Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. Advocates say it treats wound infections and other conditions.
Honey has been used since ancient times to treat multiple conditions. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that researchers discovered that honey has natural antibacterial qualities.
Honey protects against damage caused by bacteria. Some honey also stimulates production of special cells that can repair tissue damaged by infection. In addition, honey has an anti-inflammatory action that can quickly reduce pain and inflammation once it is applied.
But not all honey is the same. The antibacterial quality of honey depends on the type of honey as well as when and how it’s harvested. Some kinds of honey may be 100 times more potent than others.
Components of Manuka Honey
Hydrogen peroxide is a component of honey. It gives most honey its antibiotic quality. But some types of honey, including manuka honey, also have other components with antibacterial qualities.
Another antibacterial component in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MG). MG is a compound found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities.
In manuka honey, MG comes from the conversion of another compound, dihydroxyacetone, that is found in high concentration in the nectar of manuka flowers.
MG is thought to give manuka honey some of its antibacterial power. The higher the concentration of MG, the stronger the antibiotic effect. But, there may also be other compounds involved in the medicinal effect of manuka honey.
Manuka Honey Nutrition Facts
What makes Manuka honey
different is its amazing nutritional profile. Regular raw honey is already known for its tremendous nutritional and immune boosting abilities. Generally speaking, the typical raw unfiltered honey is a rich source of:
- Amino acids
- B vitamins (B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid)
Yet with Manuka honey, the nutritional content is up to 4 times that of normal flower honeys. This is what is called the Unique Manuka Factor.
The main medical use for manuka honey is on top of a wound. It is generally used for treating minor wounds and burns.
Manuka honey is also marketed for use in many other conditions. These include:
- Preventing and treating cancer
- Reducing high cholesterol
- Reducing systemic inflammation
- Treating diabetes
- Treating eye, ear, and sinus infections
- Treating gastrointestinal problems
But the evidence is limited on whether or not manuka honey is effective for these conditions.
The honey used to treat wounds is a medical-grade honey. It is specially sterilized and prepared as a dressing. So the jar of manuka honey in the pantry should not be considered part of a first aid kit. Wounds and infections should be seen and treated by a health care professional.
Top 10 Manuka Honey Benefits
Manuka honey health benefits have been touted in the natural health world for a long time and even more in recent years because a growing body of research is starting to support thousands of years of folk medicine use. Some of the top Manuka honey uses are:
1. SIBO, Low Stomach Acid, Acid Reflux
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), low stomach acid and acid reflux go hand-in-hand. Because of Manuka honey’s known natural antibiotic qualities, it is a great medicine for any bacteria related disorder. In fact, in a recent study, one dangerous bacteria related to all three conditions, Clostridium difficult was found to be quite susceptible to Manuka honey’s bactericidal effects. So taking Manuka honey is very beneficial at reducing reflux and balancing your digestive system to heal stomach and intestinal imbalances.
2. Acne and Eczema
The Internet is filled with patient testimonials that Manuka honey works marvelously for acne and eczema patients. At this time there are no clinical trials to support these claims, but this doesn’t bother me at all. Taking into account its proven antimicrobial and healing properties, it makes every bit of sense to assume that honey can help with these skin conditions. Most people claim that applying honey on affected areas for a few minutes, and then washing off with gentle soap and water usually does the trick. Repeat this every day or every other day for the best results!
3. Staph Infections (MRSA)
You’ve probably heard of the super bug that has plagued hospitals the past several years, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (or MRSA). What has happened is that antibiotic overuse and drug ineffectiveness has caused certain strains of Staph to become virtually indefensible using typical hospital and nursing home medical protocols. Spreading so rapidly, most people affected by MRSA end up getting so infected that they require invasive procedures or devices such as surgeries, artificial joints or intervenes tubing to save their lives.
This past March, however, UK researchers from Cardiff Metropolitan University have offered us some natural hope. They discovered that Manuka honey down-regulates the most potent genes of the MRSA bacteria. Some scientists now suggest that regular topical use on cuts and infections (especially in the hospital and nursing home setting) may keep MRSA naturally at bay.
