10 Benefits of Manuka Honey
Manuka honey has been making waves in the world of natural health thanks to its unique properties and numerous health benefits.
Derived from the nectar of the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium), native to New Zealand and Australia, manuka honey is not just your average honey. It is packed with nutrients and bioactive compounds.
In this article, we will delve into the top 10 health benefits of manuka honey, explore its nutritional profile, and offer guidance on selecting the best manuka honey for your gastronomic or therapeutic needs.
What is Manuka Honey and why is it beneficial?
Manuka honey is a unique type of honey produced by honeybees that collect nectar from the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium), which is native to New Zealand and Australia. This tree is known for its small, white-to-pink flowers and its strong, tea tree-like aroma. Manuka honey is highly valued for its distinct taste, darker color, and, most importantly, its potent health-promoting properties.
The presence of a naturally occurring compound called methylglyoxal (MGO) sets manuka honey apart from regular honey. MGO is found in higher concentrations in manuka honey than in other types of honey and is responsible for its powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. These attributes have made manuka honey popular as a natural remedy for various ailments, ranging from wound healing to soothing sore throats.
In summary, manuka honey is a special type of honey derived from the Manuka tree, prized for its unique taste and powerful health benefits due to the presence of MGO and other bioactive compounds.
What are the Benefits of the UMF trademark?
The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is a quality trademark and rating system used to measure the potency and purity of manuka honey. Developed by the UMF Honey Association in New Zealand, the UMF trademark assures consumers that they are purchasing genuine, high-quality manuka honey with proven beneficial properties.
The UMF rating system primarily measures the concentration of three key compounds in manuka honey: methylglyoxal (MGO), dihydroxyacetone (DHA), and leptosperin. These compounds are responsible for manuka honey’s antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. The UMF rating ranges from 5+ to 20+, with a higher number indicating a greater concentration of these active compounds and, consequently, a more potent product.
Generally, a UMF rating of 10+ or higher is considered suitable for therapeutic use, while ratings of 15+ and above are considered superior quality. Manuka honey with a UMF rating of 5+ to 9+ is still beneficial but may have a lower concentration of bioactive compounds, making it more suitable for everyday consumption.
The UMF trademark not only helps consumers identify genuine manuka honey but also assists them in choosing a product with the appropriate potency for their needs. When purchasing manuka honey, looking for the UMF trademark on the label is essential to ensure you’re getting a product with the desired health benefits.
The nutritional profile of manuka honey
Manuka honey shares many nutritional characteristics with regular honey but has some unique properties that set it apart. Here is an overview of the nutritional profile of manuka honey:
- Calories and sugar content: Like regular honey, manuka honey is high in calories and natural sugars, primarily fructose and glucose. The caloric content is similar to that of regular honey, with approximately 304 calories per 100 grams.
- Vitamins and minerals: Manuka honey contains trace amounts of various vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron. However, these amounts are not significant enough to make a substantial contribution to your daily nutritional requirements.
- Antioxidants: Manuka honey is rich in antioxidants, including phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and enzymes, which help protect the body against oxidative stress and cellular damage. These antioxidant properties contribute to the overall health benefits of manuka honey.
- Methylglyoxal (MGO): This key compound sets manuka honey apart from regular honey. MGO is responsible for manuka honey’s strong antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Higher concentrations of MGO are typically found in manuka honey with a higher UMF rating.
- Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and leptosperin are two other unique compounds found in manuka honey that contribute to its bioactivity. DHA is a precursor to MGO, while leptosperin is a naturally occurring chemical marker that helps authenticate genuine manuka honey.
- Hydrogen peroxide: Like other types of honey, manuka honey contains small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which has natural antibacterial properties. However, the presence of MGO in manuka honey makes it even more effective against bacteria compared to regular honey.
