If you are interested in complementary medicine and superfoods, you’ve likely heard of Manuka, but chances are you don’t really know what it is. Having both been a staple of Australasian traditional health practices for hundreds of years, Manuka is often confused with its botanical cousin, Melaleuca. Furthermore, the essential oil hasn’t received as much popular culture hype as the honey it produces, but don’t underestimate the power of the volatile aromatic compounds.
Are Manuka and Tea Tree the Same Thing?
To most of the world, “tea tree” refers to Melaleuca alternifolia, the tree that has been revered by the Australian Aborigines for centuries. But in New Zealand, Manuka has historically been given this moniker because early New Zealand settlers made tea from its fragrant leaves. The trees are native to the same area of the world and are members of the same botanical family, but that is where the similarities end. The essential oils extracted from each tree have distinct chemical compositions and their own unique properties.
What’s the Difference between Manuka Essential Oil and Manuka Honey?
Although they come from the same New Zealand native shrub and are both highly valued for their health benefits, Manuka honey and Manuka essential oil are two very different substances, with completely different chemical compositions and properties. Manuka honey is extracted from the flowers, while the highly concentrated essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves, seeds, bark, and gum. While the list of purported benefits for consuming Manuka honey, or applying it topically, is long, the research hasn’t yet caught up. Although lesser known, the volatile aromatic compounds extracted from the Manuka tree have undergone quite a bit of scientific investigation, and with fantastic results.
The Chemistry behind Manuka Essential Oil
Manuka essential oil has a unique chemical composition, including several volatile aromatic compounds that are rarely found in other essential oils. These compounds are triketones: molecules containing three ketone groups in their chemical structure.
How Can I Use Manuka Essential Oil?
The whole, pure essential oil has a number of other benefits:
- Add a few drops to a spray bottle filled with water and use to clean surfaces throughout the house.
- Manuka essential oil is becoming a popular ingredient in high-end mouthwashes as clinical research has shown that it can help maintain a clean mouth, healthy-looking teeth, and fresh breath. Add 1–2 drops of Manuka to water for a refreshing and cleansing mouth rinse.
- Research suggests that topical application of Manuka may help reduce the appearance of blemishes and keep the skin looking young.
- Research has shown that the aroma of Manuka may promote feelings of relaxation, so try using it in a stress-relieving aromatherapy massage.
Manuka essential oil offers a rich and relaxing aroma and numerous topical application benefits that are the perfect complement to your existing essential oil regimen.