Melaleuca alternifolia

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Melaleuca alternifolia
Melaleuca alternifolia (Maria Serena).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Myrtales
Family: Myrtaceae
Genus: Melaleuca
Species: M. alternifolia
Binomial name
Melaleuca alternifolia
(Maiden & Betche) Cheel[1]

Melaleuca alternifolia, commonly known as Narrow-leaved Paperbark, Narrow-leaved Tea-tree, Narrow-leaved Ti-tree, or Snow-in-summer, is a species of tree or tall shrub in the plant genus Melaleuca. Native to Australia, it occurs in Southeast Queensland and the north coast and adjacent ranges of New South Wales. It grows along streams and on swampy flats, and is often the dominant species where it occurs.


Leaves are linear, 10–35 mm long and 1 mm wide. White flowers occur in spikes 3–5 cm long. Small woody, cup-shaped fruit are 2–3 mm in diameter.[2]

Medicinal uses[edit]

Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil in clear glass vial
See also: Tea tree oil

The indigenous Bundjalung people of eastern Australia use "tea trees" as a traditional medicine by inhaling the oils from the crushed leaves to treat coughs and colds. They also sprinkle leaves on wounds, after which a poultice is applied. In addition, tea tree leaves are soaked to make an infusion to treat sore throats or skin ailments.[3][4]

Characteristic of the myrtle family Myrtaceae, it is used to distill essential oil. It is the primary species for commercial production of tea tree oil (melaleuca oil), a topical antibacterial.[5]

Tea tree oil is toxic if ingested in large amounts and may cause skin irritation if used topically in high concentrations.[6] No deaths have been reported.[6]


  1. ^ "Melaleuca alternifolia information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  2. ^ Harden, G.J., (ed), Flora of New South Wales, Vol. 2, 1991, ISBN 0-86840-172-2[page needed]
  3. ^ Shemesh, A.; Mayo, W. L. (1991). "Australian tea tree oil: a natural antiseptic and fungicidal agent". Aust. J. Pharm 72: 802–803. 
  4. ^ Low, T. 1990. Bush medicine. Harper Collins Publishers, North Ryde, NSW, Australia
  5. ^ Carson, C. F.; Hammer, K. A.; Riley, T. V. (2006). "Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties". Clinical Microbiology Reviews 19 (1): 50–62. doi:10.1128/CMR.19.1.50-62.2006. PMC 1360273. PMID 16418522. 
  6. ^ a b Hammer, K; Carson, C; Riley, T; Nielsen, J (2006). "A review of the toxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil". Food and Chemical Toxicology 44 (5): 616–25. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2005.09.001. PMID 16243420. 

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