4. Burns, Wounds & Ulcers
According to a recent article in the Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products, “The use of honey leads to improved wound healing in acute cases, pain relief in burn patients and decreased inflammatory response in such patients.” (7) Moreover, because of its rich anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory characteristics, Manuka honey has been shown to prevent infection in people with venous ulcers. It has also been used quite effectively as a wound dressing to promote rapid, improved healing.
5. Tooth Decay & Gingivitis
Several studies have come out recently describing how Manuka honey can help cure gingivitis and periodontal disease. Due to its superior antimicrobial properties, researchers from the School of Dentistry, University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand) discovered that chewing or sucking on a Manuka honey product not only caused a 35% decrease in plaque, it led to a 35% reduction in bleeding sites in people suffering from gingivitis! Also calcium, zinc, and phosphorus are all important nutrients for healing teeth.
6. IBS and IBD
When evaluating the effect that Manuka honey has on experimentally induced inflammatory bowel disease in rats, researchers from Chandigarh Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research discovered several astounding findings:
- Manuka honey at different doses provided protection against TNBS-induced colonic damage.
- There was significant protection with Manuka honey 5 g/kg as well as with 10 g/kg body weight compared with the control.
- All the treated groups showed reduced colonic inflammation and all the biochemical parameters were significantly reduced compared with the control in the Manuka honey treated groups.
- Manuka honey at different doses restored lipid peroxidation as well as improved antioxidant parameters. Morphological and histological scores were significantly reduced in the low dose Manuka honey treated group.
- In the inflammatory model of colitis, oral administration of Manuka honey 5 g/kg and Manuka honey 10 g/kg body weight significantly reduced the colonic inflammation.
So Manuka honey not only healed intestinal inflammation and pain, but also repaired free radical damage, and protected against further damage!
7. Sore Throats and Immunity
In 2007, data published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggested that, “A 5.8-kDa component of Manuka honey stimulates immune cells via TLR4.” This is interesting because previous studies have indicated that honey stimulates cytokine production from human monocytes.
Coupling with this 2011 research showing how Manuka stops the growth of sore throat-causing Strep bacteria, it is no wonder that so many people benefit almost instantly from taking a spoonful of honey when they don’t feel well. And recently it has even been approved by the National Cancer Institute to be used to heal inflammation in the throat from chemotherapy!
8. Allergies and Sinusitis
There are many anecdotal accounts of people receiving allergy relief after eating honey are all over the internet. There is even a study with honey and birch pollen that had remarkable results. The participants were given regular honey, honey with birch pollen added to it, and some used only their allergy medicines as a control group. The results were impressive:
“…patients reported a 60% lower total symptom score, twice as many asymptomatic days, and 70% fewer days with severe symptoms, and they used 50% less antihistamines compared to the control group.”
They also found that there was very little difference between the birch pollen honey users and the regular honey users! So, taking Manuka honey on a regular basis can really help your seasonal allergies and lessen your need for medications! (13)
9. Beauty Treatment & Health Booster
Taken daily Manuka honey has an elixir effect that boosts energy and enhances your quality of life. Because of its nutrient dense profile, it boosts vitality, youthful energy, and has been known to improve skin tone and texture.
Use it in a homemade face wash to exfoliate and fight free radicals in the skin. Use it in your shampoo or a hair mask, to boost the shine of your hair. One of my favorite uses is in a detox drink, to get the most benefits inside and out!
10. Improves Sleep
Manuka Honey helps to promote restful deep sleep. It slowly releases the glycogen needed for essential bodily functions during sleep. Adding honey to milk at bedtime helps the body release melatonin into the brain which is necessary for deep sleep.
There are many health disorders associated with poor sleep such as, heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke, and arthritis. Since honey is proven to aid in quality sleep; it also helps lower the risk of these and many other heath problems.
Possible Side Effects of Manuka Honey
The possible side effects of manuka honey are:
- Allergic reaction, especially in people who are allergic to bees
- Risk of a rise in blood sugar
- Possible interaction with certain chemotherapy drugs
Most of the studies on manuka honey have been with small numbers of patients. More studies are needed to decide if it is safe and effective for various medical conditions.