Article at a glance:
When I started writing this article, I had no idea what a labour of love it would turn into. I thought Manuka oil would be good, but didn’t realise how good. If you just want the basic facts about what you can use Manuka oil for, then I've listed them immediately below. For anyone who would like a bit more detail and to learn about the research conducted into the benefits of Manuka oil, then I would definitely recommend reading the whole article. For example, as someone who has been diagnosed with a clinical predisposition to Alzheimer’s (my mother has it) I’m particularly interested in the ability of Manuka oil to oxygenate the pituitary and pineal glands in the brain (details in full article below) and possibly help me avoid the disease altogether.
Manuka oil has a shelf life of 6 to 7 years and can be used for the following conditions: Acne, aggravated digestive tract lining (mucositis), allergies and mild allergic reactions, anxiety, athlete’s foot and toenail fungus, back ache and rheumatic relief, bites and stings, body odour, boils and sores, coughs and colds, cramps, cuts, pimples, eczema, scrapes and wounds, dandruff, depression, hypertension, irritable bowel, nasal congestion, pain killer, potential cancer prevention, psoriasis, scars, blemishes and other skin conditions, sinus relief, stress, sunburn relief, urinary tract infection.1
The many properties of Manuka Oil:
|Antibacterial Antiallergic Antifungal|
|Antihistaminic Anti-inflammatory Antimicrobial|
|Antispasmodic Cicatrisant Cytophylactic|
|Hypotensive Relaxant Sedative|
Manuka Oil as an Ancient Remedy
For centuries, the Maoris have been making effective use of the healing benefits of the Manuka Tree, using its oil, sap, bark and leaves for their remarkable antibacterial qualities. But for us, Manuka Essential Oil is one of the newest additions to the world of aromatherapy and is rapidly becoming one of my favourite and most used oils. I’d obviously heard about the benefits of Manuka Honey, (which I dollop on my goats’ milk yoghurt and fruit, or in my turmeric chai tea), and I assumed that when doTERRA launched its Manuka Essential Oil, that it would be much stronger and more beneficial. So, I decided to find out what the fuss was about, why the oil was so expensive and what other uses I could put it to, other than dabbing it on my wrists occasionally. I wasn’t disappointed.
Native to New Zealand, it is an evergreen scrub-like tree, part of the myrtle family, with small leaves, small white or sometimes pink flowers, and typically grows to 5m in height but can grow up to 15m. Scientifically known as Leptospermum scoparium it is also known as Tea Tree, reportedly after the tea Captain Cook made of its leaves. Native New Zealanders drank a concentrated tea of the leaves for urinary complaints and for fever, while the steam from the boiling leaves would be inhaled for head colds. The water from boiling the bark as well as the leaves was rubbed to ease stiff muscles and aching joints while the emollient white gum, called pai Manuka, was used to treat scalds and burns. Chewing the bark is said to have a relaxing effect and enhances sleep. The oil can pretty much do all of this and more…
Steam-distilled from the leaves and twigs of the tree, Manuka oil is a rich source of sesquiterpenes which give it, among other things, its’ very strong anti-inflammatory qualities. Sesquiterpenes are also antibacterial, antiseptic, hypotensive and sedative, some have analgesic or pain killing properties, while others are highly antispasmodic. They are soothing to irritated skin and tissue. They also work as liver and gland stimulants. Sesquiterpenes have the ability to pass the blood-brain barrier and enter brain tissue which is what makes them effective sedatives – they specifically have an effect on our emotional center in the hypothalamus, relaxing the nervous system, helping us remain calm and balanced and reducing the effects of stress and anxiety. Sesquiterpenes are found in all essential oils but there are different types and different concentrations which means that some oils will have more of the above properties than others. What is special about Manuka oil is that it offers all of the above benefits - and in abundance.
Although Manuka oil doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything that can’t also be found in other essential oils, it’s rare to find so many healthy attributes in one single oil – you would normally have to buy a range of different oils to treat the same number of symptoms that you can use Manuka for on its own. At about 30 times stronger than Australian Tea Tree oil and 100 times stronger than Manuka Honey, Manuka oil provides more bang for its buck. The UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) labelling on a jar of honey indicates its medicinal or antibacterial properties, with an ideal rating of around 10 to 18.2 For this you’re looking at paying anything between $20.00 to even $40.00 - yes, for a jar of honey. While Manuka oil is 100 times stronger than the honey, at least it's not 100 times the price - at $97.00, Manuka oil doesn’t look quite so bad.
So, what can Manuka oil do?
