Essential oil of the month - Kanuka

Kanuka (Kunzea ericoides) is a member of the Myrtaceae plant family, native to New Zealand. Also known as White Tea Tree or Burgan, it was originally called Leptospermum ericoides before being re-classified in 1983. This spreading shrub or tree can grow up to 15 metres high and produces fragrant white (or pale pink) flowers, which have five petals and up to 25 stamen, which are considerably longer than the petals. 

Kanuka essential oil is steam distilled from the wild harvested plant leaf which is grown mainly in New Zealand on the East Cape of the North Island and more recently in Australia.  

The oil is pale yellow in colour, thin and has a sweet yet herby/earthy fragrance, not unlike Myrtle or Tea Tree, although it reminded me a little of Rosemary!

It is a terpene rich oil made up of the following chemical components: alpha Pinene, Viridifloraol, 1,8 cineole, Limonene, p-Cymene, Calamenene, Gamma-Terpinene and a-Selinene.

Traditional uses of Kanuka

The Maori people have been using different parts of this plant for centuries, predominantly in the treatment of wounds, scars, bites, irritation and stomach issues.

Medicinally the Maori used the leaves to make “tea” which when strong had medicinal properties and when weak replaced conventional tea, they also chewed the shoots to help relieve dysentery and the inner bark was boiled to use as a mouthwash or eyewash.

The Kanuka tree also has strong wood which the Maori used for making agricultural implements and weapons.  Being readily available and regenerating easily, it is also a popular, sustainable source of wood fuel in New Zealand.

Therapeutic benefits of Kanuka essential oil

Along with other oils from the Myrtaceae family (e.g. Clove, Manuka, Tea Tree and the Eucalyptuses) Kanuka has many useful therapeutic properties, including but not limited to: analgesic, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and decongestant, making it particularly beneficial for muscle and joint pain, skin problems, coughs and colds. 

Antibacterial / Anti-fungal

Kanuka is excellent for supporting the healing of fungal and bacterial infections. It is fantastic for acne prone skin and is now being used in many skincare preparations.

Fungal Nail Treatment

Blend 3 drops of Kanuka, 2 drops of Tagetes and 2 drops of Geranium into 15ml of Aloe Vera & Seaweed gel and massage a small amount into each nail twice a day.

Athlete’s Foot Anti-fungal Shoe Spray

Blend 15 drops of Kanuka, 10 drops of Lemongrass and 10 drops of Cornmint into 100ml of Chamomile Hydrolat, spritz footwear after use and leave to air dry.

Breakout Mask for Spots / Acne

Blend 2 drops of Kanuka, 2 drops of Niaouli and 3 drops of Geranium into 15ml of Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel. Apply as a face mask and leave for 10-15 minutes, remove with cotton pads soaked in Witch Hazel Hydrolat and moisturize to finish.


Kanuka’s calming properties are also fantastic for supporting irritated skin. It’s a great choice when you have rashes, sunburn or insect bites, sore, dry/dehydrated skin or an itchy scalp as it can help to soothe pain, itchiness, redness and inflammation. It can also help to support eczema and psoriasis however we do not recommend using it on open or weeping skin.

Soothing / Cooling Skin Spray

Blend 10 drops of Kanuka, 10 drops of Geranium and 10 drops of Lavender into 100ml of Witch Hazel Hydrolat and spritz on to the irritated area.

Skin Calming Cream

Blend 3 drops of Kanuka, 2 drops of Lemon Myrtle and 2 drops of Benzoin into 15ml of organic cream or lotion and apply to irritated skin as required, leaving to soak in.

Scalp Soothing Conditioner

Add 2 drops of Kanuka, 2 drops of Rosemary and 3 drops of Roman Chamomile to 15ml of our fragrance free Hair Conditioner to help ease an irritated scalp. For a more intense treatment add the same essential oils to 15ml of Moroccan Argan Oil and massage into the hair and scalp. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes before shampooing out.


Kanuka essential oil is excellent for easing inflammation, including chronic inflammatory conditions such as Rheumatoid arthritis and Fibromyalgia.  It is also a beneficial pain reliever which makes it fantastic for back pain, muscle soreness and general aches, pains and strains.  It is an excellent choice for adding to any pre or post sports massage blend and when combined with other fantastic muscle-relieving essential oils it enhances any recovery of the muscular skeletal system.

Massage Blend for Muscles & Joints

Into 30ml of your chosen base (Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, Cream, Lotion or Carrier oil) add 4 drops of Kanuka, 3 drops of Plai, 2 drops of Rosewood and 1 drop of Eucalyptus Staigeriana. Massage into the troublesome area, with long, slow upward movements towards the heart.

Soothing Bath Soak

Alternatively, add this blend to our Bath Oil, mix with a cup of Epsom Salt and add to the bath for a deeply relaxing muscle soak.

Respiratory, Decongestant & Mucolytic

As with many essential oils grown in New Zealand, Kanuka can assist with respiratory conditions and is a great choice, as we head into Winter, to support the airways and fight off all those bugs and germs that we come into contact with on a daily basis.

Kanuka essential oil has the component 1,8 cineole which has a wide variety of therapeutic properties such as: airborne anti-microbial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-spasmodic, anti-viral and mucolytic. This makes the oil a great addition to any Winter diffuser blend.

Winter Diffuser Blend

Add 5 drops of Kanuka, 3 drops of Cinnamon, 3 drops of Clove and 4 drops of Sweet Orange to an aromatherapy burner or diffuser to help boost immunity and combat coughs and colds. Alternatively, pop 1 drop of each oil on a tissue or into an aromatherapy inhaler for when you’re out and about!

Congestion Clearing Steam Inhalation

Add 2 drops of Kanuka and 2 drops of Eucalyptus smithii into a bowl of steaming hot water, lean over the bowl with a towel over your head and inhale the vapour to help clear congestion. See our You Tube video for more information on inhalation methods. 

Alternative essential oils you may like:

Rosemary, Plai, Rosewood, Eucalyptus smithii, Lemongrass, Tea Tree, Clove

Kanuka essential oil blends well with:

Rosewood, Plai, Rosemary, Sweet Marjoram, Black Pepper, Ginger, Sweet Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon Myrtle, Roman Chamomile, Cornmint

Safety Information

Tisserand and Young do not indicate any special precautions, however they do suggest avoiding its use if it has oxidized. Further information can be found in Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, Essential Oil Safety (2nd Edition. United Kingdom.  Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014)

Consultant Aromatologist & Sports Massage Specialist

Read other articles by Jeni Broughton

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