Manuka honey is used as a natural ointment for wounds of all kinds. It has been hailed as a go-to germ fighter in an age of resistance to conventional antibiotics. Proponents also claim that Manuka honey can treat other conditions from acne to sinus issues.
Manuka honey hasn’t been used very long as a traditional remedy. It’s the product of the New Zealand scrub plant that gives it its name. European honey bees introduced it to the area in the early 19th century. When bees pollinate from this plant, their honey is more potent than standard honey bee honey. This is because it has a higher concentration of methylglyoxal (MGO).
When it comes to superfoods, raw honey is associated with health benefits. Manuka isn’t a raw honey, but it is specialized. It’s antibacterial and bacterial resistant. This means that bacteria shouldn’t be able to build up a tolerance to its antibacterial effects.
Manuka honey is said to be effective for treating everything from a sore throat to clearing up blemishes on your skin.
Other purported benefits of honey include:
- helping heal cuts and scrapes
- clearing infections
- easing stomach aches
- improving digestion
- boosting the immune system
- providing energy
Unlike most alternative treatments, there’s scientific evidence to support the healing benefits of Manuka honey. These benefits include:
As with other honeys, Manuka honey can help heal wounds. All forms of honey are acidic and have a pH between 3.2 and 4.5. The acidic properties of honey have been shown to promote healing.
The acidity also blocks enzymes that break down the proteins and peptides the body needs to repair itself. The high concentration of sugar in honey also helps protect wounds.
Honey is low in moisture and draws fluid from a wound. This helps remove waste and speed along the healing process. Honey also draws water out of the cells of invading bacteria. Bacteria need water to grow and survive. Drawing the water out of invading bacteria will kill them off.
All kinds of honey have been used as natural antibiotics throughout the centuries. In recent years, researchers have discovered that honey’s power to kill germs comes from hydrogen peroxide produced with the help of a bee enzyme.
Manuka honey takes this a step further by attacking germs with a substance called MGO. Found in the nectar of some Manuka plants, this substance helps heal both minor and chronic wounds.
Because of this, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved bandages infused with Manuka honey for both over-the-counter and prescription sales.
The more MGO there is in the honey, the more antiviral and antibacterial properties it has.
Dozens of species of bacteria are susceptible to Manuka honey, including Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus. Manuka also appears to be effective against Clostridium difficile, a difficult to treat organism often spread in healthcare settings.
Researchers are particularly interested in the fact that Manuka honey appears to attack infections that form a biofilm, or a thin, slippery layer of bacteria. This is because once an infection has formed a biofilm, it’s considered to be untreatable.
To date, there are no reports of microbial resistance to honey. That suggests it might be successful against resistant organisms and long-lasting wound infections that do not heal with regular antibiotic therapy. For this reason, honey is considered a last-resort option against infection.
Manuka honey manufacturers label their product with a unique Manuka factor (UMF) rating. This number describes the levels of MGO and a precursor, dihydroxyacetone.
The range for UMF scoring is as follows:
- 0 to 4: an undetectable amount is present
- 5 to 9: low levels are present
- 10 to 15: useful levels are present
- 16: superior, high-grade levels are present
The higher the UMF number, the higher the level of these compounds. To get the most benefit, use a Manuka honey with a high UMF.
Manuka honey may be able to reduce inflammation and irritation associated with acne. To do this, apply Manuka honey directly to the skin. Be sure to cover the affected area with a thin layer of honey.
You may also be able to use Manuka honey to soothe eczema. According to research presented on HealWithFood.org, you may find success using a mixture of equal parts honey, olive oil, and beeswax. It’s recommended that you apply the mixture three times a day.
Digestion and immunology
To reap the digestive benefits of Manuka honey, you should eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of it each day. You can eat it straight or add it to your food.
If you’d like to work Manuka honey into your meal plan, consider spreading it onto a slice of whole-grain toast or adding it to yogurt. Tea drinkers can also add a spoonful to their morning cup.
If you have a sore throat or if you just want to be proactive, try taking 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of Manuka honey each day. If you aren’t sick, this may help boost your immune system and prevent you from getting sick. If you already have a sore throat, it can help ease your symptoms.
You may be able to treat minor scrapes and cuts with Manuka honey. Severe or deep cuts should be assessed by your doctor, as stitches or other antibiotic care may be necessary.
You should be able to determine the amount of honey necessary by assessing the amount of fluids leaking from the wound. The more leakage, the more honey you should use to dress the area.
To do this, apply the honey to a bandage. Then apply the bandage to the wound. You shouldn’t apply the honey directly to the wound.
Also, you may need to change the bandage and apply honey more frequently. This is because excessive leakage can dilute the honey and reduce its effects.
Using sealed or waterproof dressing may help keep the honey from spreading outside of the bandaged area.
Risks and warnings
For most people, Manuka honey is safe to consume. There’s usually no limit on how much Manuka honey you can ingest. But if you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before adding Manuka honey to your regimen. Manuka honey, as with other honeys, has a high sugar content. This may cause a spike in your blood sugar levels.
Some researchers are also questioning whether Manuka honey slows the healing of chronic wounds in people with diabetes. This is because when used alone MGO is toxic to living cells. There are numerous reports of successful chronic wound treatment with Manuka honey, however. But more research is needed.
If you’re allergic to other types of honey, consult your doctor. You likely will not be able to use Manuka honey without experiencing an allergic reaction.
Tips for buying
Manuka honey is widely available online and in some health food stores. When making your purchase, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting — not all Manuka honey is the same.
This type of honey is often labeled as “active Manuka honey,” which can be misleading. This term refers to the antibacterial effects produced by hydrogen peroxide. These antibacterial effects are found in all types of honey.
To guarantee the unique healing properties of Manuka honey, look for a reference to “non-peroxide antibacterial activity (NPA),” or a UMF rating. The UMF rating measures the amount of NPA present in the honey.
Also stick to brands that contain MGO, the unique antibacterial factor in Manuka honey. The more MGO, the better.