Kunzea oil is a remarkable and relatively new essential oil, derived from the shrub Kunzea ambigua, which is native to New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. One of the common names for the plant is Tick Bush, a name which hints at some of the medicinal properties of the essential oil. Much of the current information available about this oil comes from anecdotal reports, and there are also a few scientific studies of its effects.
Unfortunately there is little information available about the significance of the plant to Indigenous Australians, as the natural range of the plant corresponds to the parts of Australia most impacted by the British invasion, resulting in the loss of Indigenous lives, culture and knowledge in these areas. According to the guide ‘Useful plants of the Cooks River’ from Marrickville Council, the Indigenous name for the plant is Burr’gahn and nectar from the blossoms is used in a drink for children.
There is an interesting story behind the modern discovery of this oil: A Tasmanian farmer, John Hood, noticed one day that a part of the 35-year-old fence on his farm had remained rust-free and in good condition, while the rest of the fence had become rusty and worn. He investigated further and noticed that a particular type of tree grew over that part of the fence, namely Kunzea ambigua. He realised the oil had powerful antioxidant effects, and began producing it for potential use in woodworking.
While distilling the oil, he spilled some on his hand and rubbed his nose, then noticed that his blocked nose had improved significantly. He had sinus problems caused by working in a gold refinery, but after inhaling the oil felt his sinuses much improved. These promising results led him to do further research into the oil and its properties and eventually the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved kunzea oil as a medicine for external use.
The oil is used for arthritis and rheumatism pain relief, colds and flu, assisting in bruise and wound healing, stings and bites, to treat eczema and psoriasis, and for relieving stress, nervous tension and mild anxiety. It has also been shown in scientific studies to be an effective antibacterial, even against antibiotic resistant bugs such as golden staph. A recent study from the University of Tasmania showed kunzea oil to be as effective as citronella for repelling mosquitoes, making it a potential natural alternative for use in areas with low levels of mosquitoes. The study also found kunzea oil has potential for clinical use to treat fungal infections of the foot in humans, and pastern dermatitis in horses.
There are many reports from those who have used the oil indicating it is beneficial for a variety of skin conditions and joint problems, one person even found that it helped relieve the hip problems of their very old dog and allowed him to walk again! This is clearly a fascinating oil that can provide relief from a variety of problems, for both animals and humans.
Ducane Kunzea Oil, website of John Hood: