Health and beauty benefits of manuka
The healing power of the manuka plant is known the world over, mainly because it lends its name to a well known powerhouse of health – manuka honey.
The main antibacterial ingredient in manuka is found in the nectar of the flower – so is also present in manuka honey.
This tea tree-like plant originates from New Zealand. It’s an evergreen shrub with small white or pink flowers and generally grows up to two metres tall. It is not only humans who are aware of this plant’s magical medicinal qualities – even parakeets use it to rid themselves of parasites both by ingesting it and applying it on their feathers.
Manuka essential oil is slightly more expensive than its Australian cousin – tea tree oil – but for the right reasons: its huge antibacterial strength. The oil can be used as an antibacterial and antifungal ointment, as well as to treat dry skin and existing scars.
The health and beauty benefits of manuka
Help treat a cold
Similar to tea tree oil, the strong fragrance and antibacterial properties of manuka essential oil can be used to aid the effects of a cold. The steam that comes from a few drops of the oil added to boiling water should clear the nasal passages and help to fight the internal infection.
Clear your skin
The oil of the manuka plant is thought to help treat problem skin – it can be used as a spot on treatment for occasional spots and, if a soap that contains manuka honey is used, it is thought to have a preventative effect. We have methylglyoxil – the main antibacterial ingredient in manuka – to thank for this, it cleans and disinfects the skin to avoid further infection and spread of the acne.
After being converted to methylglyoxal, the compound dihydroxyacetone is what gives manuka honey its wonderful and unique antibacterial qualities. Medicinal manuka honey was traditionally used to treat minor wounds; applied topically it can aid the healing process of minor cuts, grazes and burns, and is even an accredited substance for the treatment of MRSA in hospitals – but is not the stuff you buy in the supermarket! If you are interested in manuka honey for its medicinal qualities, it is important to get it from the pharmacy.
So Maori tradition goes, chewing the bark of the manuka tree is thought to relieve anxiety and aid sleep. Although relatively new to the modern aromatherapy world, it is still thought to calm us down. A spoonful of manuka honey added to a cup of hot tea would be a much nicer experience than chewing the bark, or why not try breathing in steam with a few drops of the oil – a soothing and natural way to take a step back and relax from the modern world.
Grow your own manuka
Unsurprisingly, bees absolutely love manuka – which makes this tree a great option if you are trying to make your garden more bee-friendly. Manuka trees thrive in mild conditions and do not like frost, so they are best grown in a pot indoors or in a greenhouse over the winter, protected with fleece, and on a sunny porch in the summer.
It has been said that manuka grows best in coastal areas, such as the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall, where the only manuka plantation in the UK is found. Here they have been breeding manuka since the 19th century, and drying the leaves to make a delicious and subtle-tasting tea; with the same benefits of manuka essential oil and honey, this brew is fantastic for our health.