When British explorer, Captain Cook landed in Botany Bay, Australia in 1770 the Gwyeagal people inhabited the land around Botany Bay at that time. The Aboriginal people had a deep knowledge of native edible and medicinal plants passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years. They shared some of their secret knowledge with Captain Cook and his party, including botanist, Joseph Banks. The British spent a great deal of time studying and experimenting with the native botanicals. Melaleuca alternifolia and Melaleuca quinquenervia were amongst the plants studied and sketched by botanist, Joseph Banks.
Approximately 230 species of Melaleuca are indigenous to Australia and vary, depending on the species, from small shrubs to 30 metre tall trees. Melaleuca alternifolia is indigenous to northern New South Wales and Queensland and now most of the commercial Tea Tree comes from this region and this species. Melaleuca quinquenervia is indigenous to the East coast of New South Wales and Queensland usually along watercourses and swamps.
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia) are members of the Myrtaceae plant family and are related to myrtle, clove, and eucalyptus. Although in the same family Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) should not be confused with Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia). Tea Tree has needle-like leaves whilst Niaouli is commonly known as broadleaf paperbark. However, both varieties have strong medicinal qualities and similar chemical properties. Tea tree oil has highly effective antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. It is great for acne, athlete’s foot, contact dermatitis or head lice.
The Aboriginal people of Australia had multiple uses for Melaleuca quinquenervia. The bark was peeled off in layers and is used for shelter, bedding, containers, storing and cooking food, fire tinder, watercraft, fish traps and wrapping the deceased. In traditional medicine, an infusion from leaves was drunk, inhaled or used for bathing to treat coughs, colds, congestion, headache, fever, and influenza. Today…Melaleuca quinquenervia is known for its strong antiseptic and stimulating qualities. It is still extensively used to clear infections such as bronchitis, catarrh, and sinus, as well as acne, boils, burns, ulcers and cuts. It is known for its analgesic, antiseptic, bactericide, insecticide, decongestant and ability to treat intestinal worms.