Items (0)
Total: $0.00

Chemistry of Manuka Essential Oil

Contributed by Dr. Damian Rodriguez, DHSc, MS


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 derived from Leptospermum scoparium.

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 (Leptospermum scoparium) 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 (Leptospermum scoparium) 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 well-being supporting properties. Manuka honey is extracted from the flowers by European honey bees, 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. By concentration, the most present triketones in Manuka essential oil are sesquiterpenes, E-calamenene, and leptospermone. E-calamenene is one of the compounds primarily responsible for the distinct spicy yet sweet scent of Manuka essential oil, which experimental research has shown is great to promote a relaxing environment1. Additionally, several experimental studies have shown that leptospermone has surface cleansing properties2.

How Can I Use Manuka Essential Oil?

The whole, pure essential oil has a number of other benefits:

  1. Take advantage of Manuka’s surface cleansing properties by adding a few drops to a spray bottle filled with water and use to clean surfaces throughout the house.
  2. 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 breath3. Add 1–2 drops of Manuka to water for a refreshing and cleansing mouth rinse.
  3. Experimental research suggests that topical application of Manuka may help reduce the appearance of blemishes and keep the skin looking young4,5.
  4. Experimental research has shown that the aroma of Manuka may promote feelings of relaxation, so try using it in a stress-relieving aromatherapy massage6.

Although the Manuka tree is often associated with its botanical cousin, Melaleuca, the volatile aromatic compounds it produces are unique in the world of essential oils. With a high concentration of triketones, 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.


How would you rate this post?

dōTERRA welcomes your thoughtful comments!

Comments are limited to 200 characters, reviewed for approval, and posted once approved.

200 characters remaining

Select Your Continent

Select Your Region

Select Your Location

Select Your Language