Top 10 health benefits of manuka honey
Manuka honey has gained recognition for its numerous health benefits, many of which are attributed to its unique compounds, like methylglyoxal (MGO), and high antioxidant content.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of manuka honey:
(1) Manuka Honey Supports wound healing
Manuka honey has been widely recognized for its ability to support wound healing due to its unique properties. Manuka honey’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant components contribute to its effectiveness in promoting the healing process. Here’s how manuka honey supports wound healing:
- Antibacterial action: The presence of methylglyoxal (MGO) in manuka honey gives it potent antibacterial properties, which help prevent infections in wounds. Manuka honey can effectively inhibit the growth of a variety of bacteria, including those resistant to antibiotics.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Manuka honey helps reduce inflammation around the wound, an essential aspect of the healing process. By reducing inflammation, manuka honey can minimize pain, redness, and swelling associated with the wound.
- Moist wound environment: Manuka honey maintains a moist environment when applied to a wound, which is crucial for optimal healing. This moist environment promotes new tissue growth, accelerates the healing process, and reduces the chances of scarring.
- Promotes tissue regeneration: The high sugar content of manuka honey helps to provide an energy source for cells involved in tissue repair. This, along with the antioxidants present in manuka honey, can aid the regeneration of damaged tissue and promote faster healing.
- Deodorizing effect: Manuka honey can help reduce unpleasant odours associated with some wounds, as its antibacterial action helps eliminate odour-causing bacteria.
To use manuka honey for wound healing, ensure that you choose a high-quality product with a UMF rating of at least 10+. Apply a thin layer of honey directly to the wound or on a sterile dressing, then cover it with a bandage.
(2) Manuka Honey Soothes a Sore Throat
Manuka honey is an effective natural remedy for soothing a sore throat thanks to its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Here’s how manuka honey can help alleviate sore throat symptoms:
- Antibacterial and antiviral action: Manuka honey can help fight the bacteria and viruses responsible for sore throat infections, such as Streptococcus pyogenes and the common cold virus. Its potent antimicrobial properties, primarily due to the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO), make it an effective remedy for reducing the severity and duration of sore throat symptoms.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: The anti-inflammatory properties of manuka honey help reduce the inflammation and swelling in the throat, providing relief from pain and discomfort.
- Soothing and coating: Manuka honey has a thick consistency that coats the throat when consumed, creating a protective barrier and providing temporary relief from the pain and irritation caused by a sore throat.
- Boosts the immune system: The antioxidants and bioactive compounds found in manuka honey can help support the immune system, making it better equipped to fight off infections.
To use manuka honey for soothing a sore throat, you can consume a teaspoon of honey on its own, or mix it with warm water, lemon juice, or herbal tea to create a soothing drink. It is essential to avoid using extremely hot water or beverages, as high temperatures can damage the beneficial compounds in manuka honey. Repeat this remedy 2-3 times daily or as needed to help alleviate sore throat symptoms.
(3) Manuka Honey May support gut health
Manuka honey may positively impact gut health, thanks to its unique properties and bioactive compounds. Here’s how manuka honey can support gut health:
- Prebiotic effects: Manuka honey can act as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. A healthy balance of gut bacteria is essential for optimal digestion and overall health.
- Antibacterial properties: The potent antibacterial properties of manuka honey, primarily due to the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO), can help combat harmful bacteria in the gut. For instance, manuka honey has been shown to be effective against Helicobacter pylori, a common bacterium associated with stomach ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, promoting gut healing and improving overall gut health.
- Protection against oxidative stress: The antioxidants present in manuka honey can help protect the gut lining from oxidative stress, which can contribute to inflammation and tissue damage.
(4) Manuka Honey May soothe a gastric ulcer
Manuka honey may be beneficial for soothing gastric ulcers thanks to its unique antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Gastric ulcers, also known as stomach ulcers, are open sores that develop on the lining of the stomach, often caused by an infection with the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. Here’s how manuka honey can help soothe a gastric ulcer:
- Antibacterial action against H. pylori: Manuka honey’s potent antibacterial properties, primarily attributed to the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO), can help target and inhibit the growth of H. pylori bacteria, which is a common cause of gastric ulcers.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: The anti-inflammatory properties of manuka honey can help reduce inflammation in the stomach lining and promote the healing process of gastric ulcers.
