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, including acne and 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).

We’ve partnered with Manuka honey brand Comvita® to bring you an overview of this superfood.

When it comes to superfoods, honey is associated with health benefits. Manuka is a specialized type of honey that’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 complementary treatments, there’s scientific evidence to support the healing benefits of Manuka honey. These benefits include:

Healing wounds

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, so drawing the water out of invading bacteria will kill them off.

Antiviral properties

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, which is converted from DHA, a compound found in the nectar of some Manuka plants. This substance helps heal both minor and chronic wounds.

Because of this, Manuka honey bandages and wound products are required to be registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be sold over-the-counter (OTC) or through prescription sales.

The more MGO there is in the honey, the more antiviral and antibacterial properties it has.

Antibacterial properties

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 that it might be successful in treating 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 products with a Unique Manuka factor (UMF) rating. This number describes the levels of MGO, a precursor, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), and a plant compound to identify Manuka, leptosperin.

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.

Comvita’s premium Manuka Honey is UMF™ certified and independently tested. You can use the medical-grade product on your skin or add it to foods.

Skin care

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 should leave this mask on for at least 15 minutes. You may have better results if you leave the mask on for one hour or more.

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 per 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.

Wound care

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 fluid 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.

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 with 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, but more research is needed.

If you’re allergic to other types of honey, consult your doctor. It’s likely that you’ll also be allergic to Manuka honey.

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.

To guarantee the unique healing properties of Manuka honey, look for a UMF rating. The UMF rating identifies the amount of MGO present in the honey.

Additionally, UMF authenticates the Manuka Honey is monofloral (not a blend) and is from New Zealand. It also independently tests for and guarantees the MGO content. The higher the UMF, the more MGO it contains.