The Most Essential Oils

To build a toolkit of natural remedies, start with neem, oregano, and tea tree oils

| January-February 1999

Clear up your pimples. Soothe a sore throat. Banish a yeast infection. Delouse.

It's hard to believe that three simple oils can do all that, but recent research (combined with centuries of use) has found that tea tree, neem, and oregano oils fight a number of maladies, from the serious to the mundane. And because they're highly concentrated—just one drop equals about 30 cups of herbal tea, for instance—a small bottle goes a long way.

No wonder they're called essential oils.

Melaleuca alternifolia 

Derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca tree and packed with the active ingredient terpinen-4-ol, tea tree oil is highly prized for its versatility. "I realized that I could do with one bottle of tea tree oil what three-quarters of the items in a drugstore do," says Cynthia Olsen, author of Australian Tea Tree Oil Guide (Kali Press, 1998). "I won't go anywhere without it."