Kanuka Honey treats acne and rosacea! What is kanuka honey?

kanuka honey is the best medicine for skin infections

Coming from Kunzea ericoides, also known as white tea-tree or scrub, is a tree that grows only in Australia and New Zealand. Until 1983, Kanuka was considered to belong to genus Leptospermum, like manuka tree. But now we only consider it like its cousin.

The differences are really hard to notice, even some beekeepers fail to recognize them. Their flowers have a similar morphology and pollen differentiation between the two species is very difficult. Apparently the easiest way to tell the difference is to feel the foliage, kanuka leaves are soft, while manuka leaves are prickly. It has a stronger smell when leaves are crushed, the scent being similar to eucalyptus.

kanuka tree gives the best honey for skin infectionsThe name “kanuka” sounds like other 2 trees: Kanooka (Tristaniopsis laurina) aka Water Gum, an Australian rainforest tree, and Hill Kanooka (Tristaniopsis collina), aka Hill Water Gum, another Australian rainforest tree. But they are not the same, as we can see from their scientific names.

Tolerant of wind, drought, frost and almost every soil type (it doesn’t like being water-logged), this hardy tree can be harvested for oil or eventually cut down to use as a great firewood.

It is the perfect nursery tree to protect other natives, forming clumps where seedlings can be in shade and gain protection from the elements. Kanuka likes warmer temperatures on a dry, semi-fertile site and isn’t found in South Westland, Fiordland, Southland or Stewart Island.

Kanuka often colonizes land recovering after a fire and is a critical part of the natural recovery of open disturbed ground to forest. With its small but abundant flowers it can colour a whole hillside white, almost giving the appearance of snow cover.

Here are the differences between the 2 trees, as described by Christopher Ward.


kanuka tree flowers

manuka tree flowers

Kanuka grows faster and bigger than manuka. It reaches a larger size so it is commonly seen as trees, 10-15 m tall and more, and 15-40 cm diameter. Manuka tree grows more slowly, till reaches 6-8 m
height and 7-10 cm diameter, or less on the
poorest soils (e.g. 1–2 m on the Te Ahumata plateau).
Leaves: narrow parallel-sided leaves, several times longer than wide. notably soft to the touch; Leaves: more ovoid but sharp-pointed (lanceolate) with the prickly apex giving the foliage a harsh feel.
Foliage: generally a rather bright olive-green. Foliage: duller, generally darker (not so obvious when very young).
Manuka often has a grey-brown look, from a combination of the leaf colour and the branches/stems which typically have a covering of sooty mould (which thrives on the sugary excretion of an introduced scale insect).
This mould is much more prevalent on manuka than kanuka.
Bark: bark is a light tawny brown. Narrow vertical strips of bark are characteristic of kanuka. Bark: darker with a reddish tinge. It comes off in very thin flakes, wider and less regular than kanuka bark.
Flowers: notably smaller, 4-5mm across, creamy white. They are carried in dense elongated clusters (or ‘cymes’) towards the end of the branchlets. Kanuka generally flowers once a year only, in midsummer. Flowers: 10-12 millimetres across and generally pure white. They more evenly scattered over the plants as single flowers.
Manuka flowers strongly a little earlier than kanuka, and additionally in irregular bursts at other times.
Seeds: kanuka seed capsule is less woody, only 2-3 millimetres across and generally disappears after a month or two. Generally kanuka does not carry seed capsules, except briefly in late summer. Seeds: hard woody seed capsule 5-6 millimetres across which persists on the plant for a year or more after flowering. At any time of the year you will see seed capsules of various ages.


Both kanuka and manuka make valuable essential oils, which are extracted using steam distillation from the leaves, to create two very different types of oil. There are also regional variations, which end in chemically different products.

Kanuka oil

Manufacturers say it is much easier to extract kanuka oil, taking only 40 minutes at most to extract the oil from the plant, while manuka can take up to 6 hours. Kanuka was originally used by maori for pain relief, skin diseases and to help people sleep.

The essential oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties and was used against internal worms. Kanuka is a strong oil and should be diluted in a carrier oil. It may irritate children’s skin.
It has a pleasant perfume and in aromatherapy it is:

· Useful for muscular pain relief and to relieve swelling
· Useful for sprains, strains, and sports injuries.
· Helps clear inflammation.
· Used to relax the skin.
· Used as a perfume.

