Essential oils have become all the rage among natural mamas. While I do not believe that they are a magic bullet by any means, I do find that keeping a bottle of melaleuca oil around the house can be quite handy. Here are several uses I’ve found for melaleuca oil, commonly referred to as tea tree oil:
- Homemade wipes for dirty hands and bums
- Diaper rash ointment
- Acne cream
- Mastitis treatment
- Laundry disinfectant
- Freshening spray
With two toddlers, homemade wipes are a must in our household. When our washing machine broke down last month and I was forced to use disposable diapers and wipes, I realized that without homemade wipes I would go through an entire package of 60 wipes every week. Not only does that cost a lot of money but it also generates a lot of waste. Even for mamas who don’t use cloth diapers, cloth wipes can be incorporated into the diapering routine by limiting their use to cleaning non-poopy bums, in which case the wipes can be thrown in with the regular laundry; doing so cuts down on at least a little bit of the waste associated with disposable diapering without adding much work. It takes me about five minutes once a week to prepare and apply a solution to my set of cloth wipes, which I purchased on Etsy.
To make a wipes solution, add one drop of melaleuca oil to a tablespoon of witch hazel in an 8-ounce squeeze bottle (I use the peri bottles I received in the hospital when I gave birth to my daughters) then fill the remainder of the bottle with water and shake to distribute the melaleuca oil, which will act as an antimicrobial agent to keep bacteria from growing in your wipes once you dampen them with the solution. You can store your wipes in a standard wipe warmer or in a wet bag, which makes them portable (just keep an extra wet bag with you for dirty wipes).
The antimicrobial properties of melaleuca oil also make it great for use in homemade diaper rash ointments, acne creams, and mastitis treatments. For all of these uses, I dilute several drops of melaleuca oil in several teaspoonfuls of virgin coconut oil (one drop of melaleuca oil for every teaspoonful of coconut oil). Simply melt your coconut oil over low heat on the stove and blend in the melaleuca oil, then pour the mixture into a small glass container for storage. Apply to diaper rashes underneath an application of moisture-blocking ointment (we use Boudreaux’s Butt Paste) to help prevent infection and hasten healing.
For acne, apply a dab of the melaleuca/coconut oil mixture to the pimple.
For mastitis, rub the mixture into your skin over the sore/reddened area, avoiding the area around the areola where your baby nurses (melaleuca oil is not safe for ingestion). Note that mastitis is a serious infection that should not be allowed to progress; if your homemade treatment does not seem to be improving the infection within 24 hours, see a doctor. The homemade treatment is best used if you catch mastitis early, when the infected tissue is just beginning to become painful. If it has already progressed to the point of serious pain and inflammation, skip the homemade treatment and go straight to the doctor. I was able to avoid the use of antibiotics by catching my mastitis early enough and applying my homemade treatment four times over a 24-hour period.
Melaleuca oil can also be added to your wash cycle to freshen and disinfect your laundry and washing machine; simply add several drops to liquid detergent when you pour it into your machine. If you use cloth diapers, this is a great way to keep your diapers smelling fresh during the winter months when they can’t be disinfected in the sun. The melaleuca oil won’t remove stains but it will keep stinky microbes from settling in.
Finally, melaleuca oil can be used in a freshening spray for your home. I add about 20 drops of melaleuca oil to a 20-ounce spray bottle full of water that I store along with my cleaning supplies. When the mangy munchkin has an accident (she’s currently potty training), I spray the area with my solution after cleaning it up. I also use it when the trash can gets stinky and when one of my daughters spills milk on the couch, which will take on a sour smell without a few spritzes of my melaleuca solution.
You can find additional uses for melaleuca oil on WebMD and on Dr. Mercola’s website. The MayoClinic offers some cautionary advice for those considering its use, including a warning that frequent use of melaleuca oil on prepubescent boys may cause a rare condition called prepubertal gynecomastia. A study discussed in the New England Journal of Medicine found an association between this condition and the use of melaleuca oil in young boys; fortunately, once the use of melaleuca (and also lavender) oil was discontinued, the condition disappeared.
If you do decide to go ahead and purchase a bottle of melaleuca oil for home use, make sure to test yourself for sensitivity first by applying a drop to the inside of your (or your child’s) wrist and watching for any rashes to occur within a 24-hour period. No one in my family has ever exhibited any sensitivity to the oil but its best to check first to avoid complicating any situations that you are trying to correct (you certainly wouldn’t want to use melaleuca oil in a diaper rash ointment if your child is sensitive to it, for example).
By keeping a bottle of melaleuca oil in your home, you can avoid the use of many potentially toxic products by replacing them with your own melaleuca-based concoctions. You’ll also save some money and cut down on quite a bit of waste!