The indigenous people of north-eastern New South Wales had known about the healing and disinfecting properties of tea tree oil for thousands of years. They applied poultices of crushed tea tree leaves to cuts and wounds and inhaled the volatile oil from the crushed leaves to alleviate congestion and respiratory tract infections.
The scientific discovery of the plant’s virtues came in 1923 when the leading state government chemist, Arthur Penfold, tested the oil of the tea tree and determined its antiseptic action was about 12 times stronger than the widely used carbolic acid. Extensive clinical trials with medical and dental colleagues in London and Sydney led to glowing reports in the distinguished scientific journals of the day.
Indeed, the 1930’s and 1940’s saw tea tree oil widely acclaimed as a near perfect antiseptic, so much so that during World War II Australian soldiers were issued with tea tree oil in their first aid kits. The troops also sang the praises of tea tree oil’s insect repellent and anti-fungal properties. At home, it was put to an amazing spectrum of uses from shampoo, toothpaste and smelly feet to boils, acne and head lice.
Sadly, this remedy from nature was forgotten for almost 30 years as cheap, synthetic antibiotics flooded the world’s medicine markets and became a way of life. The tea tree industry collapsed by the 1960’s and the oil became a rare commodity.
But, in 1976, Eric White became the latter-day pioneer of the Australian tea tree industry. Convinced of its applications in modern society, Eric chose the alternately flood-washed and drought-baked Bungawalbyn Swamp, near Coraki in northern NSW, for his first crops. After four years of painstaking research and lobbying, a crown lease was granted.
It arrived on a Thursday in 1976….this was the day Thursday Plantation was born.