Friday, May 14, 2010

Health & Beauty Friday!

Manuka? Melaleuca? What is the difference between these two wonder healers? Never fear! That is what we are here to help you with!

Melaleuca is most commonly known as tea tree. It is derived from steam distillation of melaleuca alternifolia leaves (found in Australia). In the past, the leaves had been used as a replacement for tea leaves (hence the name), but the oil has been known to be a kind of "wonder oil" medicinally for the past several centuries. It is commonly used for cuts, burns, and infections. Melaleuca can now be found in shampoos, moisturizers, sunscreen/post-sunburn lotions, soaps, and others, in addition to the essential oil.
An added advantage is that, unlike many natural remedies, there have been studies proving the effectiveness of tea tree oil in helping to cure athlete's foot, fungal infections in toenails, dandruff and acne. Melaleuca is an anti-fungal and is great for a wide variety of conditions, ranging from periodontal disease to boils to vaginitis to thrush. Tea tree oil is safe to apply directly on the skin.

While most people are okay to use melaleuca, there is a potential to be allergic to it. Tea tree may alter hormone levels, therefore anyone suffering from a hormone-sensitive cancer, pregnant or nursing should avoid using tea tree. Do not take internally! Commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes are considered okay because they are not swallowed and the levels of melaleuca are well regulated- do not use a homemade tea tree mouthwash!
Manuka (Leptospermum Scoparium) is native to New Zealand. Similar to melaleuca, it is a wonderful antibacterial. Historically, the bark, leaves, sap and seeds all had medicinal value. The leaves were commonly used as a tea (Captain Cook used the leaves in this manner to fight off scurvy) and have now become most popular as an essential oil (which has been added into sprays, lotions, soaps and perfumes). Manuka is significantly more potent than tea tree oil.

Manuka is used to treat fungal and bacterial infections, inflammation from a sunburn, insect bites, joint pain, eczema and psoriasis. It has an advantage over tea tree oil in that fewer people seem to have an allergic reaction of any sort to it.

Like melaleuca, do not use when pregnant! Manuka must be blended in order to use on skin. Manuka honey (available at Food for Thought) is a wonderful salve for applying topically to burns and wounds. It is now commonly recommended for post-operation sinus surgery patients.

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