Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. Advocates say it treats wound infections and other conditions.
WebMD takes a look at what the science says about using manuka honey as a medicine.
Healing Power of Honey
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.
Honey producers have developed a scale for rating the potency of manuka honey. The rating is called UMF, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor.
The UMF rating is thought to correspond with the concentration of MG and other compounds.
Not all honey labeled as manuka honey contains significant levels of antibacterial factors.
To be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, manuka honey needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF.
Honey at or above that level is marketed as “UMF Manuka Honey” or “Active Manuka Honey.”
Top 6 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. 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.”
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.
4. 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.
5. 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!
6. 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!
How Manuka Honey Is Used
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.
- Preventing and treating cancer
- Reducing high cholesterol
- Reducing systemic inflammation
- 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.
What the Science Says About Manuka Honey
Several recent studies show manuka honey is effective when used on top of wounds and leg ulcers. Studies also show it’s effective in fighting infection and promoting healing.
But not all studies show that it helps to heal ulcers. And there is concern that manuka honey may actually delay healing in people who have ulcers related to diabetes.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database lists honey as being “possibly effective” to treat burns and wounds.
The Cochrane Review notes that honey may shorten healing times in mild burns compared with traditional dressings.
However, honey dressings do not increase leg ulcer healing at 12 weeks even when used with compression wraps.
Another recent study suggests
Another recent study suggests that manuka honey may be effective in preventing gingivitis and other periodontal disease by reducing the buildup of plaque.
And in 2010, the scientific steering committee of the National Cancer Institute approved a proposal for the use of manuka honey for the reduction of inflammation of the esophagus associated with chemotherapy.
Another possible benefit of honey is that, unlike antibiotics, it has not been reported to cause development of resistant bacteria.
These so-called “superbugs” develop after repeated exposure to common antibiotics.
They require special antibiotics to treat them.
So far, studies have not shown manuka honey to be effective for treating high cholesterol or balancing the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
Also, no major studies have looked at the effect of manuka honey on cancer, diabetes, or fungal infections.
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.
Relaxing Bath Recipe
This milk and Manuka honey bath recipe is an innovative and yet classic method to get your skin glowing.
The unique blend serves to exfoliate and soften the skin, as the lactic acid in the milk cleanses while the honey makes skin supple.
1: Ensure that you use full-fat milk and pure Manuka honey.
2: Pour 1 to 2 cups of milk and half a cup of Manuka honey into a running bath. Make sure that the water, honey and milk are completely mixed together before getting in.
3: For maximum results, be sure to massage your skin with a washcloth in a circular motion, before rinsing off.