The Medical Benefits of Manuka Honey

By Edward Habat / February 7, 2018

Manuka honey is all the buzz these days. But what is it, and what are the benefits?

Harvested almost exclusively from New Zealand, manuka honey gets its name from the bushes and flowers that native bees pollinate when they produce it. Most honey contains insignificant amounts of an organic compound known as methylglyoxal (MG), a natural antibacterial. But due to the makeup of the manuka flower, honey produced from this plant contains much higher MG levels, warranting greater antibacterial properties.

In fact, the compounds are so significant that after discovering it in the 1980s, researchers developed a standardized system known as Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) to measure the medicinal strength of each batch, with UMF ratings of 10+ and higher yielding the greatest benefits. With scientists and health gurus finding a wide range of applications, here’s how manuka honey is becoming more than just folk medicine.

Wound Healing
Take a tumble on the trail? Studies show that Manuka honey may help speed up the healing process on that grazed knee, along with other minor cuts and scrapes. A preliminary study published in the International Journal of Biomaterials showed that when applied with other preparation materials, manuka honey helped activate and accelerate skin cells’ ability to regenerate faster. Though more research is needed to fully understand the process, a dab of honey may go a long way.

Fighting Infection
With antibiotic resistance on the rise, manuka honey could be one solution to fighting drug-resistant bacteria. Researchers in Australia and New Zealand used four types of honey—including manuka—on common bacteria such as staphylococcus and e. coli, and found that the down-under-based elixir was the most effective in slowing and reducing infection. Of course, it's important to note that one should always seek the advice of qualified medical professionals before handling serious medical issues.

Sore Throat Remedy
We've all heard that a teaspoon of honey with your tea can help sooth a sore throat, but due to the elevated antibacterial properties of manuka honey, you may be able to soothe the pain and fight off the bacteria that cause it. If you’re recovering from a minor cold, be sure to check out our other natural tips on how to beat the flu.

Skincare Treatment
Stay out in the sun too long, or just looking to rejuvenate your skin? According to Professor Peter Molan, Director of The Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, Manuka honey can aid in relieving symptoms of eczema and sunburn when applied to irritated areas. It helps stimulate the growth of damaged skin tissue, aides in increasing the production of collagen and releases bacteria.

With significant moisturizing properties, it's no surprise that there are increasing numbers of manuka honey-based lip balms and skincare products on the market today. A manuka mask may be an excellent addition to your daily regimen, or emergency relief from unexpected dryness.

Try: Pacific Resources International Manuka Honey, UMF 5+ to 15+, shoppri.com; Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm, naturapthica.com; Comvita Manuka Honey UMF 5+ to 20+, comvita.com; Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream, yoronaturals.com; Aura Cacia Manuka Pure Essential Oil, distilled from freshly harvested leaves in New Zealand, and used much like tea tree, for its purifying benefits (launching in May), auracacia.com

Buyer beware: As manuka honey becomes increasingly popular, and consumers are willing to pay a high price for the health benefits it offers, there are products on the market that may not offer what they claim. That’s why the New Zealand government has advised that new manuka honey labeling requirements for export will be enforced beginning February 5 of this year.

The new regulations stipulate that all manuka will be tested for four chemical markers and one DNA marker to ensure purity. Bottom line: the only authentic manuka honey products are those that have been independently tested and rated, as well as certified by the UMF Honey Association of New Zealand.


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