Last week, I shifted focus back to one of my favorite topics, essential oils! In the latest oily spotlight, I reviewed the well-known plant of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree). Tea tree is a favorite essential oil of aromatherapists and oilers due to its many useful applications. Beyond its popularity, it also has been validated by researchers for its efficacy in human trials.
After finishing up praising the properties, applications, and safe use of tea tree oil, I began my discussion of why another member of the myrtle family deserved attention as well. Melaleuca ericifolia caught my eye when an email showed up in my inbox that made me curious about this new (to me) “Melaleuca on the block.”
In this post, I’ll go into more details on why Melaleuca ericifolia may become another “essential” in my oils collection.
Note: For an overview of what was covered so far, I summarized all the important points of these two Australian natives in my latest video, which you can view here.
A Warm Welcome to Rosalina, AKA “Lavender Tea Tree” Essential Oil
Whether it is referred to as “lavender tea tree,” “Swamp Paperback,” or “Rosalina,” Melaleuca ericifolia exhibits its diversity in more than its name. This type of versatility is a common property in many of the 300 species found in the genus Melaleuca. Unlike quality tea tree essential oil that is noteworthy for the compound terpinen-4-ol, (source, source, source, source), this oil is characterized by a unique combination that you don’t find in its relatives. M. ericifolia contains a dynamic duo of 1-8, cineole and linalool! (source)
Linalool is often associated with lavender. It has calming properties and beneficial effects on the nervous system. (See additional references here.) 1-8 cineole is one of the most studied components in eucalyptus oil. In fact, it is a monoterpene oxide commonly known as “eucalyptol.” The melaleuca genus (including tea tree oil) also contains this compound (source, source) that has reported antimicrobial, respiratory, and immune supporting benefits. (source, source, source, source, source)
What is rare about Melaleuca ericifolia is that these two compounds can be in quite high percentages. For example, linalool can make up to 55% of the essential oil, depending on the plant’s latitude and environmental characteristics! (source)
According to an excerpt from Melaleucas: Their Botany, Essential Oils and Uses:
“The essential oil of M. ericifolia has been studied for over 50 years. A 2004 study examined its essential oil content over its natural geographical range, which extends from coastal regions near Newcastle, New South Wales, in the north to Tasmania in the south (Brophy and Doran 2004). The study looked particularly at the amount of 1,8-cineole and linalool in the oils and the results are shown in Figure 21. Generally, the amount of 1,8-cineole increases from Newcastle southwards to Tasmania, and the amount of linalool decreases concomitantly. As the essential oil of M. ericifolia is important because of its linalool content, it is important to source the oil from plants in the north of its range. But there is a continuous variation in oil contents so, in this case, it is not correct to refer to a cineole chemotype or a linalool chemotype.”
“With 290 species in the genus Melaleuca, it is not surprising that their leaf oils have much variation, resulting in many different types of oils. In this short section, we will review this variation and show what a wide range of chemicals is contained in Melaleuca leaf oils.” (source)
As stated above the percentage of the predominate secondary metabolite found in Melaleuca ericifolia can vary based on geography and distillation methods. This may make it appear to act as “two different oils.” This is the concept of chemotype. I discussed this aspect of complexity previously when explaining the variations that can occur with the same species of essential oils:
Their chemical composition can also vary depending on the season of harvest and methods of extraction (distillation, hydrodistillation, super critical carbon dioxide extraction, and solvent extraction- the latter two are not technically essential oils). A final intricacy of an essential oil’s action to consider is its chemotype or distinct plant population within the same species. These various populations produce differing plant secondary metabolites that have differing effects.5,6,8,10
The Excitement for the “Other” Melaleuca (ericifolia)
Although there is not a lot of human research yet on this essential oil, the combination of 1-8 cineole and linalool would make M. ericifolia oil a synergistic blend that is both comforting and powerful!
Plants sourced with higher percentage of linalool may be why it is commonly referred to as the “kid friendly lavender tea tree.” When used properly and obtained from a pure oil, this high linalool content may be the reason it is touted to be gentle, soothing, and beneficial for the skin health of little ones. (source, source, source)
Melaleuca ericifolia with higher percentages of 1,8 cineole as its chemotype, on the other hand, may still have pacifying aspects but may be more appropriate for dealing with “buggies” and inflammation.
This is why it is important to know your source, the quality of the oil you are using, and trust your essential oil company!
High 1-8, cineole may be irritating to little ones (and big ones in large doses) due to its impact on an enzyme that rids the body of ammonia. (source, source) However, this is based on the synthetic compound. Essential oils are synergistic and do not act similarly to isolated compounds. When used responsibly, essential oils are safe, even for little ones.
I dedicated a whole section on safety on my essential oils database. In it, I “weeded” out the scare tactics used to dissuade the use of essential oils. Most studies on “toxicity” with children are actually related to overdosing by them swallowing large quantities of essential oils (literally full bottles!). Thankfully, the imbibing little ones recover. (Hopefully the parents prevent further issues by keeping their oils “out of reach.”)
For more information visit my Essential Oils Database under “Children and Safety.”
This is the direct link to that 63-page pdf on “everything Melaleuca.”
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Customized recommendations with an individualized essential oils consult are also available. (See below.)
So, we’ve now examined the “other Melaleuca.”
Now, I’d love to hear from you!
Have you used this oil?
What is your experience?
Share more below!
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.