Kunzea is an essential oil derived from the Kunzea ambigua, a bush native to the cool coastal regions of Australia. The oil is drawn from the plant through a process of steam distillation. Kunzea has recently begun to be cultivated for sale, but the oil can also be derived from wildcrafted plants. It has uses as a topical skin preparation for muscle pain and minor skin abrasions and bruises, and it can be used for aromatherapy as well.
Kunzea ambigua is in the Myrtaceae family, and is found only in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. It is closely related to Leptospermum, more commonly known as the tea tree. The kunzea is a tall flowering shrub that usually grows in dense thickets. The flowers are abundant, and either pink or white. Both the flowers and foliage are used to make the essential oil. The shrub is also known as “white kunzea,” “white cloud,” and “tick bush.” The common name tick bush stems from observations of wild and domestic animals resting under the bush to repel ticks.
As a topical preparation, kunzea essential oil is used as an herbal remedy against the aches and pains associated with rheumatism, arthritis, and muscle strains. The oil can be applied undiluted, or mixed with other muscular pain-relieving essential oils such as arnica. It can be mixed with a carrier oil such as olive or sweet almond oil to make a soothing massage oil.
Like tea tree oil, kunzea has anti-bacterial properties and is believed to eliminate staph, Candida, and E. coli bacteria, which makes it an effective oil for use in cleaning minor scrapes and cuts. As an anti-inflammatory, kunzea helps relieve the itching and swelling of bug bites, and the swelling and pain of bruises. Sufferers of eczema and other types of dermatitis might find kunzea useful in soothing and reducing outbreaks.
Kunzea is also used as an aromatherapy oil, and it is believed to reduce stress and mild anxiety. The oil has a medicinal, balsamic scent that fades after a short time into a spicy aroma. In aromatherapy preparations, it is often mixed with other native Australian oils such as eucalyptus or lemon myrtle oil. It also mixes well with any lemon scented oil as well as lavender or peppermint. Used in a diffuser, plain or blended kunzea oil creates a fresh, clean scent that is also an effective insect repellent.