suffocating.”

10. Nail fungus

Fungal infections are a common cause of nail abnormalities. They can be difficult to cure.

One study compared the effects of a cream comprising both 5 percent tea tree oil and 2 percent butenafine hydrochloride (a synthetic antifungal) with a placebo.

After 16 weeks, the nail fungus was cured in 80 percent of people. None of the cases in the placebo group was cured.

Another study showed tea tree oil effective in eliminating nail fungus in the laboratory.

However, this research does not definitely show that the tea tree oil component of the cream is responsible for the improvements experienced, so further research is needed.

11. Oral health

A gel containing tea tree oil may be beneficial for those with chronic gingivitis, an inflammatory gum condition.

Study participants who used tea tree oil gel experienced a significant reduction in bleeding and inflammation when compared with a placebo or a chlorhexidine antiseptic gel.

Other research indicates that a type of bacteria associated with bad breath may be treated with tea tree oil and alpha-bisabolol, the active component in chamomile.


The amount and timing of tea tree oil dosage depend on several factors, including the condition requiring treatment, its severity, and the concentration of the tea tree oil.

The Next Miracle Tree: Tea Tree and Its Relatives

Its confirmed antiseptic activity, apparent lack of toxicity, and gentleness on mucous membranes (when sufficiently diluted) eventually gave the oil a temporary foothold among Australian dentists. The more adventuresome among them began using a product called Melasol (essential oil of melaleuca in aqueous suspension) to treat several forms of gum disease. Some general practitioners used the oil in treating throat infections, dirty wounds, and fungal infections such as ringworm, athlete’s foot, and candida.

The commercial success of tea tree oil was tentative at best, partly because the source of supply was limited and partly because the oil varied widely in quality. The leaves had to be harvested from wild trees, and efficient harvesting was hampered by the trees’ location in wet areas. A company called Australian Essential Oils extracted most of the country’s supply by setting up stills in the swamps.

In spite of these problems, the oil managed to sustain commercial interest through the Second World War. Australian soldiers deployed to tropical regions carried it in their first aid kits as an antiseptic and to combat fungus infections. In ammunition factories, it was added to machine cutting oils to reduce infection from injuries caused by metal filings and turnings. After the war, however, the use of tea tree oil gradually declined with the proliferation of antibiotics. Only a handful of stills remained in operation to supply oil for limited commercial applications. By the mid-1970s, years of poor harvests and wide variation in supply and quality, coupled with a marked lack of promotion, led to nearly complete dissolution of the Australian tea tree oil industry.

At about that time, Christopher Dean, a young entrepreneur, and his family took a new tack: they began cultivating M. alternifolia on a plantation near Bungawalbyn Creek in northern New South Wales, where the tree was growing wild. By the early 1980s, they were bottling their own tea tree oil and selling it through pharmacies and health food stores throughout Australia. Part of the Deans’ success came from hard work and part from luck and timing, but it was their slogan, “a medicine chest in a bottle”, that soon caused the market to explode. In 1985, ten metric tons of the oil was produced in Australia, and a year later, the newly formed Australian Tea Tree Industry Association boasted more than sixty members.

The association brought credibility to the product and the industry and thus paved the way for growth in international markets. Production studies and clinical and toxicity trials followed, and a national quality standard was developed. This standard focuses on the amounts and proportions of two major components of tea tree oil, terpinen-4-ol and cineole, which vary significantly among M. alternifolia trees grown in different parts of its range. (Cineole is the primary active ingredient of eucalyptus oil.) The minimum standard requires that tea tree oil contain at least 30 percent terpinen-4-ol and less than 15 percent cineole. Oils containing as much as 47 percent terpinen-4-ol and as little as 2.5 percent cineole are rare but considered to be the best; those high in terpinen-4-ol and low in cineole appear to produce the greatest and most predictable bactericidal activity, and cineole-rich oils are more likely to cause skin irritation. Wild tea trees growing near the southern limits of their range tend to be relatively rich in cineole, and their oils are less sought after.

Today, the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association certifies oil quality and the authenticity of the M. alternifolia source.

Selling Tea Tree in America

During the past decade, especially since oil quality has become more consistent, melaleuca has become one of the few herb products on which entire companies base their product lines.

Melaleuca products appeared on the American market in the early 1980s, a few years before the Australian quality standard was developed. The oil and its products quickly became widely available from established distributors of medicinal herbal products as well as by direct marketing. During the past decade, especially since oil quality has become more consistent, melaleuca has become one of the few herb products on which entire companies base their product lines. The oil now abounds in every product category in which essential oils are commonly used: topical first aid preparations; medicated shampoos, hair rinses, and conditioners; toothpastes and polishes; mouthwashes and throat sprays; hand and body lotions, facial cleansers, lip balms, and sunscreens; douches, laundry soaps, perfumes—the list goes on. The mere presence of tea tree oil in these products seems to enhance their commercial value, even when the oil is listed under “other ingredients” on the label and the quantity is minute.


