The healing qualities of mānuka are hardly a secret, but Awanui company Mana Kai Honey is developing an entirely new, potentially global market with a remedy specifically marketed as a treatment for animals.
Mānuka ointment, developed by leading mānuka scientist and researcher Dr Ralf Schlothauer, a member of the Mana Kai board, and manufactured by a cosmetics company in Auckland, is rapidly gaining a reputation as a highly effective animal treatment for burns, wounds, abrasions and skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis and fungal infections.
Marketing assistant Alex Bellingham said it was being used by members of the Whangārei-based Northland Pig Hunting Club members, who "raved" about it, and was now being distributed locally via veterinary practices in Kaitaia and Kerikeri. But it was going much further afield than that.
It was being widely distributed amongst veterinary clients around New Zealand, and overseas, by a company based in Cambridge, and, most spectacularly, had been used by Seal Rescue Ireland to treat a badly injured seal that was initially not expected to survive. Within little more than a week it was eating and generally thriving, well on the way to a full recovery.
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Mana Kai was now sending another batch of ointment to the Emerald Isle. ("Such a big thank you to Mana Kai Honey, who have just donated more of their magic Mānuka Honey ointment to us to help heal more seals in need," Seal Rescue Ireland says on its Facebook page.
Ms Bellingham said the ointment comprised 80 per cent mānuka honey and 20 per cent plant-derived oils, which had curative properties of their own, but also made the product less sweet than honey alone would be, reducing the likelihood that the patient would lick it off.
It had been used on all sorts of animals, she added, from horses and dogs to a fly-blown rabbit. It had been credited with saving the life of a dog that had had an ear ripped off, leaving a deep, grossly infected wound. The dog had not been expected to survive, but had made a complete recovery within three weeks.
"People bring their animals in [to the Mana Kai shop in Awanui], and word is really getting around," Ms Bellingham said.
A substantial batch had also been sent to Australia, where it was being used to treat koalas, wombats and kangaroos that had been injured in the bush fires that had been burning for months.
The ointment was specifically marketed as an animal remedy, but there was nothing inside the tub that would do anyone harm — "You can eat if it you like," she said.