Kunzea Monograph

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Kunzea is a relatively new essential oil in the aromatherapy scene. It is so exciting that many aromatherapists have been quick to effectively utilise its properties in aromatherapy.  Robbie Zeck perfectly summarizes kunzea’s healing property;

When your body feels strung out and as tight as a drum kunzea relieves muscular aches, joint pain and nervous tension.

Botanical name

Kunzea ambigua

Common names

Australian kunzea, tick bush, Tasmanian spring flower

Botany and origins

Kunzea is a tall, erect woodland tree which can grows up to 5m, although it is typically smaller. It has small white flowers and is found in the North East region of Tasmania and the South East mainland of Australia. Guba says that kunzea is a wild harvested plant from natural strands of kunzea maintained in plantation-like settings.1

Kunzea is closely related to the bottlebrushes and Leptospermum species. There are about 40 species occurring in all states of Australia. One species occurs in New Zealand.2

Method of extraction

Kunzea oil is steam distilled from the aerial parts of the plant.

Characteristics

Kunzea oil is a clear, mobile liquid with a pleasant, fresh and slightly spicy aroma.3 Kunzea is described as having a fresh, invigorating scent reminiscent of the Australian bush.4

Traditional uses

Webb explains that early pioneers noted that native animals that slept under this species were often infected by ticks and other mites from the bush – hence the common name of “Tick Bush”. However he suggests that the native animals were in fact seeking relief from infestations by brushing up against, sleeping or lying under this species.3

Chemistry

The major chemical components found in Perfect Potion’s Kunzea essential oil is as follows;

α-pinene (39.94%), limonene (1.11%), 1,8 – cineole (13.80%), trans-β-ocimene (1.86%), linalool (1.23%), α -terpinen-4-ol (0.56%), α -terpineol (1.6%), citronellol (1.15%), viridiflorene & bicyclogermacrene (5.29%), trans-calamenene (1.79%), ledol (0.5%),spathulenol (0.37%), globulol (1.86%), viridiflorol (13.83%), 5-epi-7-α-eudesmol (1.7%).

Kunzea appears to have some very interesting sesquiterpene compounds that are believed to be responsible for its excellent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

Another report indicates that a total of 64 compounds have been identified in kunzea essential oil. Kunzea contained 70% monoterpenes including α -pinene (48.3%), 1,8-cineole (14.5%) and α -terpineol (1.9%). Other K.ambigua plants had significantly different content of α -pinene (0.6-62.5%), 1,8-cineole (0-14%), spathulenol (0.5-12.2%), globulol (0.5- 22.6%) and viridiflorol (0.3-385).5   

Therefore we can expect to see some variability in the pharmacological activity of the essential oil.

Pharmacology and Clinical Studies

Anti-inflammatory activity

Topical applications of kunzea was found to provide anti-inflammatory effect on the skin to manage psoriasis.6

Antifungal activity

Researchers investigated the effectiveness of kunzea for the treatment for onychomycosis, a fungal infection of the nails caused by dermatophytes, yeasts and moulds. The study compared the efficacy of kunzea with commercial preparation amorolfine. The researchers concluded that kunzea essential oil displayed similar efficacy to that of the commercial product.7

Antimicrobial activity

Thomas states that kunzea oil appears to possess potentially useful in vitro antimicrobial activity. However he also explains that more work is required to establish the optimum antimicrobial potential of kunzea.8

Insecticidal activity

Kunzea was evaluated and compared with citronella oil for its insecticidal property. It was found to have comparable insecticidal properties to citronella. However, the authors concluded that essential oils are significantly less repellent than DEET and should not be used in regions prone to mosquito-borne disease.9

I would like to confirm that lab trials and field studies conducted for Perfect Potion indicate that citronella-based insect repellents do have excellent mosquito repellent properties.

An in vitro study tested the insecticidal properties of kunzea by exposing head lice with a 5 or 100% solution of the essential oil. Head lice exposed to both the 5 and 100% solution resulted in 100% mortality within 120 minutes. The researchers concluded that kunzea oil shows great potential as an effective alternative to current active ingredients contained within commercial pediculicide formulations.10

Uses

Kunzea oil is recommended for the temporary relief of the pain of arthritis; symptoms of influenza, muscular aches and pains and nervous tension, stress and mild anxiety.3

Webb cites anecdotal feedback from users of the kunzea oil that claim it has been helpful for the treatment of eczema, dermatitis, rashes and leg infections.3

The oil has also been found to be beneficial to ease the pain from insect bites, minor burns, recurring shingles and headaches. It is also highly recommended for the treatment of arthritis, muscular pain and soft tissue injuries.4