In 1990, a marketing company called Melaleuca, Inc., ranked 37th on Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing American private companies. Melaleuca has become big business: Australian plantations in what is now known as the Bungawalbyn Reserve are expanding rapidly, and production and demand estimates for 1998 exceed 700 metric tons.

The Next Miracle Tree

Now, a year and a half after my journey to Australia, I feel I’ve found the answers to most of my questions about tea tree and its oil. The oil is unquestionably a promising therapeutic agent because of its proven antibacterial properties, and it has shown some promise in treating numerous common, relatively minor conditions. Its safety, though not scientifically confirmed (see “The Scientific Record”, page 00), is relatively well established through long usage, and it has myriad uses in cosmetics, soaps, and other commercial products.

However, the same and more can be said of a hundred other herbs that have not enjoyed a fraction of the commercial success of tea tree oil. There seems to be something irresistible about this exotic plant that grows only in a small area of Australia. This may be the true miracle of the tea tree, and the source of the present public excitement about it: the miracle of marketing and public relations.

Might there soon be another herbal success story of this magnitude? Savvy entrepreneurs might do well to consider the American sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua), whose essential oil is similar to that of the tea tree but surprisingly has not been developed commercially. A recent study—in Australia, as a matter of fact—showed that the essential oil of sweet gum leaves contains more than 30 percent terpinen-4-ol and only trace amounts of the undesirable terpenoid cineole. Move over, tea tree: make room for sweet gum oil, the miracle from America!

Steven Foster is an herbalist, writer, researcher, and consultant based in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Trouble in the Everglades

America’s melaleuca story has a dark side. Of the many species of melaleuca, one, the cajeput tree or broad-leaved paperbark tree (M. quinquenervia), has become the nemesis of south Florida. Travel along any highway there, and you can’t help noticing the expansive thickets of eucalyptuslike trees with thick, peeling, papery bark.

About 1890, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Florida ordered cajeput seeds from France. In 1906, Dr. John Gifford, a Miami forester, obtained seeds. These seeds were planted experimentally in swampy areas of south Florida in the hope that the trees would dry out the soil sufficiently to make it usable for agriculture or housing. A secondary part of the plan was cajeput’s commercial development: it is an oil-producing plant, a source of decorative wood, and a fast-growing ornamental landscape plant.

In 1908, cajeput was being grown successfully at a USDA Plant Introduction Station near Coconut Grove, Florida. The station relocated a few years later, and the established cajeput trees stayed and reproduced. Like kudzu, cajeput’s growth characteristics and reproductive cycle, together with a lack of natural controls, allowed populations to run amok, and the tree is now a major ecological threat to important south Florida natural areas including Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Cajeput is more adaptable than was originally supposed; it thrives in relatively dry as well as moist habitats. It grows in dense thickets, eliminating most forms of native vegetation, and it has now invaded three of the four major ecosystem types in south Florida—saw grass prairies and mangrove and cypress swamps.

Early attempts to control cajeput by burning only exacerbated the problem. The tree’s thick, spongy, protective layered bark is resistant to fire, but even after being burned, the tree quickly resprouts. Fire also causes the hard, buttonlike seed capsules to burst open, releasing millions of tiny seeds which are then dispersed by wind and water. Florida’s Melaleuca Task Force, which issued a Melaleuca Management Plan for South Florida as recently as 1990, noted that “the uncontrolled expansion of melaleuca constitutes one of the most serious ecological threats to the biological integrity of South Florida’s natural systems.”

The development of commercial uses for cajeput has been equally unsuccessful, at least in Florida. The highly aromatic cajeput tree does produce an essential oil, but its chemical composition resembles that of eucalyptus oil more closely than it does the oil of M. alternifolia. Cajeput oil averages 40 to 65 percent cineole, and it has been used like eucalyptus oil as a stimulant, antispasmodic, and germicide as well as a fragrance; externally, it has been applied as a counterirritant for treating rheumatism, neuralgia, gout, sprains, and bruises, and has been inhaled for bronchitis and pneumonia. In the Far East, cajeput was planted for commercial production of the essential oil, which was used to treat cholera and diarrhea until it was replaced by more modern medicines. But the Florida cajeput populations have never been developed as a commercial source of essential oil, and probably never will be.

The hard, close-grained wood of caj­eput resists rot in contact with the ground, which has made it useful for wharf pilings and railroad ties. Cured slowly so that it doesn’t crack, the wood has a beautiful dark finish with sprays of light wood rays; its appearance has been compared with that of mahogany. This quality makes the wood suitable also for carvings, furniture, and gunstocks. Cajeput also makes excellent firewood, and its pulpy, spongy bark has been harvested on a small scale for use as an absorbent material in the florist trade. Yet despite all this potential, none of the many attempts to develop an economic use for cajeput have come to fruition. The threat to millions of acres of Florida’s natural areas seem to outweigh the value of cultivating it in this country.