- Protection of stomach lining: Manuka honey has been found to help protect the stomach lining from damage caused by certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are known to contribute to the development of gastric ulcers.
To use manuka honey for soothing a gastric ulcer, consume one to two teaspoons of high-quality manuka honey with a UMF rating of 10+ or higher on an empty stomach at least 30 minutes before a meal. This can be done two to three times a day. Alternatively, you can mix the honey with warm water or herbal tea to create a soothing drink.
(5) Manuka Honey May be Helpful for Gastronentiritis
Manuka honey may be helpful for gastroenteritis, a common condition characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which typically results in symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever. Gastroenteritis can be caused by various factors, including bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections. Here’s how manuka honey can be helpful for gastroenteritis:
- Antibacterial properties: The potent antibacterial properties of manuka honey, primarily due to the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO), can help combat the bacteria responsible for bacterial gastroenteritis, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, and Campylobacter.
- Antiviral properties: Manuka honey has been shown to exhibit antiviral properties, which can help reduce the severity and duration of viral gastroenteritis caused by viruses like rotavirus and norovirus.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: The anti-inflammatory properties of manuka honey can help reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, alleviating symptoms like abdominal pain and discomfort associated with gastroenteritis.
- Soothing effect: Manuka honey can have a soothing effect on the digestive system, providing relief from nausea and irritation in the stomach and intestines.
(6) Manuka Honey May offer antiviral properties
Manuka honey may possess antiviral properties that can help combat various viruses thanks to its unique bioactive compounds and high antioxidant content. Here’s how manuka honey may offer antiviral properties:
- Inhibition of viral replication: Some studies have suggested that manuka honey can help inhibit viral replication, preventing the spread of viruses within the body. The exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, but it may be due to the presence of specific compounds in manuka honey.
- Antioxidant effects: Manuka honey is rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the body’s cells from damage caused by viral infections. Antioxidants can also support the immune system, making it more effective at fighting off viruses.
- Immune system support: The bioactive compounds in manuka honey, such as methylglyoxal (MGO), may help modulate the immune system, enhancing the body’s natural defences against viral infections.
- Synergistic effects: Manuka honey has been shown to enhance the antiviral activity of some medications, such as acyclovir, when used in combination. This suggests that manuka honey may have the potential as an adjunct therapy for certain viral infections.
Examples of viruses that manuka honey may help combat include:
- Influenza virus: Manuka honey may help reduce the severity and duration of flu symptoms by inhibiting the influenza virus.
- Common cold virus: Manuka honey may provide relief from cold symptoms by suppressing the activity of viruses responsible for the common cold.
- Herpes simplex virus: Some research suggests that manuka honey may be effective against herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections, such as cold sores and genital herpes.
(7) Manuka Honey May be useful for antibiotic-resistant infections
Manuka honey has demonstrated potential for being useful in managing antibiotic-resistant infections, due to its unique properties and bioactive compounds. Here’s how manuka honey may be helpful in this context:
- Potent antibacterial action: The primary antibacterial component of manuka honey, methylglyoxal (MGO), is responsible for its potent antimicrobial properties. MGO has been found to be effective against a wide range of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains.
- Disruption of bacterial biofilms: Manuka honey can help disrupt bacterial biofilms, which are complex communities of bacteria that can adhere to surfaces and become resistant to antibiotics. By breaking down biofilms, manuka honey makes the bacteria more susceptible to treatment.
- Synergistic effects with antibiotics: Research has shown that manuka honey can enhance the efficacy of some antibiotics when used in combination, potentially making them more effective against antibiotic-resistant infections.
- Reduced development of resistance: Since manuka honey works through multiple mechanisms of action, it is less likely that bacteria will develop resistance to it, compared to traditional antibiotics.
