We know that the topic of distillation might not seem like the most captivating thing to learn today, but the process of how mānuka oil is made is absolutely fascinating. This miracle essential oil is precious, and the process of mānuka steam distillation was only figured out a few decades ago. Because of this recent process, we have a revolutionary essential oil that is the one of the world’s most powerful antibacterial skincare ingredients, and we want to tell you about how we make it!
Where Does Mānuka Oil Come From?
It’s not called the mighty mānuka for no reason. Unlike mānuka honey that comes from bees pollinating the mānuka flower, mānuka oil is a byproduct of steam distilling the mānuka leaves and branches.
With this process, it unlocks the hidden potential of the plant that proves to be up to 10,000 times more potent than mānuka honey!
At first, this was done by harvesting wild mānuka plants once thought to be a curse by farmers. Since the boom of mānuka oil interest, sustainable farms like the ones we use to cultivate and harvest mānuka for our skincare products have begun growing mānuka on plantations -- giving rise to many job opportunities in the region.
Once a curse, now a catalyst for opportunity!
How Mānuka Oil is Made
Though we like to say it’s magical (it pretty much is…) it isn’t magic that makes mānuka oil. But the process of how mānuka oil is made creates this antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-aging oil that is pure magic for the skin.
Mānuka is harvested with extreme care so the plants are not damaged and can continue to produce new leaves which is essential to the oil production. And it creates less waste and less unnecessary damage to the land.
Once the mānuka is harvested, the leaves and branches are taken to a distillation facility. Here is where the real magic (eh em, science) happens! Each leaf has oil sacs filled with this wonder oil, but getting the oil is the hard part. The leaves and branches are ground up and packed tightly into the distillation chambers to begin the distillation process.
Once the mānuka is packed in, steam is pumped into the chambers and the mānuka oil steams for 5-6hrs. Unlike other plants in which the oil sits atop the leaf, mānuka’s oil is locked inside. The steam is absorbed by the mānuka, transporting the oil to the surface of the leaves. After, the oil vaporises in the steam and is carried into a chamber where it is cooled down.
It’s an understatement to say that mānuka oil is precious, especially when compared to other essential oils. The distillation process for tea tree oil is about 2 hours, whereas distilling mānuka is 3 times longer.
This long process is well worth it, given it is 33x times more effective than Australian tea tree oil at fighting bad skin bacteria. After the mānuka oil is separated from the water, this superpowered antibacterial oil is sent out to help you tackle your skincare challenges better, naturally!
Not All Mānuka Oil is Equal
Though mānuka oil as a whole is taking the skincare scene by storm, not all mānuka oil is the same. East Cape mānuka oil rises above the rest because of the high levels of β‐triketones found inside.
Due to the unique UV exposure of the East Cape, this type of mānuka plant has the highest levels of β‐triketones which give it the unmatched bacteria-fighting properties, and once distilled, provides us the world’s most powerful antibacterial essential oil.
Mānuka Hydrosol, a Bacteria-Killing By-Product
One of the by-products of mānuka steam distillation is mānuka hydrosol, and it packs a punch against bacteria. Known as “flower waters”, hydrosol is the leftover liquid from distillation that isn’t as concentrated, but still has a lot of the properties of the essential oil it comes from.
With mānuka hydrosol, it can be used to create natural hand disinfectants and sanitisers like our Mānuka Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitiser that is powerful enough to kill 99.9% of common germs yet is gentle on the skin.
Mānuka hydrosol harnesses the power of East Cape Mānuka to kill off germs and bacteria while leaving the good skin bacteria intact, essential to keeping us healthy and stopping the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
Mānuka oil distillation is without a doubt an art form, harvested delicately with a fine touch for detail and carefully crafted to produce this miracle skin oil. Discover the vast and amazing applications in our shop, or check out more of the steam distillation process in the video below!