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J Appl Microbiol. 2001 Sep;91(3):492-7.

Interactions between components of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia.

Author information

1
Centre for Biostructural and Biomolecular Research, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury, New South Wales, Australia. s.cox@uws.edu.au

Abstract

AIMS:

This study compared the antimicrobial activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil with that of some of its components, both individually and in two-component combinations.

METHODS AND RESULTS:

Minimum inhibitory concentration and time-kill assays revealed that terpinen-4-ol, the principal active component of tea tree oil, was more active on its own than when present in tea tree oil. Combinations of terpinen-4-ol and either gamma-terpinene or p-cymene produced similar activities to tea tree oil. Concentration-dependent reductions in terpinen-4-ol activity and solubility also occurred in the presence of gamma-terpinene.

CONCLUSION:

Non-oxygenated terpenes in tea tree oil appear to reduce terpinen-4-ol efficacy by lowering its aqueous solubility.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY:

These findings explain why tea tree oil can be less active in vitro than terpinen-4-ol alone and further suggest that the presence of a non-aqueous phase in tea tree oil formulations may limit the microbial availability of its active components.

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