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What do Tea Tree, Marjoram, and Makrut Lime Essential Oils have in Common? (And Why You Might Care)

At first glance Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree), Citrus hystrix (makrut lime), and Origanum majorana (sweet marjoram) may seem as different as apples and oranges but a look at their chemistry reveals some beneficial similarities.

Tea tree is well known for its antimicrobial benefits. It's found in many soaps, shampoos, and cleaning products. Research reveals that its terpenes: terpinen-4-ol, gamma terpinene, and alpha terpineol offer antibacterial (1, 2, 3), antiviral (4,5) , and anti-fungal benefits (6,7,8). Mixtures of monoterpenes appear to work better than the isolated monoterpenes.

Marjoram, like tea tree, also offers germ fighting terpinen-4-ol, gamma terpinene, and alpha terpineol in significant amounts. Makrut lime likewise offers terpinene-4-ol and alpha terpineol in addition to limonene and alpha pinene, making it useful as a germ fighter as well as immune and respiratory support oil. So if you can't find or don't care for the aroma of tea tree, these essential oils can be a good substitute chemically speaking.

Additionally Zingiber cassumunar (plai) also offers terpinen-4-ol and gamma terpinene and pairs well with marjoram or makrut lime to help fight germs.

In addition to their germ-fighting properties these essential oils also offer analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits as well and can be used to ease aches, support the digestive system, and support respiratory health.

Below are a few recipes that feature these essential oils:

Germ Buster Diffuser Blend

1-2 drops Tea tree essential oil

1-2 drops Makrut lime essential oil

1-2 drops Eucalyptus essential oil**

2 -3 drops Grapefruit essential oil

1 drop Clove bud essential oil*

Add the essential oils to a diffuser and turn on.

Germ Buster Inhaler Blend

3 drops Tea tree essential oil

5 drops Makrut lime essential oil

3 drops Eucalyptus essential oil**

5 drops Grapefruit essential oil

2 drops Clove bud essential oil*

1 drop Patchouli essential oil

Add the essential oils to the cotton wick of an inhaler. Place the cotton wick into the inhaler housing and seal. Uncap and inhale as needed to support immune and respiratory health.

Germ Buster Steaming Blend:

Add the following to a glass bottle with an orafice reducer:

5 drops Tea tree essential oil

5 drops Eucalyptus essential oil**

5 drops Marjoram or Plai essential oil

5 drops peppermint essential oil**

5 drops Siberian or Balsam fir or pine essential oil

Seal and cap the bottle and gently mix to combine oils.

Add freshly boiled water to a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bowl. Add 1 drop of the Germ Buster blend, close your eyes, and cover your head with a towel. Breathe in vapor for 5 to 15 minutes taking breaks as needed.

Safety: Be sure to follow safety guidelines when using essential oils.

* spicy oils that need to be used in low dilutions

** these oils should be used with care around children and asthmatics

And you can follow this principle for other essential oils -- by understanding the chemistry you can make substitutions or take advantage of chemical synergy to maximize therapeutic benefits.

If you have questions about aromatherapy, essential oils, or essential oil safety contact Tricia or refer to Tisserand and Young "Essential Oil Safety" or The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy website.

Aromatic blessings,


  1. Kotan R, Kordali S, Cakir A. (2007) Screening of antibacterial activities of twenty-one oxygenated monoterpenes. Z Naturforsch C. 62(7-8):507-1513.

  2. Raman A, Weir U, Bloomfield SF (1995) Antimicrobial effects of tea-tree oil and its major components on Staphylococcus aureus, Staph. epidermidis and Propionibacterium acnes. Letters in Applied Microbiology 21(4):242-245

  3. Papadopoulos CJ, Carson CF, Hammer KA et al (2006) Susceptibility of pseudomonads to Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and components. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 58(2):449-451

  4. Astani A, Reichling J, Schnitzler P (2010) Comparative study on the antiviral activity of selected monoterpenes derived from essential oils. Phytotherapy Research 24:673-679.

  5. Garozzo A, Timpanaro R, Bisignano B (2009) In vitro antiviral activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil. Letters in Applied Microbiology 49:806-808

  6. Barra A, Coroneo V, Dessi S et al (2007) Characterization of the volatile constituents in the essential oil of Pistacia lentiscus L. from different origins and its antifungal and antioxidant activity. Journal & Agricultural & Food Chemistry 55:7093-7098

  7. Hammer KA, Carson C, Riley TV (2003) Antifungal activity of the components of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil. Journal of Applied Microbiology 95:853-860

  8. Straede A, Corran A, Bundy et al (2007) The effect of tea tree oil and antifungal agents on a reporter for yeast cell integrity signalling. Yeast 24(4):321-334

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