Examples of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that manuka honey may help combat include:
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): Manuka honey has demonstrated effectiveness against MRSA, a type of bacteria that is resistant to many commonly used antibiotics and can cause severe infections.
- Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE): Manuka honey has shown potential for inhibiting the growth of VRE, a group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause serious infections, particularly in hospitalized patients.
(8) Manuka Honey May help prevent the build-up of dental plaque
Manuka honey may help prevent the build-up of dental plaque, thanks to its unique antibacterial properties. Dental plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth surfaces and can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease if not removed regularly. Here’s how manuka honey may help prevent the build-up of dental plaque:
- Inhibition of plaque-causing bacteria: Manuka honey’s potent antibacterial properties, primarily due to the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO), can help inhibit the growth of plaque-causing bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus.
- Prevention of bacterial adhesion: Some research suggests that manuka honey can prevent bacteria from adhering to the tooth surface, thereby reducing the formation of dental plaque.
- Reduction of oral inflammation: Manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce inflammation in the gums, contributing to better oral health.
To use manuka honey for preventing dental plaque, you can incorporate it into your oral hygiene routine by:
- Rinsing your mouth with a manuka honey solution: Mix one teaspoon of manuka honey with a small amount of warm water and use it as a mouth rinse after brushing your teeth. Swish the solution around in your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. Remember not to swallow the solution, as it may contain bacteria and food debris from your mouth.
- Chewing on manuka honey lozenges: Specially formulated manuka honey lozenges are available, which can help inhibit plaque-causing bacteria and promote oral health.
It is essential to note that manuka honey should not replace regular tooth brushing and flossing, which are crucial for maintaining good oral hygiene. Additionally, consuming large amounts of honey can increase the risk of tooth decay due to its sugar content. Always consult a dental professional for personalized advice on maintaining good oral health.
(9) Manuka Honey May help manage cystic fibrosis
Manuka honey has shown potential in helping manage cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the respiratory and digestive systems. The thick mucus produced in the lungs of individuals with cystic fibrosis provides an ideal environment for bacterial growth, which can lead to recurrent infections and inflammation. Here’s how manuka honey may help:
- Antibacterial properties: Manuka honey’s potent antibacterial properties, primarily due to methylglyoxal (MGO), can help inhibit the growth of bacteria commonly found in the lungs of individuals with cystic fibrosis, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.
- Disruption of bacterial biofilms: Manuka honey can help break down bacterial biofilms in cystic fibrosis patients’ lungs. Biofilms are complex communities of bacteria that adhere to surfaces, making them more antibiotic-resistant. By disrupting biofilms, manuka honey may make bacteria more susceptible to treatment.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: The anti-inflammatory properties of manuka honey can help reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract, potentially improving lung function and overall respiratory health.
- Mucolytic action: Some research suggests that manuka honey may have a mucolytic effect, meaning that it can help break down and thin mucus, making it easier for individuals with cystic fibrosis to clear their airways.
(10) Manuka Honey May be effective against inflammatory skin conditions
Manuka honey may be effective against inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis, due to its unique properties and bioactive compounds. Here’s how manuka honey may help in this context:
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Manuka honey possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation and redness associated with inflammatory skin conditions. This may help alleviate itching, pain, and discomfort.
- Antibacterial action: Manuka honey’s potent antibacterial properties, primarily due to the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO), can help combat skin infections that may develop as a result of skin damage from scratching or due to compromised skin barriers in conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
- Wound healing: Manuka honey can promote wound healing by stimulating new tissue growth and reducing the risk of infection. This may be particularly beneficial for individuals with skin conditions that cause open sores or lesions.
- Moisturizing effects: Manuka honey has natural humectant properties, which means it can help retain moisture in the skin. This can be especially helpful for individuals with dry skin or skin conditions that cause excessive dryness and flaking.
To use manuka honey for inflammatory skin conditions, follow these steps:
- Ensure the affected area is clean and dry.
