Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S.T.Blake
Syn.: M. cajuputi Auct.
M. leucadendron Auct.
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Source of oil of Cajeput or Tea Tree Oil, used as a mosquito repellent,
effective also against lice and fleas. The tea-tree oil serves as a solvent
and cleaning agent. Dissolving caoutchouc, it creates a good varnish. In
dentistry, it is used to relieve the pain of dry sockets. The oil is used as a
flavor component in foods (baked goods, candy, condiments, dairy desserts, meat
and meat products, nonalcoholic beverages, relishes) and in creams, detergents,
lotions, perfumes, and soaps (Leung, 1980). Bark serves in lieu of cork as an
insulating material, also used in floats, life belts, and stuffing cushions,
mattresses, and pillows (Duke, 1984b). Years ago, the tree was recommended for
salt swamps to subdue "malarial vapors." In India, sheets of cajeput bark were
historically employed for sacred writing. The bark is useful in packing
tropical fruits. The leaf infusion has been used as a tea. Steeping the
flower in water is said to impart an agreeable sweetness to the water. The
wood, durable under ground and water, is valued for boats, cabinetry, carving,
crossties, fencerails, flooring, gunstocks, mine braces, pilings, posts,
rafters, railway sleepers, ships and wharves.
Reported to be antiseptic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, emollient,
rubefacient, sedative, stimulant, sudorific, and vermifuge, cajeput is a folk
remedy for acne, bronchitis, bruise, cholera, cold, colic, cough, diarrhea,
earache, eczema, gout, headache, hiccup, inflammation, laryngitis, malaria,
myalgia, neuralgia, paralysis, pharyngitis, pityriasis, pleuritis, pneumonia,
psoriasis, rheumatism, rhinitts, scabies, scurvy, skin ailments, sore throat,
spasms, sprains, toothache, and tumors (Duke and Wain, 1981). Burmese mix
cajeput oil with camphor for gout. Indochinese use the oil for arthritis and
rheumatism, inhaling the oil for colds and rhinitis. Cambodians use the leaves
for dropsy. Indonesians apply the oil externally for burns, cramps, colic,
earache, headache, pain, skin disease, and toothache. Softened bark is applied
to boils as a suppurative. New Guinea natives rub the oil on the body for
malaria. Filipinos use the leaves for asthma. Indonesians use the fruit for
stomach disorders. Malayans use the oil as pain killer and stomachic, dropping
a bit onto sugar lumps for cholera and colic (Duke, 1984b). In India, the oil
is used internally as an expectorant in chronic bronchitis and laryngitis.
Overdoses cause gastrointestinal irritation. Acts as an anthelmintic,
especially against roundworms.
Leaves contain ca 1.3% essential oil with 1465% cineole (or eucalyptol),
1-pinene, and terpineol and aldehydes. Besides these, the oil contains
1-limonene, 3,5,-dimethyl-4-6-di-0-methylphloroacetophenone, dipentene,
nerolidiol, sesquiterpenes, azulene, sesquiterpene alcohols, valeraldehyde, and
benzaldehyde. The bark contains betulinic acid (melaleucin) (Duke, 1984b).
Oleanolic- and ursolic-acids, quercimeritrin, isoquercitrin,
kaempferol-3-glucoside, kaemp-ferols-7-glucoside, and gallic acid derivatives
are also reported (List and Horhammer, 19691979). Silica content of the wood
varies from 0.20.95%.