Aromatic Kinesiologist, Robbie Zeck suggests that kunzea is perfect when you need to transform pain.11 Kunzea relieves muscular aches, joint pain and nervous tension.11

Webb recommends using it as a room deodoriser in nursing homes. He also suggests a dab of the neat essential oil to insect bites for immediate pain relief.4

Properties

Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-arthritic, antiseptic, antimicrobial, relaxant.1,3,4

Subtle aromatherapy

Zeck states that kunzea helps to alleviate deep emotional pain associated as a result of suppression. Kunzea assists in the release of physical and emotional pain and in transforming the immediate shock of accidents.11

Energetics

The energetic qualities of kunzea oil are cooling. It is primarily indicated for conditions of a hot and inflammatory nature.

How to use

Bath

Typically for a full body bath in a tub, use up to 5 drops of essential oils in the tub of warm water.  Foot or hand baths may be prepared by adding 2-3 drops of essential oil to a bowl of warm water.

Massage

Use a 2.5% dilution of the appropriate blend of essential oils to the chosen carrier oil. This equates to 5 drops of essential oil to 10mL of carrier oil.

Inhalation

The best way to use essential oils for inhalation is by diffusing them. When you are using essential oils in an ultrasonic diffuser please follow the instructions of the diffuser that you are using.

Blending tips

Kunzea blends well with all other Australian essential oils such as eucalyptus, fragonia, lemon-scented ironbark, tea tree and Australian sandalwood.

It would make a great uplifting and refreshing blend when blended with citrus oils such as bergamot, lemon, lime, grapefruit and sweet orange. To provide temporary relief of muscular aches and pains it would blend well with essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, black pepper, ginger, rosemary and peppermint. For sensitive and inflamed skin blend with oils such as German chamomile, everlasting, neroli and sandalwood.

Perfect Potion classics with kunzea

I definitely will be using kunzea in more Perfect Potion blends. We will be soon be launching Active Body Spray. The star ingredient in this blend will be kunzea essential oil blended with other essential oils in an alcohol base so that you can spray onto those tired and aching muscles.

Kunzea is blended together with fragonia, eucalyptus, tea tree, lemon myrtle, lemon scented iron bark and peppermint eucalyptus to create our uplifting and invigorating Great Outdoors essential oil blend that is reminiscent of the scent of the Australian bush.

Kunzea is also a very important addition to our Desert Dreaming sacred space blend.  It is blended with essential oils such as clary sage, fragonia, Australian sandalwood and Roman chamomile to create a truly ethereal feeling reminiscent of the Australian desert.

Safety

Kunzea is non-toxic and a non-irritant, however it may be a mild sensitiser. People with sensitive skin should do a patch test first.1

References

1. Guba R. Kunzea essential oil, Essential News Vol.19 October 2006.

2. http://anspa.org.au/k-amb.htnl (Australian Native Plant Society Website)

3. Webb M. Bush Sense. Self-published, Australia, 2000.

4. Webb M. Australian Essential Oil Profile – Kunzea. Aromatherapy Today, Vol 21 March 2002.

5. Thomas J et al. An examination of the essential oils of Tasmania Kunzea ambigua, other Kunzea spp. and commercial kunzea oil. Journal of Essential Oil Research 2010; 22:5.  http:/dx/doi.org/10.1080110412905.201.9700351

6. Thomas J. et al. An evaluation of the clinical efficacy of kunzea oil formulations in the therapeutic management of psoriasis in adults. Proceedings of the APSA Annual Conference, Hobart, 2009.

7. Jacobson G. Clinical trial of kunzea for onychomycoses treatment – commercial potential. In Essential Oil and Plant Extracts, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation completed projects in 2009-2009, RIRDC Publication no 09/098, September 2009.

8. Thomas J. Kunzea Oil: Investigation of composition, bioactivity and therapeutic potential. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania. 2012.

9. Thomas J. et al. Evaluation of repellent properties of volatile extracts from Australian native plant Kunzea ambigua against Aedes aegypti (Diptera: culcidae). Journal of Medical Entomology 46(6):1387-1391. DOI 10.16031033.046.0619

10. Williams CR. Et al. Can kunzea oil (Kunzea ambigua) control head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis)? Parasitology Open, 2016; 2(3):1-5. Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/pao.2015.

11. Zeck R. The Blossoming Heart – aromatherapy for healing and transformation. Aroma Tours. Australia, 2004.

Image: ‘Kunzea ambigua flower’ by John Tann available at www.flickr.com/photos/31031835@N08/5 under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.