The tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is a tree that grows along the swampy southeast Australian coastline. It was first discovered and named in modern times by 18th century sailors, who used to make a tea from its leaves. Since then, the oil derived from its leaves has been used to treat and cure a number of maladies. One of its most useful benefits is as an inexpensive and non-toxic tick repellent that can be used on both animals and humans.
Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of the tree using steam distillation or a similar process. The two main ingredients found in tea tree oil are cineole and terinen-4-ol. The active ingredient is terinen-4-ol while cineole is considered an impurity. A quality oil has a high terinen-4-ol content and a low cineole content.
A tick repellent can be made for both animals and humans using tea tree oil as an active ingredient. Start with a 2:1 mixture of your favorite base oil, such as almond or jojoaba, and water. Combine this into a spray bottle with 2 oz. of tea tree oil. For best results, use a glass bottle. Oils such as tea tree oil react with plastic and may cause dangerous chemicals to leech into your repellent. Before each use, shake the bottle vigorously to thoroughly mix the oils. When applying to pets, rub the repellent under their fur so that it reaches their skin.
While tick shampoo can be used for humans, it is typically an application reserved for pets. For every 2 oz. of your favorite pet shampoo, add 6 to 10 drops of tea tree essential oil. Thoroughly wash your pet's fur using this shampoo, paying special attention to hard-to-reach areas, such as under the tail, in their armpits and between their toes. Let the shampoo sit for about 10 minutes, or as long as you can get your furry friend to stand still. Then, thoroughly rinse the shampoo from its hair. Repeat once a day until you don't see anymore ticks.
Tick collars help to keep ticks from latching onto your pet when it's out and about. To make a non-toxic tick collar using tea tree oil, start with a regular cloth or nylon collar. Next, make a mixture using 2 tbsp. of an oil such as almond oil and add 5 to 7 drops of tea tree oil. For smaller pets, such as cats, you can use a more dilute solution. Apply the oil mixture to the collar and let it soak in. Reapply the oil mixture twice a month or more often if needed.