Virus and flu? Find out how to protect yourself using this all-natural ingredient

Posted by Mei Ying Teh on

A 100% natural way to stay protected.

The flu season visits during winter all over the world. In Singapore, the flu season happens all-year around, but peaks twice, from April to June, and from December to February.[1] Globally, as many as 5 million people suffer from serious cases of the flu annually, and about 0.5 million succumb to them. [2]

In 2020, Singapore’s flu season overlapped with the spread of the COVID-19 virus[3], and though its global fatality rate is only around 2%, its infectious nature and unpredictability means that it spreads rapidly, and people who have gotten it may not feel the symptoms yet. It’s been predicted that, within the coming year, some 40-70% of people in the world would be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, though not all will suffer severely from it.[4]

While everyone is anxious to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus, it is important to understand that personal hygiene is an important habit, regardless of epidemics or virus seasons. Protecting yourself and keeping yourself healthy, will in turn protect those around you and keep them safe too.

Of the many natural ingredients out there, tea tree oil is one of the most effective ones when it comes to cleaning and disinfection. A natural, popular essential oil, it is an all-rounder that can provide different ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Tea Tree Oil

While more commonly known as an essential oil for health and beauty, tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), is known for its medicinal properties, and has been used as a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial[5] substance for close to a hundred years. Due to this, it has also been known to possess antibacterial, antifungal and even antiviral[6] properties, though these still require more studies and research.

For experts, the most beneficial component of the oil is its high terpene content: a volatile oil that has been shown to destroy bacteria.[7] It also carries a substance called alpha-sabine, which is responsible for its antiviral behaviour[8]. Despite its name, tea tree oil is toxic when ingested, but it proves to be an effective essential oil for all kinds of ailments and needs.

With its antimicrobial property, tea tree oil has often been viewed as a natural antiseptic, keeping bacteria and infections at bay. This, on top of its anti-inflammatory property, makes it an ideal ingredient for health and beauty items; such as those treating acne or pimples, hair treatment to improve the scalp and/or to fend against dandruff, and disinfectant for injuries and wounds.

On the other hand, tea tree oil has also been shown to be effective against airborne viruses. In a study that compared tea tree oil’s effectiveness against eucalyptus oil (another oil known for its antiviral property), the tea tree oil is shown to be more effective in the situations imposed during the experiment. While the experiment does have its limitations and does not address the whole spectrum of viruses, it still provides evidence that the tea tree oil carries some antiviral properties.

Other uses of the tea tree oil include being an insect repellent (its smell is known to be potent against pests and insects, making it really effective in repelling mosquitoes and other bugs), and for use in an oil diffuser to purify the air, remove odor and help with breathing (its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties help to quell swelling in nasal passages, and clear blocked or runny noses).

Against the Flu and Viruses

To protect against the spread of viruses and influenza, doctors recommend the need to maintain high levels of personal hygiene, such as washing hands, covering your nose and mouth during a sneeze or a cough, and ensuring your personal items are regularly cleaned.

Using tea tree oil as the main ingredient, you can create antiseptic sprays, hand soaps, hand sanitisers, or just use the tea tree oil itself as a natural disinfectant to soak your personal items and disinfect them.

Below are some of the ways you can utilise tea tree oil.

Disinfectant

With its antibacterial property, a few drops of 100% tea tree oil can be enough to disinfect items such as toothbrush, washing sponges, and even surfaces.

Disinfecting Soaks

10 drops of Tea Tree Oil
240 ml of Hot/Warm Water

Using the resulting mixture, soak toothbrushes, scrubs, brushes or sponges. Leave it there for at least 15 minutes to disinfect them.[9]

All-Purpose Cleaner

10 drops of Tea Tree Oil
480 ml of Hot Water
120 ml of Vinegar

The resulting mixture can be used to clean multiple things, such as tables, sinks, and even floors. Take note that vinegar may erode certain surfaces, such as granite and marble.

Hand Soap

With tea tree oil’s antibacterial property, using it to wash your hands can ensure that your hands will be clean and disinfected.