Typical Antimicrobial Activity:

– Staphylococcus aureus (gram +ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil 1 : 300
– Streptococcus pyogenes (gram +ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil 1 : 400
– Candida albicans (Yeast) – Concentration of oil 1:50
– Trichophyton mentagrophytes (Fungi) – Concentration of oil 1:500
(These results and specifications are given by ManukaOil.com and they target their products)

Manuka oil

Manuka oil is used as antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-acne.

In aromatherapy it is used for:

· Antiseptic and for ulcers
· Useful for muscular pain relief
· It is used as a concentrate against athlete’s foot and ringworm
· Used to relax the skin
· Used as a perfume.

In cosmetics it is used for

· As an active ingredient particularly against gram positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus
· Excellent activity against P.acne
· Is used in soaps, creams, shampoos, “tissue wipes” and antiseptic gels.

Typical Antimicrobial activity:

– Staphylococcus aureus (gram +ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil 1 : 1500
– Streptococcus faecalis (gram +ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil 1:2000
– Streptococcus pyogenes (gram +ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil 1:2000
– Bacillus subtilis (gram +ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil 1:750
– Propionibacterium acnes (gram +ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil 1:700
– Listeria monocytogenes (gram +ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil 1:2000
– Klebsiella pneumoniae (gram -ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil <1:10
– Pseudomonas aeruginosa (gram -ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil <1:10
– Escherichia coli (gram -ve bacterium) – Concentration of oil <1:10
– Candida albicans (Yeast) – Concentration of oil 1:30
– Trichophyton mentagrophytes (Fungi) Concentration of oil 1:1250
– Microsporum canis (Fungi) Concentration of oil 1:1000
– Aspergillus niger (Fungi) Concentration of oil 1:50

Manuka Oil is safe to use and shows almost no skin irritation, and is classified as Non-Hazardous.

Kanuka honey

Kanuka honey is of a lighter colour than manuka honey, but with a similar strong flavour.  Kanuka honey is a much more scarce honey variety than manuka as kanuka bushes seldom grow as a monoculture separate to manuka plants.

According to a recently published work by Crown Research Institute Industrial Research Limited, kanuka honey has double the levels of bug-killing manuka factor. Professor Shaun Holt says “that with the ongoing success of manuka honey, few people were interested in whether there might be even better honeys out there”. Well, it is.

“We have launched what we believe is by far the biggest program of clinical trials on the medical uses of honey in the world, initially looking at eight conditions. Each one is a promising potential pharmaceutical in a billion dollar market. Everyone knows about the problems with antibiotic resistance, the World Health Organization say that it is one of the planet’s biggest health risks, and for skin conditions the evidence suggests that honey may well be an answer.” ( Professor Shaun Holt) 

Kanuka honey has been lab tested and is shown to have high levels of methyl glyoxal and total antibacterial activity. In addition, unlike manuka honey, kanuka honey exhibits anti-inflammatory activity, and this makes it potentially a more effective treatment for topical skin diseases.

By now, this honey got no attention, no studies, no clinical studies. But Professor Shaun Holt has ambitious plans to create the next GlaxoSmithKline in HoneyLab, a company he has co-founded to develop pharmaceutical medicines based on kanuka honey. He said that whilst other companies looked at levels of chemicals in honey, his work was focused on whether pharmaceutical honey actually helped people with medical conditions, and the early results were that it is very effective.

The aim is to make kanuka honey the very high value, science-based honey that is applied to the skin to treat medical conditions, and leave manuka honey as a moderately high value, not science-based honey for eating.

“We know that honey can heal wounds and kill just about any bug, so in theory it could be used to treat diseases ranging from eczema to skin infections to lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis”.

The first results of Holt’s research, showed that medical-grade kanuka honey could be a useful treatment for acne and molluscum contagiosum.

In the acne study, 82% reported an improvement within a week and 77% had a reduction in the number of acne lesions. The honey is applied as a facemask for 20-30 minutes twice a day, and washes off easily with warm water.

Compared to popular acne treatments that contained bleach, honey was natural, safer, healed the small wounds caused by acne spots, was likely to reduce scarring and moisturized the skin.
“The leading acne treatment sells around US$2 billion a year – we think that honey is a far superior treatment and plan to demonstrate this in a large independent clinical trial”.