Arguably, one of the most important attributes of Manuka oil is its anti-inflammatory properties. Why? Because inflammation has long been linked to cancer. The body’s inflammatory response to infection and disease is what keeps us alive, but a prolonged chronic inflammatory response can lead to such illnesses as pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and cancer.3 Whatever reduces inflammation in the body could help in the prevention of cancer. Unfortunately, toxic chemicals form an inescapable part of our lives. This, coupled with debilitating levels of stress, are both significant causes of inflammation in the body. This is why detoxing, relaxing and taking steps to reduce our internal inflammation are so important in maintaining our health. But there are other types of inflammation too, such as inflammation of the respiratory tract from a common cold, of the digestive system, as well as fevers or infections. Manuka oil can be used in all of these instances. When you put an essential oil on your body, it soaks through your skin and into your bloodstream, so, adding Manuka oil to your body moisturiser or your bath could help with both internal and external inflammation.
Anxiety and Stress
If stress is a big cause of inflammation then the idea of relaxation and destressing takes on a whole new meaning, away from self-indulgence and towards health-maintenance. Applying Manuka oil regularly throughout the day can help with this too. As it has a sedative and calming effect on the nervous system, it can be used in the relief of stress, anxiety and depression. As sesquiterpenes also have hypertensive properties, it may also be effective in lowering blood pressure. To use, dilute Manuka in a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil, MCT oil or almond oil and put it in a small roller bottle and keep it with you – you don’t have to wait until you feel stressed before applying it.
Aches and Pains
As an anti-spasmodic, Manuka has long been used to treat aches, pains, strains, cramps and sore muscles, and even aching joints and rheumatism. According to a medical research, Manuka oil does induce a spasmolytic effect and the research concluded that its use could be valid as a relaxant in aromatherapy.4 When diluted with fractionated coconut oil it can be used as a muscle rub to relax and release stiff muscles and its analgesic properties means that it also offers an element of pain relief. Antispasmodics are often taken to smooth muscle contraction, especially in tubular organs of the gastrointestinal tract. The effect is to prevent spasms of the stomach, intestine or urinary bladder and they are often used for Irritable Bowel Syndrome – which is probably why the Maoris would drink it as a tea. Again, you can try adding Manuka oil to your bath with some Epsom and magnesium salts.
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Research from the universities of Berlin and Vienna shows that sesquiterpenes increase oxygenation around the pineal and pituitary glands and the hypothalamus in the brain. The pineal gland in the middle of the brain produces melatonin which aids sleep. However, some studies suggest that melatonin might also help protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.5 Studies also suggest that melatonin production also supports bone deposition and helps prevent osteoporosis.6 The pineal gland influences the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland which, in turn, controls several other hormone glands in your body, including the thyroid and adrenals, the ovaries and testicles. The pituitary affects our nervous system and adrenal system and maintaining a healthy pituitary gland is important to avoid adenomas, or benign tumours. The sesquiterpenes in Manuka oil support these glands in the brain by increasing available oxygen.
Antibacterial and Anti-fungal
The antibacterial and antifungal benefits of Manuka oil are also medically documented. In a scientific study conducted in 2014, the effectiveness of Manuka oil was tested against four fungi, including Candida, and four bacteria including Golden Staph and E-Coli. The research confirmed the ‘potent fungicidal properties’ of the oil and even reported a 100% inhibition of the examined bacteria. The study recommended the oil to be a strong candidate in the treatment of infections and immune-related disease and even confirmed its potential use as a pharmaceutical antibiotic and food supplement.7
Skin Creams, Moisturisers and Face Wash
The research also recommended Manuka oil as a medical cosmetology agent for its skin healing and smoothing properties. Above, I mentioned that Manuka is Cicatrisant and Cytophylactic – the first means that it helps a wound, cut or sore to heal quickly and the second means that it stimulates the generation of new cells which can help with acne or other scars, and promotes clear and healthy skin. Because of this, it can be used for rashes, sores, acne, pimples, blemishes and other skin problems. It’s particularly good for replenishing ageing skin which is why I also include it as a major ingredient in my ceramide protein night mask.
Anyone suffering from colds, sinus issues and hay fever will know the, sometimes desperate, need for relief from the racking cough, itchy eyes or runny nose. Manuka’s ability to reduce the production of histamine can offer relief safely and naturally. Either inhale from the bottle or use a diffuser to diffuser in a room.
What can I say? The list of Manuka oil benefits goes on – there’s almost too much to say about the oil. What I haven’t been able to cover in detail here is that it is also good for bites and stings, it’s anti-allergenic so great for reactions to pet hair or dust; you can use it as a deodorant, as a dandruff antidote and last but not least, even as a treatment for athlete’s foot.8
It has a strong, woody, bitter smell, reminiscent of chamomile, which some like but I don’t find particularly attractive. So, if you want to blend it with other essential oils, you can try Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, Marjoram, Rosemary and one of my favourites, Ylang Ylang. I think it would blend very nicely with Bergamot too.
There are three main ways you can use this wonderful oil:
These oils are very strong and should be used with caution, just one drop at a time. Always do a spot test on your skin to check for allergic reactions. Consult your physician if you are on medication and don’t use within the first three months of pregnancy – seek advice if you want to use it after.
Sources of information:
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