Honey is quite a versatile product. As a natural sugar, use it to sweeten dishes and drinks. Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties make it a medical wonder.
As researchers conduct more studies on the health benefits of honey, Manuka honey is gaining popularity. But why, and what makes it better than regular honey?
Where does Manuka honey come from?
The Manuka is a shrub-type, flowering tree that is native to New Zealand and some parts of Australia. For centuries now, locals used various parts of the tree for their medicinal and health benefits.
As summer starts, the white and pink flowers of the Manuka tree bloom. During a two to six-week period each year, the flowers open, allowing honeybees to collect nectar. Once the bees take the manuka flowers’ nectar back to their hive, they turn it into honey – Manuka honey.
What makes this honey special?
Chemicals in the Manuka plant’s nectar change the chemical composition of honey made from it.
Most kinds of honey have antibacterial properties. Methylglyoxal, or MGO, is a compound found in Manuka honey and one of its main antibacterial components. Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is another compound found in high concentrations in the nectar of Manuka flowers. The DHA in harvested honey converts into MGO.
The higher concentration of DHA leads to a higher conversion of MGO. The more MGO present, the stronger the antibacterial properties are. Because Manuka honey contains more MGO, it is more beneficial than your average honey.
The last chemical that makes Manuka honey different from the rest is leptospira. It’s a chemical that’s unique to the nectar of Manuka plants and close relatives.
5 benefits of Manuka honey and how to use it
The use of honey by our ancient ancestors dates back to approximately 8000 years ago. One of the oldest natural medicines. Even then, without the medical research we have now, they saw its benefits. It wouldn’t be until the late 19th century that researchers would discover the antibacterial properties of honey.
Today, we use honey for some of the same reasons they did so long ago. The additional antibacterial properties found in Manuka honey make it a powerhouse when used as a remedy for these common issues.
Here are a few ways Manuka honey can improve your health and well-being.
Acne isn’t just a problem that teenagers face.
Stress, unhealthy eating habits, and hormonal imbalances can cause adults to face breakouts. Bacteria growing and clogging pores can also cause skin trouble.
Manuka honey works wonders for the skin. The fructose, glucose, and amino acids make honey hydrating. It has a low pH balance and antibacterial properties and people use it for its anti-inflammatory effects. This allows Manuka honey to clean the bacteria and debris from your skin and balance your skin’s pH level. Also, its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce swelling caused by acne.
If you want to add Manuka honey to your skincare routine, there are a few ways to do so. To use the honey as a facial, you’ll want to dilute it with water.
Treat problem areas on the skin by applying honey directly to the troubled area for spot treatment.
You can also mix it with other natural ingredients to make a homemade mask. After around 10-15 minutes, you would wash the mask away.
If you don’t suffer from acne, you can still use Manuka honey for your skin. It reduces wrinkles, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. It’s able to do this because of a substance found in the honey that promotes the increase of collagen in skin cells.
2. Wound healing
Just as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and others did in their time, we use honey to dress wounds as well.
Fun Fact: The oldest sample of honey ever found is over 5,500 years old! Archeologists found ceramic jars of it in the village of Sakire, Borjomi in Southern Georgia.
Recent studies have shown that Manuka honey can help fight infection, reduce inflammation, and speed up the recovery of wounds. The FDA also gave their approval to use Manuka honey as a wound dressing.
There are various reasons to use Manuka honey for wound healing. A major factor is that Manuka honey destroys key bacteria proteins, which kills the bacteria. It helps maintain a moist environment for the wound, suppresses inflammation, and promotes the growth of tissue to help wounds heal.
The tissue regeneration aspect, along with the ability to reduce pain, makes Manuka honey optimal for treating burn wounds as well.
Another use of Manuka honey is in the treatment of diabetic sores. They are slower to heal, and treatment with regular ointments and topical medication can be a long and painful process. Studies have shown that Manuka honey, along with traditional treatment, can speed up healing time for patients suffering from these sores.
In cases like these, it is best to consult a medical professional. They will have access to the medical-grade Manuka honey used specifically for wounds. Also, never apply honey directly to a wound. Apply it directly to the bandage that will cover the wound.
3. Oral health
It might seem far-fetched that a product considered a natural sugar would be good for dental hygiene, but Manuka honey might be the outlier.
Ever ran your tongue across your teeth and noticed they didn’t feel clean? That’s dental plaque, and the bacteria in it can cause cavities, gingivitis and gum disease, tooth decay, and more issues.
One reason Manuka honey can improve oral health is that it helps stop the growth of bacteria associated with plaque. Another way it helps oral health is by attacking bacteria like porphyromonas gingivalis, which causes bad breath or could lead to disease that destroys the tissue supporting the tooth.
It’s also gentle on the tissues in your mouth and can reduce inflammation.
While there is still more research to be done, there is a study that shows research volunteers given a Manuka honey chew after each meal resulted in reduced plaque and gingival bleeding over chewing sugar-free gum.
