Manuka or Leptospermum scoparium

Manuka, a traditional medicine of the Maori, is also on the rise in Europe, especially as an essential oil and as honey. Honey is also a good remedy for all kinds of injuries and skin problems. The Maori still use young shoots and branches, the fresh sap, seed pods, leaves and bark of the manuka today . ­A decoction of the leaf is used for urinary tract disorders, fever, colds and diarrhea. For rheumatic complaints and back problems, extracts of the bark and leaves are applied to the painful limbs. Young shoots are chewed in case of diarrhea. A decoction of the bark is used for sleep disorders. Kanuka is ­used in a similarly nice way.
The bark of kanuka and kowhwai, a yellow-flowering tree, mixed with wood ash, is ­applied to the skin for various skin diseases. In case of diarrhea, seed pods are chewed every ten minutes until the dysentery disappears. Pulverized seed pods are sprinkled into open and moist wounds to allow them to dry. Both manuka and kanuka are important and widely used medicinal plants of the Maori, but they are also popular among white settlers. The essential oil of both manuka and kanuka has been distilled for some time now.

Essential oil manuka

These oils, in particular the manuka oil, seem ­to have an even greater antibiotic effect than the classic Australian tea tree (Melaleuca altemifolia). Research has shown that manuka and kanuka are effective against various pathogenic bacteria such as staphylococci, streptococci and fungi (including Candida albicans and Aspergillus sp.).
There are also reports of positive results with undiluted manuka oil for psoriasis, various pain conditions, especially arthritis.
Manuka is said to have a stronger effect against gram-positive bacteria than the Australian tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia. Manuka can therefore be dosed sparingly. It was already established in the 1950s that essential oil in vapor form has a strong antimicrobial effect. That is why manuka is very suitable for evaporating against colds, allergies and for cleaning rooms.
Manuka oil is produced by steam distillation ­from the leaves of the Leptospermum scoparium Forster & G. Forster (Myrtaceae). It is a small tree or shrub that occurs exclusively in New Zealand. There it is also known as “kahikatoa”. The tree is often ­confused with one of its brothers: the Leptos permum citratus, which also occurs in Australia and also with the kanuka. The essential oil of this is also produced and resembles lemon grass oil. There are currently 85 known species of the genus Leptospermum. Manuka oil largely ­comes from wild plants. Manuka is not exactly cheap. After all, the yield is extremely small: an average of 400 g of essential oil is distilled from 100 kg of leaves.

Manuka honey is a monofloral honey

The honey created when honey bees collect the nectar from these flowers has a unique flavor, and is much darker and richer than clover honey. The special thing about Manuka honey, however, is its strong antibacterial and antifungal effect.
The Manuka honey has been tested for its antibacterial activities. The enzyme in Manuka slows down the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. Furthermore, most honey types have many vitamins and minerals, such as iron, copper, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. All of these are important for activating and repairing body cells. These probably also contribute to the wound healing effect of honey

For further scientific research

  • Cooke A, Cooke MD, Cawthron Institute, An investigation into the Antimicrobial Properties of Manuka and Kanuka Oil, February 1991.
  • Perry, N.B.; Brennan, NJ; van Klink, JW; Harris, W.; Douglas, M.H.; McGimpsey, J.A.; Smallfield, B.M.; Anderson, RE Essential oils from New Zealand Manuka and kanuka: chemotaxonomy of Leptospermum. Phytochemistry 1997, 44, 1485-1494.
  • Lis –Balchin M., Deans S. & Hart S. “Bioactivity of New Zealand medicinal plant essential oils.” Proc. Intl. Symp. Medicinal & Aromatic Plants eds LE Craker, L. Nolan & K. Shedy, Acta Hort. 426, ISHS (1996). spasmotic action
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