By Gabby Pavlovic (Guest Post)
You may be familiar with Tea Tree essential oil, with its characteristic strong, invigorating aroma, but do you know much about its relative, Kunzea? The Australian Kunzea plant is from the same family as Tea Tree (the Myrtaceae family), and although not as well-known as the humble Tea Tree, it is a powerful essential oil with an impressive range of benefits.
Here we will compare Australian Kunzea and Tea Tree in relation to their history, characteristics, and therapeutic properties.
There are several Kunzea species, however our Kunzea essential oil is derived from the leaves and twigs of Kunzea ambigua, a plant which thrives in sandy or sandstone soil in Tasmania1. Common names include white kunzea, white cloud, poverty bush, and tick bush, the latter referring to the plant’s tick repelling effect2. The essential oil was developed by a Tasmanian farmer who observed the plant growing up against a steel wire fence and the fence showed no sign of rusting.
Tea Tree: The Tea Tree plant, or Melaleuca alternifolia favours a swampy or coastal habitat1. Other than being known commonly as Tea Tree, it is also known simply as melaleuca. In the 1920s, an Australian chemist and businessman Arthur Penfold proved Tea Tree’s therapeutic properties and made it commercially available3. First Nations Australians have been using Tea Tree for generations to assist with bites and stings, wounds, burns, and respiratory infections4.
Like Tea Tree, Australian Kunzea has a clean, fresh, and medicinal aroma, however there is also a touch of spice in its fragrance. The colour is light to golden yellow with a thin or watery consistency. Kunzea essential oil has distinct chemistry with terpenes such as α-pinene, globulol, and viridiflorol5 which are responsible for its powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Australian Kunzea oil blends well with essential oils of Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon Myrtle, other lemon-scented essential oils, and Peppermint.
Also has a clean, fresh, strong, woody or camphor-like fragrance with a spicy undertone – a familiar aroma to many. Hundreds of constituents are present after the oil is extracted from the leaves, however terpinene-4-ol is the primary bioactive6. The colour is a clear, light yellow with a thin consistency. Tea Tree oil blends well with Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, Lemon, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Clove, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Thyme, and Rosewood.
COMPARING THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES
Kunzea essential oil actively inhibits growth of numerous bacteria including Staphylococcus species, Acinetobacter baylyi, Klebsiella species, and Proteus mirabilis7. This makes it an effective antiseptic in cleaning minor wounds and bruises, while its antifungal properties help it to relieve thrush (Candida), dermatitis, eczema, and even skin rashes on pets. Antiviral properties due to compounds like α-pinene make Australian Kunzea essential oil helpful in relieving minor symptoms of colds, flu, and shingles. Potent anti-inflammatory properties help relieves pains, stings, itching and swelling from insect bites, and can temporarily ease joint pains associated with arthritis and rheumatism7. We have also observed Australian Kunzea essential oil to provide analgesic (pain-relieving) effects to sore muscles and joints, as well as stress and anxiety relieving qualities. It is also a fantastic insecticide and room freshener to keep your space feeling fresh and vibrant.
Tea Tree is a powerful fighter against viral, bacterial, and fungal infections8, helping relieve ailments such as flu, colds, bronchitis, nail and foot fungus (athlete’s foot), dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, acne, shingles, chicken pox, and measles. it is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory4, thereby assisting with pains and strains of muscles and joints. Its antiseptic action makes Tea Tree useful for minor wounds, scrapes, bruises, burns, stings, itching, pain and swelling9, while some have observed its utility with skin spots, boils, warts, blisters, and sunburn. Tea Tree helps prevent and treat head lice10 and it has been shown to reduce halitosis or bad breath11 (Tea Tree oil is orally toxic and should not be ingested). Tea Tree is a powerful insecticide and is commonly used as a vaporiser, in shampoos, soaps, lotions, ointments, and as a laundry and bathroom cleaner.
UNIQUE THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES
The anti-inflammatory action of Australian Kunzea essential oil is more potent than Tea Tree, and this may explain observations of its superior effectiveness on bug bites, stings, itching, swelling, burns, and even on pet rashes.
While Australian Kunzea may be a preferred choice for itching and swelling, Tea Tree may lend better to application on scar tissue, skin spots and blemishes. It is well-suited for relieving warts, boils, blisters, and sunburn. Additionally, Tea Tree oil may assist in toxin excretion through the skin, potentially by helping to break down biofilms produced by microorganisms on skin12.
In this blog we compared Tea Tree and Australian Kunzea essential oils so that you can recognise their unique and shared properties.
- Tea Tree and Australian Kunzea come form the Myrtaceae family and have a somewhat similar aroma and appearance
- Tea Tree and Australian Kunzea essential oils are both potent antimicrobials, antifungals, and antivirals
- Australian Kunzea essential oil tends to have more potent anti-inflammatory action than Tea Tree essential oil
Both essential oils are excellent to have on hand for the many reasons discussed here, so if you are ever unsure of which to use, now you can decide which may be better suited for your needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gabby Pavlovic is a Melbourne-based Naturopath and host of the Revitalising Health Podcast. With a background in Evolutionary Biology, Gabby takes an ancestral approach to health which is based on principles of empowerment, regeneration, and connection to nature. She helps busy, stressed high achievers to stop burning out so they can find what they love, do what they love, and excel at life in the process. Gabby believes that building and maintaining a robust connection with the natural world is hugely important, as she acknowledges environmental health and human health are closely intertwined.
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