Overdoses of the oil may induce gastroenteritis, kidney inflammation, and
disturbance of the nervous system. Even small amounts may cause skin eruptions
in sensitive persons (Morton, 1966). Although the vapors emanating from the
tree may repel insects and the trees may serve as a "super Air-Wick", Morton
(1966) adduces evidence to show that the volatile properties may also irritate
the human respiratory system. Morton even suggests that eating cajeput honey
may build up immunity in cajeput-sensitive individuals. Mitchell and Rook
(1979) say that contact with branches, fruits, and roots, even the volatile
emanations, can produce dermatitis. The oil can produce dermatitis and
folliculitis when used for massage. According to Leung (1980), "Available data
indicate it to be nontoxic ... Has been approved for food use
Resiniferous evergreen tree to 30 m tall, 1 m diameter, with whitish papery
bark, often exfoliating. Leaves alternate, dull green, narrowly lanceolate,
oblanceolate, or lance-elliptic, 520 cm long, 535 mm wide, apically and
basally acute, entire, pli-nerved, aromatic, the petiole 24 mm long. Flowers
ramiflorous, between or below groups of leaves in "bottlebrush spikes" 415 cm
long, often producing apical foliaceous shoots following flowering. Calyx with
5 rounded lobes <2 mm long, and 5 somewhat longer whitish petals, ca 30
filiform stamens and inferior 24 celled ovary with many ovules. Capsules
sessile, crowded along the branches, with many minute narrow brown seeds <2
Reported from the Australian, Hindustani, and Indonesia-Indochina Centers of
Diversity, cajeput, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate acid sulphate
soils, brackish sites, drought, fire, heavy soils, light frost, limestone, low
pH, poor soil, salt spray, sand, tin tailings, waterlogging, weeds, and wind.
Morton (1966) discusses several of the confusing variations in this species and
genus. (2n = 22)
Native from eastern Australia through Malaysia and Burma, now widely
introduced, e.g. in Africa, Central America, Florida, Hawaii, India,
Philippines, Puerto Rico, South America, and the West Indies.
Ranging from Subtropical Dry to Wet through Tropical Dry Forest Life Zones,
cajeput is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 6.4 to 40.3 dm (mean of
4 cases = 22.2), annual temperature of 21.3 to 25.°4C (mean of 4 cases =
24.0), and pH of 5 to 7.7 (mean of 3 cases = 6.6) ( Duke, 1978, 1979).
Commonly forms forest communities on swampy ground; in Java, Sumatra, and
Borneo, forms brackish swamp forests immediately behind the mangroves and great
savannas in Buru and Ceram. Its thick flaky bark makes it fire resistant. In
Burma it sometimes occurs as shrub or small tree on edge of tidal forests. In
Annam and Queensland, it is found on sand dunes as shrub up to 1 m tall, or
shrubs of 12 m tall in amphibious scrub. Common in gray podsolic depressions
in sandstone outcropping areas with Eucalyptus species. Occasionally on
calcareous gravelly soils near waterholes.
Propagated by seed, but cuttings of immature wood root easily in sand, laid
horizontally. Seeds are scattered on damp seedbed, placed in shade or covered
with damp burlap or sphagnum moss. Stratification has been reported to retard
germination. Seedlings may attain 12 m height a year. Once established,
trees are extremely vigorous and tough, crowding out other plants and difficult
to exterminate by cutting or burning. It is rarely cultivated for essential
oil because of the enormous quantity of leaf material available from
Leaves, harvested throughout the year, are cut from shrubs or low trees which
are not more than 6 months old. Fresh leaves and terminal branchlets yield, on
steam-distillation, the volatile oil. The commercial product is usually green
due to its being distilled in copper containers. Distillation often takes
place in field stills similar to those used for producing American eucalyptus
oils (Reed, 1976). Seven year rotations have been suggested in Malaysia.
Leaves and branchlets yield 11.5%, sometimes up to 1.8%, of essential oil. Of
five trees studied in Florida, this one was projected to lead the others by far
in dry matter yields, at 28.5 MT/ha of 9.4 for slash pine, 9.0 for sand pine,
8.3 for casuarina, and only 5.6 MT/ha for Eucalyptus (Smith and Dowd, 1981).
