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Tea Trees of Australia and New Zealand

Tea Trees are small trees and shrubs of the Leptospermum genus which belong to the broader category of the Myrtle family. Within the Leptospermum genus there are 79 species found throughout Australia with one species found growing in New Zealand.

Out of all these 79 species only two species have been found to have strong antibacterial activity. Both species have unique phytoactivity and hydrogen peroxide releasing ability.

GOLDEN TEA TREE or Jellybush
(Leptospermum Polygalifolium )

Golden Tea Tree or Jellybush is Australia's answer to Manuka. It produces a honey that has exceptionally high levels of antibacterial activity.
It has a wide distribution within NSW and Queensland, but like Manuka, its New Zealand relative its activity varies with the areas in which it grows. Its strongest and most potent activity is found in north eastern NSW.

New Zealand Manuka
(Leptospermum Scoparium)

Manuka or Tea Tree is found throughout New Zealand growing under a wide variety of conditions. Its activity varies depending on where it grows, with some regions of New Zealand producing high activity while other areas produce non-active Manuka honey.
Although called New Zealand Manuka this species is also found growing in Australia, in the states of Tasmania, Victoria and NSW.

Activity of Leptospermum Honey

What does the word 'active' mean  in relation to Leptospermum honey?

The word 'active' refers to New Zealand and Australian Leptospermum honeys ability to kill or inhibit the growth of many bacteria and fungi, the honey often being termed either  antibacterial or antimicrobial, depending on what organism it is being used against. This  'Activity'  or antibacterial quality of Leptospermum honey is determined by specific laboratory tests.

The two types of  'activity'  of  Leptospermum honey.

  1. The Hydrogen Peroxide Activity

    The first and most common form of antibacterial  activity is  due to the slow release of hydrogen peroxide with the help of the enzyme glucose oxidase present in honey. This release occurs when the honey becomes diluted with serum at the wound site or when honey is diluted by digestive fluids after eating. This slow release is very beneficial to the healing process as just enough hydrogen peroxide is released to kill bacteria and fungi without damaging sensitive wound or digestive tissues. However its ability to release hydrogen peroxide is short lived as hydrogen peroxide is quickly  depleted as the honey becomes diluted.

    There is a great variation in the hydrogen peroxide release ability of  different honeys with some honeys being no more antibacterial than sugar. The reason for this variation is probably  due to the fact that the enzyme responsible for the release of hydrogen peroxide is sensitive to both heat and light and also to other chemical compounds  within some honeys. This is why when some honeys are tested  in laboratories they show no sign of hydrogen peroxide activity. 

    Hydrogen peroxide antibacterial activity is  found in a few honeys world wide but is generally very high in both the Australian Golden Tea Tree (L. polygalifolium) and New Zealand Manuka (L. scoparium).

  2. The Non-Hydrogen Peroxide Activity or the Unique Phytoactivity (Unique Manuka Factor Activity).

    The unique phytoactivity is an unidentified natural plant antibacterial compound peculiar to Leptospermum plants. So far researchers world wide have not been able to identified the compounds that are specifically responsible for the Unique Phytoactive property, which inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi.

    This antibacterial component is more stable than the antibacterial effect of the hydrogen peroxide releasing enzymes and does not become effected by dilution. It is therefore better suited for longer term use in deep wounds and digestive health.

    This unique phytoactivity has been given a strength rating from 10+ to 20+ with 20+ being the strongest available on the market.
    This was first discovered in New Zealand where research was first carried out on manuka honeys' antibacterial effects but is now used in reference to the Australian Leptospermum plant activity.

The power of Manuka -
Tested to ensure high levels of activity

Some Leptospermums contain both types of activity. They combine the benefits of both the hydrogen peroxide activity as well as Non-hydrogen peroxide activity or the unique phytoactivity.
If a Leptospermum honey has this unique phytoactivity rating it will also have a Hydrogen Peroxide activity rating although this is generally not shown with the rating value.

All activity ratings of NZ manuka and Ausrtralian Golden Tea Tree honeys are determined at special laboratories designed to measure the activity of different types of honeys.

An Australia or New Zealand Leptospermum Honey which has been tested for the Unique Phytoactivity and has a symbol of 10+,12+, 15+ ,18+ or 20+ has both types of activity present and is preferable to honey that has not undergone laboratory testing.

The activity rating symbol of 10+,12+, 15+ ,18+ or 20+ is in reference to the honeys antibacterial strength which is compared to the sterilising ability of the hospital antiseptic phenol. A 10+ active honey is equivalent in antiseptic strength to a 10% solution of Phenol whereas a 20+ active honey is equivelent in antiseptic  strength to a 20% solution of Phenol.
 Both 'phytochemical compound' and 'active plant factor are terms used by the researchers and the scientific community to describe the antibacterial action of these unique honeys.