Taking on tea tree oil? Antimicrobial properties of mānuka oil expected to raise its profile in cosmetics post-pandemic

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Down Under Enterprises believes it will see an increase in demand for mānuka oil. ©GettyImages
Down Under Enterprises believes it will see an increase in demand for mānuka oil. ©GettyImages

Related tags antibacterial antimicrobial Australia

Australian company Down Under Enterprises believes it will see an increase in demand for mānuka oil given its ability to offer all-rounded protection against bacteria when combined with tea tree oil.

While the antimicrobial potential of tea tree oil is well known, the antimicrobial properties of Manuka Oil are just starting to be recognised, said Phil Prather, head of marketing and operations, Down Under Enterprises.

“Mānuka Oil has demonstrated an impressive 99.9% Microbial Kill Rate in studies and has been found to be particularly effective against gram-positive bacteria, such as Staphylococcus fecalis, Pyogenes Pyogenes, Bacillus subtilis, Propionibacterium acnes, Listeria monocytogenes.”

According to a 2000 study​ from the University of Hamburg, mānuka oil demonstrated significant efficacy boost against Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and Moraxella catarrhalis.

Mānuka oil also contains unique beta-triketone compounds which have demonstrated to enhance the bactericidal potential of tea tree oil. 

Evidence has also shown that both mānuka oil and tea tree oil are more effective than alcohol.

“New research is coming to light for the strong antimicrobial properties of mānuka essential oil. It’s β-Triketones have demonstrated strong antibacterial action against gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus. This was a stronger action than tea tree and likely much stronger than alcohol,” ​said Prather.

Next ‘it’ ingredient?

Aside from its antimicrobial properties, manuka oil can be used in skin care for its anti-inflammatory properties in formulations for anti-ageing, dermatitis, and acne products.

The company expected the demand for manuka oil in relation to the pandemic to raise its profile in the beauty and personal care market in the long-term.

Especially since the consumer demand for clean and ethically sourced, yet effective ingredients have shone a spotlight on Australian botanicals.

“Mānuka essential oil has been well received because of the already established therapeutic properties of the well-known and loved mānuka Honey – and now science is validating the therapeutic properties of the mānuka oil,” ​said Prather.

Since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Australian supplier has seen an uptick in demand for essential oils such as tea tree.

“In March we completely closed our order books from the 2019 harvest – our tea tree oil was fully allocated. This was primarily due to US manufacturers’ demand - as all our customers brought forward existing contracts, as well as securing supplies of additional oil from us,” ​said Prather.

The firm’s 2020 tea tree harvest has also been ‘fully allocated’ for its customers in North America, Europe and Asia.

“Growth in Asia for us has been significant. Even though we've been in the Asian market for eight years, we were totally unprepared for the recent increase in demand– primarily due to COVID-19​,” said Prather.

He attributed this increase to the demand for more natural products that offer effective microbial protection.

“Consumers are holding their products to a higher standard and scrutinizing ingredients for new levels of efficacy, coupled with proven sustainability and traceability practices. This applies to the majority of our essential oils including mānuka.”

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