It is common knowledge that tea tree oil belongs in the first aid kit. What is not commonly known is that cajeput essential oil belongs right beside it. Cajeput actually comes from the same family of trees which produces tea tree oil, so it shares many of the same wonderful properties. Additionally, the presence of high amounts of different compounds, such as eucalyptol, makes cajeput more beneficial than tea tree for many different applications. No wonder the pure essential oil has earned the nickname “White Tea Tree”.
Cajeput throughout History
Cajeput oil is extracted from the white-barked Maleluca Cajuputi tree, and is native to Indonesia, Australia, and Malaysia. The word cajeput or cujuput stems from an Indonesian word kayu putih, literally meaning “white wood”. The tree has long been used as an ornament in gardens and landscapes for its deep green leaves and bold flowers. Locals rely on the tree as a medicinal staple, especially those who do not have much access to medical care. The most medicinally promising use of the tree is through the creation of pure cajeput essential oil.
Cajeput Essential Oil
To create this potent oil, the leaves of the cajeput tree are steam distilled. The resulting oil has a thin, clear consistency and a sweet and sharp smell resembling tea tree oil. The various components of cajeput essential oil help to make it distinct from tea tree essential oil.
Components of Cajeput Essential Oil
- 1,8-Cineole. This is the main compound in cajeput essential oil, and largely sets it apart from its cousin Tea tree oil. 1,8 cineole is mainly found in eucalyptus essential oil; which is how it got the nickname Eucalyptol. The compound has been widely studied for numerous health benefits, and is used in medications and natural remedies alike.
- a-Terpineol. A major component in pine essential oil, alpha terpineol also makes up a good percentage of cajeput essential oil’s volume. Alpha terpineol is an antibacterial and antiviral compound, and helps to stimulate the immune system. The scent is considered warming and uplifting.
- Limonene. one of the most common compounds in citrus fruits, limonene is widely used as a flavoring agent. The compound boasts a long list of benefits to the body; including dissolving cholesterol, neutralizing heartburn, and fighting cancer cells.
- p-Cymene. Sometimes referred to as simply Cymene, this compound is present in small amounts in many essential oils. Small amounts of p-Cymene are actually more beneficial, as high doses can lead to nausea, dizziness, and a loss of consciousness. In low doses, however, p-Cymene is antimicrobial, antifungal, and may help to lower the blood pressure.
- Terpinolene. A fresh smelling hydrocarbon, terpinolene is found in many tree varieties, as well as some citrus plants. The fresh scent is often used in cosmetics, but potential medical benefits include its use as an antioxidant, anticancer, sedative, and antibacterial compound.
- Linalool. a widely captured stress relieving compound, linalool is used in everything from medicine to fragrances. Medicinally, linalool is linked to benefits as an anti-anxiety, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and general sedative compound.
- a-Pinene. alpha pinene is a common terpene in essential oils. This compound is present in different levels in many oils, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
Benefits of Cajeput Essential Oil
The compounds in cajeput essential oil act synergistically to affect the body in many beneficial ways. The oil acts like a blend of tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and lemon oil; due to its high levels of terpineol, eucalyptol, and limonene, respectively.
In the Body
When the essential oil of cajeput enters the body via inhalation, it is absorbed by the capillaries in both the nasal passages and the lungs. Most compounds in the oil are small enough to cross the membrane of the skin as well, making topical application another easy way to enjoy the full benefits of cajeput oil.
Arthritis and Rheumatism
When the body is dealing with rheumatism or arthritis, the pain caused by inflammation can make it hard to focus. Having something on hand which can help ease that pain is vital. Thankfully, cajeput essential oil is an effective anti-inflammatory substance. Researchers in this study noted that subjects treated with oils high in 1,8 cineole showed less signs of inflammation than control groups.
Simply put, free radicals are molecules which contain unpaired electrons. These unpaired electrons make the molecules act like magnets; attaching to anything with an open electron. Free radicals are created from the air we breathe, the food we eat, drugs and medicines, and even the water we drink or bathe in. As these electrons attach to proteins in the body, they can cause oxidative damage, or simply oxidation. Antioxidants act to reverse this oxidation by reducing free radicles in the body.
Thanks to the presence of many powerful compounds such as 1,8 cineole, limonene, and a- terpineol; cajeput essential oil is a powerful antioxidant. This study from 2010 observed the free radical scavenging ability of different ingredients found in cajeput. Researchers noted that significant antioxidant actions were noted by all of the tested components.
