Meet the plant-powered skincare ingredient found only in remote New Zealand

It’s no secret plants contain potent compounds for good health and skincare. But this skin-loving ingredient, derived from a native shrub, has remained hush-hush until only recently.

For millennia, humans have slathered on old wives’ tales in the name of health and great skin. But a microscope isn’t needed to see that some ingredients are more effective than others. Traditional Māori healers knew their skin-healing emollients made from the mānuka tree were the real deal. Centuries later, when mānuka was studied at length, science revealed its secret once and for all.

Of the essence

Essential oils extracted from crushed seeds, bark and leaves have long been popular in ancient skincare routines. Their effectiveness boils down to science. Plant compounds can work like medicine when eaten, but they can also have a big impact when distilled and applied topically. One of the most potent examples of this has been hiding in plain sight — on New Zealand’s East Cape.

In the 1990s, researchers discovered something far sweeter than the prized antibacterial properties of mānuka honey. They found that beta-triketones in East Cape mānuka trees were off the charts. No species in the myrtle family had ever demonstrated such a high count as the trees in this isolated region. Triketones are powerful compounds that help kill or stop the growth of microorganisms. It turns out the most potent mānuka derivative is not from a flower’s nectar but from the humble tree itself.

The good oil

Imagine an oil so potent that even a drop can work magic. The “good stuff” within mānuka leaves and twigs is extracted through steam distillation, resulting in a pure, enzyme-packed essential oil. Studies show this is one of the most antibacterial-rich oils in the world, containing high levels (60%+) of sesquiterpenes, a plant chemical with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Thousands of papers on East Cape mānuka oil indicate the region is sitting on a revolutionary ingredient; no wonder scientists and the skincare industry are buzzing. In terms of skin health, this super oil is a triple threat — proven to nourish, protect and improve skin with regular use. Thanks for revealing the secret, science.


New Zealand skincare brand ManukaRx uses the finest mānuka oil from the East Cape to address skin health, naturally. Its 100%-pure oil is the strongest on the market thanks to the region-specific botanical from which it’s derived — East Cape mānuka.

The pure oil is highly potent, so diluting is advised. When formulated with another essential oil, research shows that the potency of both ingredients is amplified. This is why ManukaRx specially formulates nature’s best-kept secret into a range of products, addressing everything from first aid to wrinkles.


Due to its strength, a little goes a long way. Dilute pure East Cape mānuka oil with a carrier product (such as sweet almond or coconut oil) for multiple uses:

● Add 1-2 drops to moisturiser to help nourish and balance the skin.
● For blemishes, dilute to a 1:9 ratio with an oil such as rosehip.
● Add 1-2 drops to shampoo for itchy scalps or dandruff.
● Add 1-2 drops to a bath or massage oil to soothe muscles.
● For additional uses, choose a ManukaRx product made with East Cape mānuka oil.

Created in partnership with Eat Yourself Healthy, our new special edition on healthy living. Medical expert Dr Roderick Mulgan sifts through the science and finds fascinating new health insights, complemented by gardening tips, health secrets and more than 80 recipes. Order your copy here.

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