Manuka Honey: What's All The Buzz About?

Manuka Honey: What's All The Buzz About?

By Cynthia Thaik, M.D.

What is Manuka Honey?

Honey has long been cultivated for its limitless shelf life and healing properties. The earliest evidence of humans gathering wild honey dates back to over 6,000 years ago in Spain. Due to its antibacterial activity and ability to protect and maintain moist wounds because of its high viscosity, it’s long been used in medicine. However, not all honey is the same.

Manuka honey is a type of honey made from bees who pollinate the Manuka bush flower (Leptospermum scoparium). This plant belongs to the myrtle plant family native to New Zealand and southeastern Australia. Commonly used as an all-natural germ fighter, the potent Manuka honey has gained popularity in recent years as an antibacterial ointment and supplement.

What’s All the Buzz About?

This honey is characterized by a strong “earthy or herbaceous” flavor with a slightly bitter mineral aftertaste. Because of its powerful taste, New Zealand farmers gave away the honey for free. The honey was so undervalued the government paid farmers to remove the white-blossomed bush from their land. It wasn’t until the scientist Peter Molan began researching its antiseptic properties in 1981 that people began to change their minds about Manuka honey. Today 1,700 tons of Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand each year.

Manuka honey is claimed to have a long list of benefits. From healing wounds to treating IBS and acne, the internet is buzzing with this liquid gold’s potential. What makes Manuka honey special is the ingredient methylglyoxal, which acts as a powerful antibacterial. In 2015, Manuka honey was recognized for its healing properties and approved as an appropriate wound dresser by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Today the list of benefits continues to grow as new studies are conducted.

What Does Science Say About Manuka Honey?

In 2017, a clinical study researching the health benefits of Manuka honey found some impressive results. The honey was found to instigate numerous biological processes and showed antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiproliferative properties. The sticky substance even displayed a slowing of cancer cell growth by inhibiting carcinogenesis with its effects on various molecular processes.

A Greek study conducted in 2014 looked at Manuka honey’s effects on diabetic ulcers. Using a total of 63 patients with type 2 diabetes, doctors placed honey-soaked dressings on one group and standard dressings on the other group. Following up with the patients every week for 16 weeks researchers found that the Manuka honey bandages led to a significant reduction in healing time as well as rapid disinfection of the ulcers.

Additionally, Manuka honey has shown to effectively treat antibiotic-resistant infections caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This strain being responsible for about 20,000 deaths each year. Research looking at genomic effects of MRSA exposed to Manuka honey noted a decrease in harmful genes in the strain, reducing its pathogenicity.

Manuka Honey Benefits

Manuka honey has shown to ease symptoms in patients who suffer from stomach ulcers, one of the most common diseases affecting humans today. Research has unveiled that Manuka honey preserves mucous glycoprotein that protects the stomach lining as well reduces cytokine formation that causes inflammation. In another study, the honey prevented the growth of the H. pylori. – a stomach bacteria that causes ulcers. These ulcers can lead to infection and in some cases even cancer. Additionally, Manuka honey has shown to attack C. diff cells and decrease inflammation caused by Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

With its antiviral and antibacterial properties, Manuka honey can improve oral health as well. The methylglyoxal attacks microbes that cause irritation and inflammation and decreases healing time. A recent study looked at patients undergoing chemotherapy who developed hyposalivation (dry throat). Patients who consumed the honey experienced a significant decrease in streptococcus, a bacterium that causes a persistent sore throat. Ingestion also showed a reduction in the oral bacteria P. gingivalis and A. actinomycetemcomitans which can cause oral infections and periodontal disease.

Manuka honey can even clear up your skin. The honey has become a common pairing with gentle cleansers to treat mild to severe acne. Its antimicrobial properties kill germs that cause breakouts and its anti-inflammatory nature reduces the redness and swelling associated with acne. A study conducted in 2016 looking at the topical benefits of Manuka honey found that medical-grade Manuka honey was just as effective at treating acne as standard antibacterial soap. It has also shown to successfully treat painful and itchy eczema as well.

Manuka Honey Uses

Like much of the anecdotal evidence and scientific studies conclude, Manuka honey has many uses. Taken orally, this honey can ease gastrointestinal issues, fight off infections and even assist in the healing of internal wounds such as digestive inflammation, gingivitis, and stomach ulcers. Topically, the honey can successfully treat wounds such as acne, burns, pressure ulcers and bacterial infections thanks to its powerful antimicrobial properties, providing a protective barrier. Used daily, Manuka honey can strengthen immunity by helping balance bacteria that could otherwise cause harm. Its potential to replace numerous treatment options is what’s propelled it to such popularity.

Manuka Honey Daily Dose

manuka honey skincare

Manuka honey is safe for most but should not be consumed by those allergic to bees or honey, infants, or those with diabetes since all honey is high in sugar. It’s important to get tested for any food allergies before trying Manuka honey. For digestive benefits, it’s recommended that a person consume 1 to 2 tablespoons each day. You may take it straight or with foods such as toast or tea if you dislike the taste.

Used as a topical to treat eczema or acne, Manuka honey can be added to facial masks or used on its own. You should leave the Manuka honey mask on for at least 15 minutes, but it can be left on for up to an hour to maximize results. When used to treat minor wounds, you may apply honey to a bandage or place it directly on the wound. Covering the wound with a waterproof dressing can prevent the honey from leaking out. Do keep in mind that severe cuts should be checked by a doctor before any home treatment.

How to Select Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is sold in many places, but not all Manuka honey is created equal. Misleading terms like “active Manuka honey” can refer to the antibacterial effects that are found in all types of honey. Instead, look for its UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) rating. The UMF rating is determined by its antibacterial performance compared to disinfectant phenol. The lowest UMF rating recognized is UMF5, but the honey is not considered beneficial unless it is UMF 10 or greater. Authentic products will have a UMF seal depicting where the product lies on the grading system. Products should also have the manufacturer’s name and license number on the label.

Is Manuka Honey Worth the Money?

Compared to other kinds of honey, stocking up on Manuka honey will thin your wallet. Ranging from $20 to over $100 a jar the golden liquid is not for everyone. However, unlike other honey, Manuka honey contains the unique ingredient methylglyoxal, which gives it unique healing properties. For those looking for natural alternatives to treat digestive issues, minor cuts or wounds, as well skin or oral conditions with minimal side effects – it’s worth the extra cost.

About the author

Dr. Cynthia Thaik, M.D. is a Harvard-trained cardiologist serving the greater Los Angeles community at her holistic health center in Burbank and Valencia, CA. Dr. Thaik is the author of Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core. To learn more about Dr. Thaik or the Holistic Healing Heart Center, or to schedule an appointment, please contact staff@drcynthia.com or call (818) 842-1410.