120ml of Castile Soap
120ml of Distilled Water
15 drops of Tea Tree Oil

Add the water into a jar or empty soap dispenser, then add the soap and tea tree oil before shaking it well.[10]

Hand Sanitiser

Similar to hand soaps, hand sanitisers are handy liquids you can carry around with you as an antiseptic for your hands or your belongings.

15ml of Rubbing Alcohol
60ml of Aloe Vera Gel
10 drops of Tea Tree Oil
Distilled Water

Mix aloe vera gel and alcohol. Add in tea tree oil and thin it out with distilled water if necessary. Transfer to a spray or pump bottle, and use it like any other hand sanitizer.

Laundry Detergent

You can use around 15 to 20 drops of tea tree oil with your laundry load on top of your usual laundry detergent. Otherwise, you may also use the following recipe to create your own laundry detergent using tea tree oil, which will provide a lovely scent while making sure your laundry is clean and free of bacteria.

960g of Borax
960g of Washing Soda
960g of Baking Soda
960g of Lye-based Bar Soap (or Castile Bar Soap)
10-20 drops of Tea Tree Oil

Make sure to wear a face mask during this process.

Grate the bar soaps (if you have a food processor, you can blend it into fine powder). In an air-tight container, add the borax, washing soda, baking soda, and grated bar soap. Close the container and shake well. Stir in tea tree oil and store for use. Only 1 to 2 tablespoons are needed for each load.[11]

Purchasing Tea Tree Oil

When you’re buying tea tree oil for use, you should look for 100% pure tea tree oil. Diluted ones may come with additives that may not be suitable for your needs. But with a 100% pure tea tree oil, you can dilute it according to your preference and uses. (Please refer to the next section for how you can dilute it.)

Always make sure that the tea tree oil comes from a verified source, by checking the brand, the country of origin, and if it carries the scientific name, “Melaleuca alternifolia”.

The oil extraction method is important as well. Tea tree oil should be steam-distilled from the leaves of the plant. [12]

If you’re worried about choosing the right kind of tea tree oil, you can never go wrong with purchasing the ones from NOW Foods. With NOW Foods, you can be sure that you’ll purchase a 100% pure, highly concentrated, natural tea tree oil. Each of them is packaged into 30 ml bottles, enough for 600 drops. Organic Tea Tree is also available. 

Diluting Tea Tree Oil

There are a few ways to dilute tea tree oil, and the recommended one is using carrier oils to mix with them. Carrier oils are designed to help dilute essential oils so that they can be more suited for use, especially for application on skin or sensitive areas.

Possible options for carrier oils include: olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil. When choosing a carrier oil, make sure to consider what it will be use for.

Dilution (%)

Tea Tree Oil (Drops)

Carrier Oil (ml)

0.5

3

20

1

3

10

2

6

10

3

9

10

5

15

10

10

15

5

 

Note that children below 2 years of age should not use more than 0.5% dilution. For adults, 1% is suitable for most uses.[13]

Tea tree oil is an effective antimicrobial essential oil and may aid against illnesses and viruses, but it is not a 100% solution. Some people may observe allergic reaction towards the oil, hence it is best to find out if the oil is suitable for you or those around you before you begin to use them.

 

[1] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/singapore-has-two-peak-flu-periods-a-year

[2] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/public-reaction-to-wuhan-virus-coronavirus-12444060?cid=h3_referral_inarticlelinks_24082018_cna#main

[3] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/more-people-down-with-flu-but-its-normal-for-this-time-of-year

[4] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/

[6] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02786826.2012.708948

[7] https://www.prohealth.com/library/tea-tree-oil-uses-benefits-not-take-granted-85625

[8] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221169115001033#bib42

[9] https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-disinfect-your-whole-home-with-tea-tree-oil-238685

[10] https://livesimply.me/diy-homemade-liquid-hand-soap/

[11] https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/homemade-laundry-detergent-recipe

[12] https://www.healthline.com/health/tea-tree-oil-for-scars#choosing-a-product

[13] https://blog.planttherapy.com/blog/2013/12/04/essential-oil-dilution-chart/

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