- Apply a thin layer of high-quality manuka honey (with a UMF rating of 10+ or higher) to the affected area.
- Cover the area with a non-stick dressing or gauze, if necessary, to protect the honey and your clothing.
- Leave the honey on for several hours or overnight, and then gently rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat the process daily or as recommended by a healthcare professional.
What is a healthy portion of manuka honey?
A healthy portion of manuka honey depends on the purpose for which it is consumed and individual factors, such as age, body weight, and overall health. In general, moderation is key when consuming honey, as it is a high-sugar food that can contribute to weight gain and dental issues if consumed in excess.
For general health benefits, a typical portion size of manuka honey is around 1-2 teaspoons (5-10 grams) per day. This amount can provide you with some of the health benefits associated with manuka honey without contributing too much to your daily sugar intake.
When using manuka honey for specific health purposes, such as soothing a sore throat or improving gut health, you may require a slightly larger portion, but it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.
Keep in mind that manuka honey should not be given to infants under one year of age due to the risk of botulism, a rare but serious type of food poisoning.
How to buy the best manuka honey
To buy the best manuka honey, consider the following factors and guidelines to ensure you are getting a high-quality, authentic product with the desired health benefits:
- UMF rating: Look for a manuka honey product with a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating. The UMF rating is a measure of the honey’s antibacterial potency and indicates the concentration of bioactive compounds, such as methylglyoxal (MGO). A UMF rating of 10+ or higher is considered suitable for therapeutic use.
- MGO content: Some manuka honey products may also display their MGO content on the label. The higher the MGO content, the more potent the honey’s antibacterial properties. Look for a product with an MGO content of at least 250 mg/kg or higher for therapeutic purposes.
- Origin: Ensure that the manuka honey is sourced from New Zealand, as this is the native region of the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium). New Zealand-produced manuka honey adheres to strict quality standards and regulations.
- Certification: Choose a manuka honey product that has been independently tested and certified by a recognized organization, such as the UMF Honey Association or the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society. This will ensure that the honey meets the required quality standards and contains the claimed levels of bioactive compounds.
- Raw and unprocessed: Opt for raw, unprocessed manuka honey, as it retains the highest concentration of beneficial compounds. Processed honey may have reduced levels of enzymes, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds.
- Brand reputation: Purchase manuka honey from a reputable brand or supplier with a track record of producing high-quality products. Check for reviews and testimonials from other customers to gauge the brand’s credibility.
- Label information: Read the label carefully to ensure the product contains 100% pure manuka honey without added sugars or other ingredients. The label should also provide information on the honey’s UMF rating, MGO content, origin, and certification.
Is manuka honey safe for everyone?
While manuka honey is generally considered safe for most people, there are some exceptions and precautions to keep in mind:
- Infants: Manuka honey should not be given to infants under one year of age due to the risk of botulism, a rare but serious type of food poisoning. Honey can contain spores of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can produce harmful toxins in an infant’s immature digestive system.
- Allergies: Individuals with allergies to bees or honey should avoid consuming manuka honey, as it may cause allergic reactions, such as itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing.
- Diabetes: As manuka honey is a high-sugar food, people with diabetes or those who need to monitor their blood sugar levels should consult their healthcare professionals before incorporating manuka honey into their diet. Consuming honey can cause blood sugar levels to rise, and it is important to ensure proper blood sugar management.
- Interactions with medications: Manuka honey may interact with certain medications or affect their efficacy, such as blood thinners, sedatives, or medications used to treat high blood pressure. Consult a healthcare professional if you are taking any medications or have concerns about potential interactions.
- Wound care: While manuka honey can be beneficial for wound healing, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before using it on wounds, especially deep or infected wounds, as they may require medical attention or other treatments.
Cara Hayes is an experienced natural health practitioner with a Masters in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics from the University of Sydney. She has been writing for New Zealand Honey since 2020 and loves manuka in her morning tea.