Asthma affects millions of people worldwide. Many respiratory ailments like these require the use of various steroidal drugs. According to one recent study, that may not have to be the case. The researchers focused on the ability of 1,8 cineole, found in essential oils like cajeput, to reduce the need for steroids in patients with bronchial asthma. 1,8 cineole showed anti-inflammatory effects strong enough to reduce the need for steroids in three times as many cases as the control group.
Thanks to the strong presence of alpha-terpineol, cajeput essential oil is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Researchers of this 2007 study looked to investigate the compounds in citrus juice which decrease inflammation. They noted that a-terpineol acts to reduce inflammation in a dose dependent manner. Another similar study found that compounds with a high concentration of a-terpineol can be anti-inflammatory. The research focused in on the ability of a-terpineol to reduce pain and fight inflammation; noting that the compound could be potentially interesting in the development of new drugs for pain and inflammatory management.
For the Brain
Thanks to the tiny molecule sizes of the compounds in many essential oils, they are able to cross the blood-brain barrier. When they enter the brain, these compounds can positively affect the mind .
Stimulates the Mind
In the case of cajeput, the positive effect is due to its ability to stimulate brain function. Cajeput essential oil may actually boost cognitive performance thanks to the high presence of 1,8 cineole in the oil. Researchers of this recent study found that higher concentrations of 1,8 cineole in the blood equated to better cognitive results. A synergistic performance blend can be made at home using oils which contain 1,8 cineole such as rosemary oil, eucalyptus oil, and cajeput oil.
On the Skin
Cajeput essential oil has been applied topically for centuries to treat a variety of skin conditions. It is revered in areas of Malaysia where standard medicines are not practical or affordable. Thanks to the distillation of cajeput essential oil, these same benefits are available for everyday use.
For small aches and pains, many people turn to topical ointments to temporarily relieve the pain. What is often unknown is that most of these creams contain cajeput essential oil or eucalyptus essential oil as a key ingredient. Oils such as these are high in the 1,8 cineole; which make them exhibit strong analgesic effects when applied topically. The compound seems to have a slightly depressant effect on the central nervous system, and can reduce minor pains. The presence of 1,8 cineole actually contributes to a great number of the benefits of eucalyptus essential oil, as well as cajeput essential oil.
In nature, many plants act to protect themselves from foreign bacterial invaders through the use of compounds contained in their woods, stems, seeds, leaves, and fruit. Because of these various compounds, many essential oils are antibacterial. Thanks to the various processes used to create essential oils, we are able to harness these powers and use them to protect our bodies.
The presence of potent antibacterial compounds like terpinolene, 1,8 cineole and a-terpineol make cajeput essential oil an effective antibacterial substance. Researchers of this study tested many essential oils against bacterial strains like E. coli and S. aureus; finding multiple beneficial antibacterial oils and compounds. Another study found that there were four compounds in the oil that were responsible for cajeput’s potent antibacterial abilities. The compounds linalool, a-terpineol, 1,8 cineole, and terpineol all displayed a strong response to bacterial strains like Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Many of these same compounds actually make cajeput oil a strong antifungal compound. When tested against five fungal strains, including the notorious Candida albicans, cajeput essential oil completely inhibited them all. What’s more impressive is that when vapors from the essential oil were removed from some fungal strains, the strains did not grow any further. This suggests that the compounds present are actually fungicidal, and can completely eliminate fungal growth. These compounds also make cajeput essential oil a promising agent for eliminating symptoms of skin disorders like psoriasis and signs of yeast infections.
In areas where biting insects such as mosquitos are present, insect repellants and insecticides are important to have on hand. A 2012 study explored the ability of cajeput essential oil to eliminate the mosquito species responsible for spreading the dengue virus in Malaysia. Researchers noted that a 5%-10% concentration of the oil was strong enough to produce an insecticidal effect when sprayed directly on mosquitos.
In another study, termites that ate a paper soaked in cajeput oil all died within one day. Additionally, the insecticidal abilities of cajeput remained effective after 3 months of use. For the volatile compounds which make up most essential oils, this is a very impressive feat.
One Final Note
Essential oils like cajeput should always be diluted before applying to the skin, as allergic reactions can occur. Pay attention to any reactions your body may have to the oil; start by applying them to a small area before moving onto a large area of the body. Because of the high amount of 1,8 cineole in the oil, children under 10 should not use the oil. Pregnant women should only use cajeput essential oil under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
The most important thing to consider when purchasing your essential oils is the purity of the product. Always look for pure, undiluted essential oils with no fillers. Pure oils are not only the most beneficial – they are also the safest.
How else do you use cajeput essential oil? Tell us about it in the comments below!