English Online


Tea is one of the most popular drinks in the world. You make it by pouring hot water over the dried leaves of a tea plant. For centuries people believed that teas could cure illnesses, they used it as medicine. Today scientists know that tea contains chemicals that prevent cells from dying. Most teas have caffeine in them, a substance that makes you feel more active. Some people have problems drinking tea because it can cause sleeplessness.

Tea plant

The tea plant grows best in tropical and temperate places where rain falls throughout the year. Tea can be grown from sea level to about 2,000 metres, but the best quality grows in higher regions.

Tea comes from the leaves and buds of tea plants. Wild plants can be up to 9 metres high but on tea plantations they are cut back to a bush of about a metre in height so that workers can pluck the leaves easily. The plant produces pointed, leathery dark leaves, small white flowers and seeds that look like hazelnuts. It takes a plant three to five years before is ready for plucking.

A plucker can harvest about 20 kg of tea a day. On large tea plantations the leaves are harvested by machines, but the quality of tea is higher when the leaves are hand-plucked.

Tea plucker on a plantation in Tanzania – Martin Benjamin

Types of tea

The most common types of tea are black and green tea. They come from the same plant but are processed differently.

Workers take the leaves and spread them out on shelves where they can dry. Next, they are rolled and broken into pieces and put into a room where they absorb oxygen. Chemical reactions change the taste and character of the tea. Finally , the leaves are dried with hot air until they turn brownish-black. Most black tea comes from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and eastern Africa.

To make green tea, workers put the freshly picked leaves into a steamer, which keeps them green. Then they are crushed and dried in ovens. Japan is the biggest producers of green tea .

Tea can be bought in many forms – leaves, powder or tea bags. Some of them are added with flavours, like vanilla, orange or lemon. Although most people drink their tea hot, many enjoy iced tea, especially during the summer months.

Black tea is brewed by pouring water over a teaspoon of tea. The tea should soak for three to five minutes before you drink it. Green tea should be left in water longer. Instead of putting tea leaves into a pot people often put tea bags into a cup.

Loose dried tea leaves

People first drank tea in China about 5000 years ago. Originally it was used as a medicine, then as a daily drink. It spread to Japan in the 3rd century A.D. Dutch and Portuguese traders brought tea from eastern Asia to Europe in the 1600s.

In 1657 the beverage was sold for the first time in coffee houses in Great Britain. When the English started a tradition of tea drinking in the afternoon it became England’s national drink. In the 17th and 18th centuries tea spread to British colonies overseas.

In 1767 Great Britain placed a tax on tea imported by American colonists. During the Boston Tea Party of 1773 they were so angry that they threw a ship full of British tea into the harbour to protest British rule. Two years later the American Revolutionary War started.

Today about 3.3 million tons of tea are produced. India, with its famous tea growing regions like Darjeeling and Assam, and China produce about half of the world’s tea. It also grows in many other parts of Asia, especially in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. In the course of time growing tea has spread to countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and South America .

The World’s Tea-producing Countries

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Related Topics

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  • A.D. =anno Domini = after the birth of Christ
  • absorb = take in
  • although =while
  • American Revolutionary War = war in which British colonies in America became independent
  • beverage = a hot or cold drink
  • brew = to get the taste into the hot water
  • bud = a tightly rolled up flower or leaf before it opens
  • cause =lead to
  • century =a hundred years
  • common =well-known
  • crush = to break something into many small pieces
  • Dutch = a person from the Netherlands
  • enjoy = like
  • especially =above all
  • finally = in the end
  • flavour = the special taste of something
  • harbour = place where ships stay to load and unload their goods
  • harvest = to bring in products from the field or from trees
  • hazelnut =the nut of a hazel tree
  • height =how high something is
  • illness = disease
  • in the course of time = over the centuries
  • instead =if you do something or want something to replace something else
  • leathery = made out of leather
  • lemon = a fruit with a hard yellow skin and a sour juice
  • originally = at first
  • oven = a metal box with a door in front in which you can cook food
  • overseas = to a country that is across the ocean
  • oxygen = gas that is in the air and that we need to breathe
  • place =put
  • plantation = a large area of land on which tea, coffee etc.. is grown
  • pluck = to pull something quickly
  • pointed = sharp
  • popular = liked by a lot of people
  • pour =to make water flow out of a container or pot
  • prevent = to stop something from happening
  • process = to make goods or food so that they can be sold
  • produce = make
  • rule =government
  • scientist =a person who is trained in science
  • sea level =the average height of the sea; it is used to calculate how high mountains and other places are
  • seed = a small hard object of a plant from which a new plant can grow
  • shelf – shelves = a long flat board used to lay something on
  • sleeplessness = if you cannot sleep
  • soak = to leave something in water for some time
  • spread =to expand from one place to another
  • steamer = a container used to cook food in the gas made by hot water
  • substance =material
  • tax = money that you must pay to the government
  • temperate = not too hot and not too cold
  • throughout = in the whole, in all of
  • trader = a person who buys and sells things

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