Melaleuca alternifolia is one of the smaller tea trees of South-Eastern Australia, which belongs to the Myrtaceae or Myrtle family (a large genus covering eucalyptus, clove or guava family).
Its leaves are collected and water or steam-distilled locally to produce tea tree oil. The oil smells warm, spicy and fresh. The leaves are dried and powdered. The powdered tea tree leaves are useful for keeping hair and skin clear and blemish-free.
The foliage contains an abundance of aromatic essential oils. In some of the taller paperbarks, this has been exploited commercially for its high germicidal value. The bark has been used for roofing, corking ships, and for lining baskets. Aboriginal women are said to have traditionally used this bark to wrap their children in, forming a makeshift antiseptic blanket.
The oil has been scientifically proven to be antibacterial, antifungal and particularly effective against the types of fungi we call yeasts.