Camellia oleifera, which originated in China, is notable as an important source of edible oil (known as tea oil or camellia oil) obtained from its seeds. It is commonly known as the oil-seed camellia or tea oil camellia, though to a lesser extent other species of camellia are used in oil production too.
This species looks much similar to Camellia sasanqua except the dark green, evergreen leaves are a bit larger, three to five inches long and two to three inches wide. Single, white, fragrant flowers are produced in mid to late fall, and this large shrub or small tree will reach a height of 20 feet with thin, upright, multiple trunks and branches. The crown forms a rounded or oval vase with lower branches removed.
The seeds of Camellia oleifera can be pressed to yield tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil that should not be confused with tea tree oil, an essential oil that originates from the leaves of a different plant, which is used for medical and cosmetic purposes and is toxic when ingested. In tea oil, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid of the omega 9 type, comprises 88% of the total fatty acid content. Tea oil is also known as "Tea Seed Oil" when sold as cooking oil in supermarkets throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
It can also be used in textile manufacture, soap making and as an illuminant. Camellia oil is also traditionally used to protect Japanese woodworking tools and cutlery from corrosion and is currently sold for that purpose.
- Tea seed oil is the name given to the oil created by pressing the seeds of Camellia oleifera.
- Tea tree oil is derived from Melaleuca alternifolia which is native to Australia and unrelated to the tea plant discussed here.
- Tea tree is a name sometimes applied to a number of different species of plants endemic to Australia. These plants are unrelated to the tea plant.
- The Huntington Botanical Gardens: The Camellia Garden Archived 2014-02-24 at the Wayback Machine.
- Plants for a Future
- Camellia oleifera
- Antioxidant Activity and Bioactive Compounds of Tea Seed (Camellia oleifera Abel.)
- Odate, T: "Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use" page 174. Linden Publishing, Reprint edition 1998.
- Nakahara, Y; Sato, H.; Nii, P.: "Complete Japanese Joinery: A Handbook of Japanese Tool Use and Woodworking for Joiners and Carpenters" pages 5, 15, 28. Hartley & Marks Publishers, 1998