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Kunzea oil : investigation of composition, bioactivity and therapeitic potential

Thomas, J 2012 , 'Kunzea oil : investigation of composition, bioactivity and therapeitic potential', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Available under University of Tasmania Standard License.


For thousands of years natural products have had a prominent role in treating ailments.
Among the plant-derived products used as medicinal agents, essential oils have been
widely appreciated for their use as antimicrobial agents.
Myrtaceous essential oils have also attracted industrial interest primarily due to
their antimicrobial properties. Tea tree oil is the prominent contender. Kunzea oil is a
myrtaceous essential oil obtained from the shrub Kunzea ambigua (Smith) Druce 1917.
K. ambigua, genus Kunzea, family Myrtaceae, is endemic to northeast Tasmania as well
as the Furneaux Islands and eastern coastal regions of Victoria and southern New South
Wales. Kunzea oil has been listed as a therapeutic substance by the Therapeutic Goods
Administration in Australia for topical application for the treatment of various
dermatological ailments (AUSTL 72143; 1996). Kunzea oil is currently used in
aromatherapy, as a topical antiseptic and for the treatment of various bacterial-fungal
skin infections, eczema and psoriasis in humans and pastern dermatitis in horses.
The initial objective of the study was to examine the chemical composition,
antimicrobial activity and the insect repellency potential of kunzea oil. The second phase
of the study investigated the potential usefulness of kunzea oil for the treatment of onychomycosis and efficacy of formulations containing kunzea oil for the treatment of
pastern dermatitis in horses, in randomised controlled trials.

Investigation on the chemical composition of kunzea oils demonstrated differences
between oils from different plants (Kunzea spp.) analysed in this study. The results from
the repellency trial indicated that K. ambigua essential oil offers protection from biting
mosquitoes similar to that afforded by citronella oil. Kunzea oil-based formulations may
be suitable for use in areas of low mosquito activity by people who wish to avoid the use
of synthetic repellents. Kunzea oil appears to possess potentially useful in vitro
antimicrobial activity with some fractions having higher activity. However, more work is
required to further establish the optimum antimicrobial potential of kunzea oil. Two of
the randomised clinical trials demonstrated the potential clinical usefulness of kunzea oil
based topical formulations to treat pastern dermatitis in horses and pedal fungal
infections in humans. Results of the pilot in vivo investigations open several avenues for
further work in the form of in vitro bioassays and randomised, controlled trials for the
development of topical formulations as an addition to the current battery of topical
modalities for the management of cutaneous infections in humans and animals.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Thomas, J
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2012 the Author. The author has asked that the thesis not be made available via our repository. Requests for the thesis may be made through your institution's document delivery service.

Additional Information:

Chapter 2 (An examination of the essential oils of Tasmanian Kunzea ambigua, other Kunzea spp. and commercial kunzea oil) appears to be the equivalent of a post print article. The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is available in Journal of Essential oil Research 2008>

Chapter 4 appears to be the equivalent of pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of medical entomology following peer review. The version of record, Thomas, J., Webb, C. E., Narkowicz, C., Jacobson, G. A., Peterson, G. M., Davies, N. W., Russell, C. R. (2009) An evaluation of repellent properties of volatile extracts from the Australian native plant Kunzea ambigua against Aedes aegypti (L.) (Diptera: Culcidae), Journal of Medical Entomology, 46(6), 1387-1391, is available online at:

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