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Manuka oil is extracted from the species of manuka tree named Leptospermum scoparium (L. scoparium), a tea tree that grows only on the east cape of New Zealand. This oil is derived from the tree's leaves and branches for use in skin care and cosmetic products. It also has several medicinal uses.
L. scoparium is the only Leptospermum species that grows in New Zealand. It can range in size from a short, creeping plant to a small tree. Foliage size and shape, as well as flower and leaf color, can vary significantly depending where it is grown.
The oil from the L. scoparium species of manuka tree has been found to have higher antibacterial qualities than manuka trees from other regions. It also has from 20 to 30 times more gram positive bacteria and five times more fungi than other tea tree oils. This makes it beneficial in treating numerous bacterial and fungal infections. Manuka oil has been shown to have healing properties similar to over-the-counter antibiotic ointments. It also can be used for long stretches of time without side effects, while extended use of antibiotic ointments is not recommended.
Manuka oil has anti-viral traits, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-septic qualities, which may help in the treatment of a number of different health conditions. One of manuka oil's most important qualities is its effectiveness against Staphylococcus and Streptococcus infections, which can resist antibiotic treatment. The oil also has had positive results in treating pathogenic fungi. Studies have shown the oil to be effective in treating the bacteria skin infection Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which also doesn't respond well to antibiotics.
It has also been used to alleviate a host of muscle and joint problems, including arthritis and back pain. Manuka oil is shown to help to alleviate skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dandruff. Many aromatherapists also use the oil, which it is believed to help relieve conditions such as anxiety.
This multi-purpose oil is commercially produced and marketed in New Zealand and exported mainly to markets in Europe and Asia, where it is sold over the counter. It is used in these areas for treatment of sunburn and insect bites, as well as various health conditions. The oil is an ingredient in an assortment of skin and hair care products in these regions, where it is added to soaps, perfumes, cleansers and moisturizers. It is not widely available in the United States, but it can be found in some health food stores.
Oil is not the only product derived from the manuka tree. Manuka honey is made by bees who feed on its flower nectar. The resulting honey has anti-bacterial properties of its own. It is said to be exceptionally rich with a very strong flavor.