Four plants from the Myrtaceae family used in the commercial production of essential oils will be in investigated. The essential oil of seasonally collected samples of Leptospermum petersonii (lemon tea tree), Leptospermum scoparium (manuka), Kunzea ericoides (Kanuka) and Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) will be hydrodistilled and the essential oil composition of the aforementioned plants will be obtained by gas chromatography combined with mass spectroscopy (GC-MS). The GC-MS data will provide valuable information on seasonal variation and will elucidate the major compounds present in the tea tree oils which will be studied further for antimicrobial activity. This information will also assist in determining which combination of the various oils will be the most effective against a range of pathogens. Notwithstanding the current size of the tea tree oil market, there is still enormous potential for research and commercial growth of the industry. There has been little work done on the chemistry and the antimicrobial effect of combinations of different species of tea tree against microbes to optimize efficacy. Thus this project will serve to validate the combination of tea tree oils based on the optimum chemical profiles obtained from chemical analysis.
Principal supervisor: Dr SF van Vuuren (WITS)
Co-supervisor: Prof AM Viljoen