Investigations of kanuka and manuka essential oils for in vitro treatment of disease and cellular inflammation caused by infectious microorganisms

J Microbiol Immunol Infect. 2016 Feb;49(1):104-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jmii.2013.12.009. Epub 2014 Feb 28.


Background: Diseases caused by infectious and inflammatory microorganisms are among the most common and most severe nosocomial diseases worldwide. Therefore, developing effective agents for treating these illnesses is critical. In this study, essential oils from two tea tree species, kanuka (Kunzea ericoides) and manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), were evaluated for use in treating diseases and inflammation caused by microorganism infection.

Methods: Isolates of clinically common bacteria and fungi were obtained from American Type Culture Collection and from Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital. Minimum inhibitory concentrations for Trichosporon mucoides, Malassezia furfur, Candida albicans, and Candida tropicalis were determined by the broth microdilution method with Sabouraud dextrose broth. The antibacterial susceptibility of Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus sobrinus, Streptococcus mutans, and Escherichia coli were determined by the broth microdilution method. A human acute monocytic leukemia cell line (THP-1) was cultured to test the effects of the essential oils on the release of the two inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-4.

Results: Multiple analyses of microorganism growth confirmed that both essential oils significantly inhibited four fungi and the four bacteria. The potent fungicidal properties of the oils were confirmed by minimum inhibitory concentrations ranging from 0.78% to 3.13%. The oils also showed excellent bactericidal qualities with 100% inhibition of the examined bacteria. In THP-1 cells, both oils lowered tumor necrosis factor-α released after lipopolysaccharide stimulation. Finally, the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects of the oils were obtained without adversely affecting the immune system.

Conclusion: These results indicate that the potent antimicroorganism and anti-inflammation properties of kanuka and manuka essential oils make them strong candidates for use in treating infections and immune-related disease. The data confirm the potential use of kanuka and manuka extracts as pharmaceutical antibiotics, medical cosmetology agents, and food supplements.

Keywords: Bacteria; Fungi; Inflammation; Kanuka essential oils; Manuka essential oils.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Fungi / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Kunzea / chemistry
  • Leptospermum / chemistry
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Monocytes / drug effects*
  • Oils, Volatile / isolation & purification
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • IL4 protein, human
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-4