While these chews are not readily available to all, you can apply Manuka honey directly to your gums or dilute it to use as a mouthwash. It can help enhance your current dental care, but it’s not meant to replace it.
4. Sore throat relief
Hot tea with lemon and honey has long been a remedy to help soothe a sore throat. If you’ve noticed, a lot of cough syrups, cough drops, and products of the like have added honey to their ingredients.
This is because of the antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties of honey. Manuka honey, containing more of these properties than standard honey, can provide more benefits.
Manuka honey can fight harmful bacteria, such as streptococcus mutans, and coat the lining of the throat to decrease irritation. The anti-inflammatory properties help reduce inflammation in the throat caused by coughing, which allows it to heal quicker too.
Research has also shown that honey can act as a cough suppressant.
As with any honey, add Manuka honey to a hot tea, in plain hot water, or eat it alone by the spoonful for a sore throat.
5. Digestive health
Simple issues with your digestive system, such as acid reflux, can leave you feeling uncomfortable. Bigger issues, like gastric ulcers, can disrupt your life.
Bad bacteria in your gut can cause infections, which leads to the issues mentioned above. Manuka honey can help balance the bacteria by increasing the good bacteria. This balancing act is beneficial for proactively or reactively treating digestion problems.
Using Manuka honey has also shown the ability to reduce inflammation in the bowels and help heal and/or prevent gastric ulcers.
To implement Manuka honey into your diet to help with digestion, you can either eat two spoonfuls daily or create a new dish by adding it to the foods you eat and drink.
Is it safe to consume?
Like any honey, Manuka honey is safe to consume for most people, but safety varies from person to person.
Because of bacteria found in honey, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not giving children under the age of one honey.
Those who are diabetic should be careful when consuming honey because of the large doses of sugar it contains.
Last, anyone with a honey or bee allergy should avoid eating honey to prevent any health risks associated.
How to buy
If you’re looking to add a jar of Manuka honey to your pantry, there are a few ways to get your hands on it. But first, before you add it to your cart, make sure you’re getting a quality product.
Manuka honey is rare because of two factors. First, it is unique to one region of the world. Second, the Manuka tree’s flowers are open and in bloom for a short time. It is possible to buy some inauthentic Manuka honey masquerading as the real thing because of its rarity.
Make sure any honey listed as Manuka honey is from New Zealand or Australia. Next, look for the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) Honey Association trademark. The UMF Honey Association requires all honey to meet its strict quality standards before it can earn this trademark. The location and trademark are a surefire way to check for the authenticity of any Manuka honey.
Also, look for the UMF score. This score correlates with the levels of MGO and the presence of leptosperin in the honey. To reap the full benefits, look for a Manuka honey with a UMF score of 10 or higher. The higher the number, the more nutritional and beneficial the honey is.
To purchase, you can start by checking with your local supermarkets and health food stores. If no one nearby carries Manuka honey, it is available for purchase online.
Does science back these claims?
Researchers have intently studied only a few varieties of honey for their medicinal properties, and Manuka honey is one of them.
Researchers have found that Manuka honey…
- Can stimulate white blood cells, which are vital to the immune system
- Shows antioxidant and anticancer properties
- Can reduce biofilm, a thin, slimy film of bacteria on a surface, by killing the bacterial cells in the biofilm
- Can fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Listed above are only a few of their findings, but there has been a lot of research and more that is currently going on. So far, the consensus is that the higher levels of MGO in Manuka honey increase its medicinal properties making it more useful.
As they continue to do research towards finding alternative natural solutions, it looks like Manuka honey is high on the list.
If you’re looking for natural alternatives to help improve your health, give Manuka honey a try. Although many types of honey offer health advantages, the make-up of Manuka honey makes it superior.
The additional antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties come directly from the chemicals in the nectar of Manuka tree flowers. The high levels of DHA, which converts into MGO, give Manuka honey medicinal benefits not found in standard honey.
Research has shown that Manuka honey is beneficial in various health-related scenarios. These benefits can range from basic skincare, such as treating acne, to oral hygiene.
Wound care is where Manuka honey truly shines. The FDA has even approved Manuka honey for wound dressings because they have proven honey to help reduce inflammation and help regenerate tissues. Dressing wounds with honey allows the wound to heal quicker and reduce pain.
How you use Manuka honey depends on what you are using it for. In most cases, consuming the honey, either a spoonful eaten plain or added to food, will benefit you. When treating wounds, professionals recommend applying it to the bandage instead of directly to the wound site.
Manuka honey is available locally and online, but remember to check its origin, the UMF Honey Association trademark, and the UMF score before purchasing. Verifying these three things will allow you to purchase Manuka honey with the assurance you are getting an authentic product.
Manuka honey is safe for most to consume. If you have diabetes, be careful of your intake because of the high amounts of sugar. Anyone allergic or child under one should avoid eating it.
Science currently backs the majority of Manuka honey’s claims, but there is more research to be done.
Try Manuka honey for yourself, and see if you notice the difference.