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Tea tree oil, that versatile essential oil from the Australian forest, can overpower some of your biggest headaches, from pimples to countertop spills. But some people don’t like the medicinal smell of tea tree oil, or simply don’t have a vial of the potent liquid on hand when they need it. Fortunately, a few other essential oils share similar properties.
Zapping zits the natural way is a breeze with tea tree oil, but for similar pimple-busting power, look to lavender, lemongrass, sage, tangerine, lemon balm, rosemary or chamomile. Oddly enough, strong-smelling tea tree oil is one of the few essences you can dab directly onto your skin. Most essential oils must be diluted in water or another medium before touching your tender skin, warns beauty author Dina Falconi. To make a cleansing facial steam, add up to 3 drops of an essential oil to a basin of just-boiled water and hold a towel over your head and the basin to open pores and clear out grime and oil. Alternatively, mix one of the oils into homemade facial scrubs and masks, or blend a drop or two with your favorite liquid face cleanser.
Tea tree oil’s antifungal properties address fungal disorders, literally from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. That’s because dandruff and athlete’s foot, along with yeast infections, ringworm and other rashes, are fungal in nature. If you can’t find tea tree oil, use one of its close relatives – niaouli, cajeput or “MQV” (Melaleuca quinquenervia viridiflora) oils. All come from various tree species of the Melaleuca genus found in Australia and Indonesia. Of the tea tree oil substitutes, cajeput is more likely to cause skin irritation, even when distilled. Use it only after testing a small part of your skin to make sure you won’t be making a bad problem worse. Otherwise, look for the mild but potent MQV or niaouli essential oils. To reduce the chances of irritation, dilute two drops of any of the Melaleuca essential oils in 1 ounce of olive or sweet almond oil before massaging it into your skin or scalp.
Colds and Coughs
Tea tree’s bacterial properties make it an in-demand oil for vaporizers and chest rubs. To replace the powerful liquid, turn to eucalyptus or one of tea tree oil’s cousins – niaouli, cajeput or MQV. The antiseptic oils appear to work by loosening bronchial congestion and encouraging productive coughs. They also help kill airborne germs when used in vaporizers. Blend one to two drops into 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to make a chest rub, or add several drops to a room vaporizer.
Even the most glamorous girls have to come down to earth sometime – usually to clean the toilet or a nasty cutting board. Tea tree oil’s disinfectant properties definitely add organic cleaning power to spray bottles of water, but so do a few other essential oils. Try diluting 10 drops of eucalyptus or cinnamon oil in an 8-ounce spray bottle filled with water, suggests the Environmental Protection Agency. Other essential oils that smell good while effectively powering through cleanups include pine, lemon, clove, juniper, sage or thyme.