At spacings of 1 x 2 m, M. leucadendron yields 5,500 kg leaves/yr, at 1
x 2.5 m, 3,500 kg. Webb et al. (1980) put the annual wood production at 1016
m3/ha. During this century, oil of cajeput is imported into India
mainly from France and Netherlands, up to 10 MT/yr. Main producers of the oil
are in the East Indies. Much of the crude oil is shipped to other countries
where it is refined and resold. When Morton (1966) published her paper,
tea-tree oil was twice as costly as Eucalyptus oil. It takes ca 1 man-hour to
harvest 8.5 kg leaves, and 405 man-hours/ha (Fenton et al., 1977).
According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), standing biomass of Melaleuca
in Cambodia, LAI 7.1, was ca 172 MT/ha. Fenton et al. (1977) however put the
stem biomass of natural stands at only 7.4 MT/ha. Moderately heavy (740785
kg/m3 air dry, 410 kg/m3 oven dried), the wood is said to
be an excellent fuel, the chief firewood of Malacca, exuding resin as it burns.
The average heat values (kj/kg) of melaleuca wood, bark, terminal branches, and
foliage were 18,422, 25,791, 19,301, and 20,139, respectively. The heat of
combustion of melaleuca bark is unique because it is comparable with that of
some coals at 25,000 kj/kg, the highest figure yet determined for tree
material. This unique characteristic is due to the presence of a great amount
of fatty substances in the bark. The densities (g/cm3) of stemwood
and stembark are approximately 0.51 and 0.19, respectively. The green moisture
contents averaged 114% for stemwood and 131% for stembark. The average ash
contents of stemwood and stembark are 0.7 and 2.7%, respectively. The fuel
quality of melaleuca stemwood and stembark varies significantly among trees
(Wang et al., 1982).
Browne (1968) lists the following as affecting M. leucadendron: (Fungi)
Fomes lignosus. (Angiospermae) Loranthus sp. (?). (Crustacea)
Sesarma spp. (Lepidoptera) Bathrotoma constrictana, Metara
elongata. (Mammalia) Lepus crawshayi. Fenton et al (1977) list the
following fungi: Cylindrocladium macrosporum, C. pteriolis, Phellinus senex
(causing heart rot), Phytophthora cinnamomi, Pleomassaria
melaleucac, and Rigidiporus lignosis on this or closely related
species. In Hawaii, the black twig borer Xylosandrus compactus, has
been associated with plantation mortality. The foliage is unattractive to
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Browne, F.G. 1968. Pests and diseases of forest plantations trees. Clarendon
- Duke, J.A. 1978. The quest for tolerant germplasm. p. 161. In: ASA Special
Symposium 32, Crop tolerance to suboptimal land conditions. Am. Soc. Agron.
- Duke, J.A. 1979. Ecosystematic data on economic plants. Quart. J. Crude Drug
- Duke, J.A. 1981b. The gene revolution. Paper 1. p. 89150. In: Office of
Technology Assessment, Background papers for innovative biological technologies
for lesser developed countries. USGPO. Washington.
- Duke, J.A. 1984b. Borderline herbs. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL.
- Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
- Fenton, R., Roper, R.E., and Watt, G.R. 1977. Lowland tropical hardwoods.
External Aid Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Wellington, N.Z.
- Leung, A.Y. 1980. Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food,
drugs, and cosmetics. John Wiley & Sons. New York.
- List, P.H. and Horhammer, L. 19691979. Hager's handbuch der pharmazeutischen
praxis. vols 26. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
- Mitchell, J.C. and Rook, A. 1979. Botanical dermatology. Greenglass Ltd.,
- Morton, J.F. 1966. The cajeput treea boon and an affliction. Econ. Bot.
- Reed, C.F. 1976. Information summaries on 1000 economic plants. Typescripts
submitted to the USDA.
- Smith, W.H. and Dowd, M.L. 1981. Biomass production in Florida. J. For.
- Wang, S.L., Huffman, J.B., and Rockwood, D.L. 1982. Qualitative evaluation of
fuelwood in Floridaa summary report. Econ. Bot. 36(4):381388.
- Webb, D.E., Wood, P.J., and Smith, J. 1980. A guide to species selection for
tropical and sub-tropical plantations. Tropical Forestry Papers 15. CFI,
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw