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Manuka Oil vs. Tea Tree Oil: What You Need to Know

by Manuka Research on May 15, 2018

It seems like every week, there's some new plant trending throughout social media, T.V. shows, and everywhere else you can imagine.

Tea tree oil, for instance, is a classic go-to solution for several ailments and uses – it's a household name for many people.

You're right to be suspicious of the differences between manuka oil vs. tea tree oil. You want the best natural solution possible and you don't want to get ripped off.

Plus, how could anything possibly pry you away from your beloved tea tree oil?

Not a chance, right?

Let's take a hard look at these two plants and their oils. Then, you can decide for yourself which is the best choice.

Manuka Oil Vs. Tea Tree Oil: Everything You Need to Know About Tea Tree

Melaleuca is the scientific name for the tea tree plant. Both the plant itself and its essential oil are extremely versatile for a variety of uses. Here’s all you could possibly need to know about tea tree.

The Tea Tree Plant

Melaleuca is a plant that belongs to the myrtle family. Many people don't realize that there are over 300 different species of the tea tree plant – some are listed as endangered.

Most common varieties are endemic to Australia and a small handful of nearby Pacific islands. This means melaleuca is exclusively found in these places. By indigenous, it means that something has originated in one place yet it can be found in another, whereas endemic indicates exclusivity.

The tea tree plant grows to a wide range of sizes.

Some smaller bushes barely reach one meter in height while other trees tower over 35 meters. Some plants grow in swampy and moist areas while others have no problem thriving in barren or sandy soils.

Historical Uses

Aboriginal people in modern day Australia have used melaleuca for centuries taking advantage of just about the entire plant.

The wood makes an excellent tool for crafting rafts and shelter while the "bee bread" and honey from hives makes a nutritious dish. Bundjalung people in New South Wales treat skin infections with crushed melaleuca leaves and mud packs.


Tea tree oil is very safe – yet effective – for many topical and household applications due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties.

How to Use Tea Tree Oil

You can use tea tree oil for several ailments or uses. This list is by no means exhaustive.

  • Insect repellant
  • Household cleaner
  • Skin tags
  • Athlete's foot and ringworm
  • Acne
  • Add to shampoo and conditioner
  • Dandruff or psoriasis
  • Bug bites
  • Sunburns and rashes
  • Deodorizer
  • Relief from congestion or respiratory infections

Manuka Oil vs. Tea Tree Oil: Let's Look at Manuka Oil

Manuka is actually very similar to tea tree but differs in a few key ways.

The Manuka Plant

Manuka also belongs to the myrtle family but goes by the scientific name of Leptospermum. This plant is indigenous to New Zealand. Similar to tea tree, manuka has different varieties which often grow in various sizes ranging from 2-5-meter shrubs to large trees of over 15 meters.

Historical Uses

New Zealand's indigenous Maori population have used manuka for centuries in a variety of ways both internally, externally, as well as in other practical applications. Like Aboriginal people, the Maori utilize all parts of the plant including the leaves, bark, stems, ash, flowers, and berries.

The Maori have used a steam distillation process for centuries to extract manuka essential oil. This low temperature technique ensures that all the potent enzymes are not damaged during extraction.


Manuka oil is filled with potent triketones, flavonoids, and other chemical compounds which give the substance powerful anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.

It gets better.

Manuka oil extracted from plants grown in New Zealand's East Cape region contains higher levels of triketones than oil from varieties grown elsewhere.

This makes East Cape manuka oil one of the most powerful natural antibacterial solutions.

How to Use Manuka Oil

Like tea tree oil, manuka is extremely versatile and safe for frequent use both topically and in several household applications.

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, manuka is great for:

  • Soothing sore muscles and aching joints
  • Relieving congestion or respiratory distress
  • Treating acne, bug bites, eczema, rashes, as well as minor burns, scars, and cuts
  • Reducing the appearance of or removing skin tags

Its antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal qualities make manuka an ideal solution for:

  • Acne, minor skin infections, rashes, bug bites, and other skin conditions
  • Athlete's foot, ringworm, and jock itch
  • Sunburns
  • Disinfecting door handles, shoes, clothing, keyboards, phones, and other household items
  • Deodorizing shoes, clothing, cars, and furniture
  • Disinfecting your mouth and freshening breath as an oral rinse
  • Healing cracked hands, feet, and cuticles
  • Brightening hair, skin, and nails
  • Treating dandruff or psoriasis

Manuka Oil vs. Tea Tree Oil: Understanding the Key Differences

Triketones, flavonoids, and other enzymes are what give essential oils their antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.

Studies show that Manuka oil from plants in New Zealand's East Cape region contain 20 to 30 times more of these triketones and enzymes than tea tree oil – that's pretty powerful. Plus, East Cape manuka actually contains other potent antibacterial enzymes you won't find in tea tree oil.

You could always add a few drops of tea tree oil to your manuka ointment to create an antimicrobial and healing powerhouse.


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