About Manuka by Bill Gluyas
Background to development of medicinal Manuka
Modern scientific analysis confirms the coming of age of the Manuka plant (New Zealand tea tree)as one of the world’s great medicinal botanicals.
To many, it may seem strange that in an age where technology appears to rule the world that we are in a sense, turning back the clock by promoting a range of totally natural skin care products.
But when you think about it, most of today’s prescription drugs are no more than synthetic reproductions of natural plant compounds that have served the human population well since the beginning of time.
Today, there is a renewed interest in botanical solutions for a wide range of human ailments, particularly skin conditions, as the complex botanical compounds are becoming better understood, along with the realization that in many cases they can offer a more balanced solution than their synthesized derivatives.
New Zealand’s geographic isolation for possibly two hundred million years has yielded a large number of endemic plants that are not found anywhere else in the world.
It is estimated that 85% of the flora of New Zealand is endemic in contrast to the British Isles where there are virtually no endemic plants at all.
Some of these endemic New Zealand plants have strong medicinal properties, and although identified and appreciated by the early settlers, they have only recently been fully understood through scientific study.
One such plant (of many that have medicinal properties in New Zealand) and the main subject of this website is the outstanding Tea tree or Manuka plant.
New Zealand Tea Tree or Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is a shrubby bush that can grow to a height of six metres in sheltered stands, or in open spaces as a lower more bushy form.
Early in New Zealand’s history of European settlement, large areas of native forest were cleared, the valuable timber recovered for industry and housing and the remaining branches burnt before being sown in grass for sheep and cattle to graze on.
Not all of the land that was cleared was suitable for farming, and after the initial flush of growth of the newly sown grass, the fertility that came from the ash of the burn gradually diminished and much of the grassland began to revert to native species again.
More arable areas survived for farming with the introduction of super phosphate topdressing, but many of the areas that were remote and hilly could not be fertilized economically.
In many parts of New Zealand one of the first species to repopulate these areas was the Manuka tea tree plant.
In time and left alone the Tea Tree or Manuka stands will eventually give way to the towering forest trees again. Trees like the giant Kauri, Totara, Kahikatea, Rimu, Miro, Matai, Rata, Tawa and Rewarewa.
Farmers battled to eradicate Manuka to preserve grazing land
For many years farmers in these remote regions employed men termed ‘scrub-cutters’ to slash the young Manuka re-growth in order to retain the pasture land for their grazing animals.
During years of depressed farming returns and increasing wages the scrub cutting had to be reduced to the point where some farms now have large areas that have reverted to Manuka.
In times of depressed wool and meat prices farmers tended to look at other ways to diversify their income stream and they began to look at the Manuka tea tree plants that were now growing wild on their farms.
The valuable essential oil production of Australian Tea Tree was already known as was its distant relationship with the New Zealand Tea Tree or Manuka plant.
But it was not until the 1980’s that scientists began looking more closely at New Zealand Tea Tree, and trial extractions of its oil were made.
What scientists discovered when they tested this new oils’ effectiveness against a range of micro-organisms was amazing, it was up to 30 times more effective against gram positive bacteria than the already acclaimed Australian Tea Tree oil.
It was also found to be highly effective against a range of fungi which commonly infect the human skin.
This was an important discovery as it meant that Manuka oil could now be added to skin care formulations at a much lower rate than Australian Tea Tree oil and still be more effective against a range of micro-organisms.
Minimum inhibitory concentration comparisons are reported in the section scientific studies.
Manuka UMF® honey also highly effective anti-bacterial agent
In the meantime and quite independently Dr. Peter Molan, Associate Professor in Biochemistry at The University of Waikato, New Zealand was studying the antimicrobial properties of a range of monofloral honeys collected from different species throughout New Zealand.
What Dr. Molan discovered when he tested the honey collected from the flowers of the Manuka plant was that it was quite different than the honey collected from other plants.
All honey has antimicrobial properties due to the presence of the enzyme glucose oxidase, which, when it comes into contact with body tissue or serum produces hydrogen peroxide, and hydrogen peroxide is antibacterial.
However the honey from the Manuka plants had something more, it remained antimicrobial even after the glucose oxidase component was removed.
Furthermore, it was found to be highly effective against bacteria that were notoriously resistant to other forms of antibiotic, notably the H bug staphylococcus aureus and helicobacter pylori.
This discovery led to the term Unique Manuka Factor to describe the additional non glucose oxidase antimicrobial properties of this Manuka Honey.
This special honey now has its own testing and grading system and only registered users can use the trademark UMF®.
Its effectiveness in healing wounds that have failed to respond to traditional forms of treatment has been reported around the world and is the subject of a number of papers presented by Dr. Molan and others.
We have another page dedicated to Manuka Honey in Medicine.
The unique properties of this outstanding New Zealand native Tea Tree plant have now led to the development of a range of topical healing creams, oils, soaps and the UMF® Manuka honey itself, that can provide either a complete cure or substantial relief from a wide range of bacterial and fungal skin conditions described on other pages.
We hope that people will read the other pages of this website and particularly the link to Dr. Molan’s research at Waikato University to gain a full understanding of the true healing potential of this outstanding botanical.
We have no doubt that the NZ Tea Tree Manuka plant and its derivative products incorporating UMF® honey and essential oil will become recognized in time to come as one of the great natural therapeutic plant discoveries of the modern world.