Manuka seems a humble little bush for one with such phenomenal healing powers. It has dark blackened branches, tiny prickly leaves, and small white blossoms in the summer. Beneath this slightly scrubby exterior however lies a pharmaceutical marvel, and as we humans have come to understand more about its medicinal properties, we have also found many ways of harnessing them. There is a wealth of evidence for the benefits of Manuka, both from traditional Maori sources and from an increasing body of scientific research.
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is also sometimes known as New Zealand Tea Tree, and is indeed related to the Australian Tea Tree. It also shares some of its medicinal properties, but is otherwise quite unique. Many people know the value of Manuka honey (which we have written about in earlier posts), and some know of Manuka essential oil, but many do not know that the tincture or extract of Manuka is also a powerful healing aid.
Both the essential oil and the tincture of Manuka share strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Manuka has been shown to be effective against over 20 different strains of bacteria, including methicillin-resistant bacteria (MRSA). It is also effective against various fungal organisms, and has been used for athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), and thrush (an overgrowth of Candida species). As well as having anti-microbial properties, Manuka can also help to reduce inflammation.
In the tincture form, the high levels of tannins in Manuka make it extremely astringent, meaning it helps to draw tissues together to aid in the healing process.
Manuka’s actions make it perfectly suited to helping with a wide range of conditions; cuts, sores, infections (both fungal and bacterial), inflammatory skin conditions, oral infections and ulcers. Manuka oil is excellent as a first aid application for cuts, scratches and bites. It can also be used diluted as an anti-septic lotion on even very sensitive skins, such as baby’s bottoms!
Laboratory studies done at the Dental School at New Zealands’ Otago University show a synergistic action between Manuka and another NZ native Tanekaha against many common oral pathogens, including Streptococcus mutans, Strep. mitis, and Actinomyces naeslundii. Manuka is useful for promoting oral health, reducing mouth and gum infection, and can be used for sores in the mouth and healing after dental surgeries. It can also be gargled or sprayed into the mouth for sore throats.
With such a range of applications, it’s easy to see why Manuka, in all its forms, is gaining international recognition as a healing agent for all manner of health conditions.