Melaleuca quinquenervia cineolifera (syn. Melaleuca viridiflora )
Application cutanée, massage
Voie respiratoire, diffusion
Like eucalyptus, niaouli is a tree of the Myrtaceae family, native to New Caledonia and Australia, that can grow to a height of twenty five metres.
It has persistent and fragrant leaves and its soft pale bark can be easily torn off like paper, thus leading to its also being known as the paper bark tree and nicknamed "skin tree". It was acclimatised to Madagascar at the end of the 19th century to retimber marshland. Jules Garnier, who, during his geological explorations, discovered nickel in New Caledonia, came across niaouli in the west coast savannahs. In his travel account, he wrote "It is the saddest but most useful of trees on the island, as it hides its qualities and virtues under the most unhappy appearance." But who cares whether their benefactor looks pitiful? Certainly not the Kanaks, who have always swaddled their newborns in its bark to protect them and give them strength. They applied a poultice of young niaouli leaves to wounds to speed healing. As a decoction, the bark was – and is still – used on the island to heal rheumatism pains, aches and colds.
Cultivation and production
The tree is studied and used in New Caledonia by the Medicinal plants laboratory of the French national centre for scientific research (CNRS), in the context of the systematic exploration of the island's extreme biodiversity. Essential oil of niaouli is used to manufacture Gomenol, a brand name medicinal product registered in 1892 by an industrialist established in Gomen, who was struck by the tree's therapeutic virtues. It is comprised of partially deterpenated essential oil of niaouli, and is used to treat upper respiratory tract and bronchial congestion.
The fragrance of essential oil of niaouli is balsamic, with a strong note of eucalyptus.
Extraction and yield
Leaf distillation yield is variable, though it does not exceed 0.7%, i.e. seven hundred grams for one hundred kilos of plant.
Essential oil of niaouli consists mainly of terpene oxides (1,8-cineol: 38 to 48%), monoterpenols, sesquiterpenols including viridiflorol (6 to 15%) and monoterpenes (alpha and beta-pinene, limonene) that are eliminated to obtain "purified" oil. This composition corresponds to the essential oil from Madagascar, that from New Caledonia consisting mainly of sesquiterpenols (65 to 70%) and monoterpenols (approximately 20%).
Highly versatile, essential oil of niaouli stimulates the body's immune defences. A wound healer, it protects and restores the skin. When inhaled, it treats sinusitis and rhinitis. It also possesses antiseptic, antiviral and antifungal properties. It can be generously applied to irradiated areas in the event of radiotherapy.
Cajuput (Melaleuca cajuputi).
Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.