As a conclusion, kanuka honey has even more potential than manuka honey, despite the fact that it wasn’t yet researched. But considering its double quantity of MGO, its future in treating skin diseases is very promising.

do you know how to choose manuka honey

Honevo® – medical grade kanuka honey

Kanuka honey heals rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic red rash on the face, particularly on the cheeks and nose. Long-term antibiotics are the standard treatment. However, antibiotics can not only potentially cause side effects, but they also contribute to antibiotic resistance, which the World Health Organization has declared to be a threat to global health security.

On March 31, 2015, HoneyLab published a study on their product Honevo®, a medical-grade kanuka honey formulation, and its efficiency and safe treatment for rosacea. The picture’s link takes you directly to the manufacturer’s page.

kanuka products from the HoneyLab
The clinical trial was undertaken by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand and was partly funded by a grant from Callaghan Innovation.
The results were presented at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting in San Francisco by HoneyLab Science Director Dr Shaun Holt:

65% of triallists showed an improvement in their rosacea using Honevo®,
34% had a large improvement and in
13% the disease disappeared completely.
Honevo® was applied as a mask twice a day and then easily washed off. Improvements were seen within two weeks and this had increased when the study ended after eight weeks.

How can a honey heal redness?

“It’s now thought that the underlying causes of rosacea are mites and associated bacteria living deep in the skin in the affected area, and the rosacea symptoms are an inflammatory reaction to these. As medical kanuka honey is effective at killing micro-organisms and reducing inflammation this is an excellent explanation as to why kanuka honey works so well.”

Where can we find kanuka honey?a ar of kanuka honey 80+

It is sold online. But probably because of the lack of marketing, we will not find it on big sellers like Amazon. But we do find it online in New Zealand shops.
Foe example here, on Blueskin Bay Honey, a family owned company, passionate about its product from the hive to your shelf.

Oils can be found on ManukaOil.com

Honevo products can be bought from HonevoHoney, from New Zealand.


References, picture credits and further reading:

http:// nzlifestyleblock.co.nz/lf.nsf/article/manuka-kanuka;

Read more on the details between kanuka and manuka tree here: http://www.umf.org.nz/Modules/LSDocumentManager/DocumentDownload.aspx?DocumentId=324

“Kanuka Tree in Puhi Puhi valley, near Kaikoura” by Karora – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons;
” manuka flowers” picture credit  Bill Higham, via flikr.com, published under CC
“Kanuka flowers in my palm” picture credit Jon Sullivan,  via flikr.com, published under CC
“flowers of kanuka” picture credit, Tony Foster, via flikr.com, published under CC

Kanuka Honey treats acne and rosacea! What is kanuka honey? was last modified: July 3rd, 2016 by Laura

6 Responses

  1. Franciele says

    I am 55 and have never stopped biakerng out since I was a teen. I have tried almost everything on the market. I do not have positive responses to common acne treatment such as benzoyl peroxide and salisylic acid. Recently I went to a spa that used products with manukah honey and I was impressed with them. After searching the net, I was just thrilled when I found this product. Not only does it have honey, but it also uses colloidal silver, which is a natural antibiotic that I take internally. I am so pleased with this product! I have been using it about a month. I am not getting the infected pustules that I had been. I have had a few very large, old clogged pores open and the matter has come out cleanly with no skin damage. My color tone is more even and my skin is much smoother. I would recommend this very highly for adult acne. It may be too wet for younger people with more oily skin, but I would still encourage anyone to try it who is not responding to more conventional treatment or who wants a more natural approach. Glad I finally found it!

  2. Eoinmc says

    Lots of great information here about honey. I confess I’ve never heard of Kanuka honey until I read this post. I have heard an awful lot of positive stuff about honey in general and I’m aware that there is solid medical research indicating that honey does indeed have medicinal properties.
    There are a lot of varieties of honey nowadays. I see another one called something like Acacia.
    My mother used to always rave about Heather Honey and I guess she had a good point. Heather grows wild and therefore, the honey would surely be as organic as it gets.

  3. Vicky says


    I found this article to be very interesting. Great if it can help with acne, I`m for all natural treatments.
    I have heard that local honey can help with allergies, is this something you can confirm? Honey has lots of different benefits for sure.

    Thanks for a great article,

  4. Gan says

    Thank you for the detailed explanation on the different types of honey. You even included the things we can do with it and I find it really useful. Keep it up!


    • Laura says

      Hi Gan,
      I’m glad you find it interesting. Thanks for dropping by.