Manuka honey, like other raw honey, is truly a gift from the bees. With a rich history and impressive profile, this honey has reason to be celebrated.
Along with hydrogen peroxide, manuka honey contains methylglyoxal (MGO) and dihydroxyacetone, two chemical substances with high antimicrobial action, and probably other bioactive compounds that give it additional potency. These chemicals are more stable than hydrogen peroxide which easily gets neutralized by heat, moisture, enzymatic action. Manuka honey is actually graded according to its non-peroxide antibacterial potency, referred to as Unique Manuka Factor (UMF).
Although the medical fraternity has been slow to recognize the healing capacity of manuka honey, it has slowly gained acceptance in the treatment of wounds and burns. Eventually, in 2007, FDA approved its use in medicated bandages named Medihoney.
How to Choose the Best Manuka Honey
UMF of Manuka honey varies from batch to batch and from one season to another. Manuka honeys are graded from UMF 0-30, based on laboratory tests that compare its antimicrobial action to different concentrations of phenol. For example, manuka honey with UMF 10 is equivalent to the antibacterial action of 10% phenol, and UMF 15 to 15% phenol.
Manuka honey is very expensive because of its medicinal properties as well as exclusivity. But anything below UMF 10 does not justify paying a premium for it since it is only as good as any other type of natural honey. UMF 10-15 provides some additional benefits and would be sufficient for maintaining general health and vitality, but if you are intending to take advantage of the therapeutic effects of manuka honey, you should go for UMF 15+ or, if possible, UMF 20+.
The Incredible Health Benefits of Manuka Honey:
1. Manuka honey is an excellent nutritional supplement
Honey is naturally rich in fructose and many other reducing sugars, amino acids, enzymes and B-complex vitamins, particularly thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), and B6. Amino acids in honey are mainly proline, tyrosine, lysine, and phenylalanine with valine, arginine, histidine and glutamic acid in lesser amounts. The nutritional value of honey is partially dependent on its mineral content which includes calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese in various amounts.
The mineral content of honey is usually determined by testing its electrical conductivity; the higher the conductivity, the higher the mineral content. Manuka honey generally exhibits four times the conductivity of regular honey, proving to be much superior in mineral content. Those with UMF15 or lower could still be an excellent nutritional supplement on account of this.
2. Manuka honey relieves gastritis
Gastritis, or the inflammation of the stomach lining, can be caused by bacterial infections, bile reflux, the use of aspirin and similar non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and excessive alcohol intake. Gastritis causes stomach pain and discomfort, bloating, vomiting, indigestion and heartburn. Left untreated, it can result in severe blood loss, and in some cases, stomach cancer.
Honey is commonly used for gastritis, but manuka honey with its high antimicrobial activity is even more beneficial. It has been found to be effective against Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria most commonly seen in the highly acidic environment of the stomach. This bacterium is implicated in most cases of stomach ulcers that develop into cancer.
According to a report published in 1994 in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Manuka honey had been found to be potent against 7 different Helicobacter pylori strains, but a similar effect was not observed with other types of honey. It could be because the stomach enzymes deactivated the hydrogen peroxide in the honey, but not the MGO in manuka honey.
3. Prevents and repairs damage to the colon
Manuka honey has been found to be effective in preventing colonic inflammation and effecting the repair of colon lining damaged due to chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Although the symptoms of IBD such as stomach pain and cramps are similar to those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the two are different in many aspects.
IBS is the most common gastrointestinal complaint characterized by constipation and diarrhea in addition to stomach discomfort. However, it is a functional disorder unlike the IBD which displays similar symptoms, but is associated with inflammation and other structural changes in the bowel lining, as in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
In laboratory experiments conducted on rats with chemically induced colonic damage, oral administration of manuka honey was found to not only reduce the inflammation, but protect against structural damage too.
4. Boosts immunity
People who have used manuka honey regularly for its health benefits often report increased resistance to diseases. The high nutritional value of the honey, especially the presence of a wide range of vitamins and minerals could be responsible, but it is mainly attributed to the immune-boosting capacity of manuka honey. Lab tests have shown that it contains certain substances that can stimulate cytokine production.
Cytokines are signaling proteins involved in immune reactions by the body. They kickstart the defense mechanisms of the body and gets it to fight off pathogens and diseases. Increased cytokine production is behind manuka honey’s protective action against potential infections and diseases.
5. Common Cold and Flu
Taking manuka honey during the flu season may protect you against catching the bug. Colds and flu are highly contagious infections caused by viruses. They are seasonal ailments since the microbes proliferate only when atmospheric conditions are just right.
Taking a teaspoon of manuka honey 2-3 times a day may help you tide over the cold and flu season without incident, thanks to its immune-boosting action. In the event of you getting a cold, a honey drink can ease the symptoms.
6. Cough remedy
Honey is a traditional cough remedy often taken with or without lemon juice. It soothes the lining of the throat and decreases discomfort and irritation. Manuka honey is even more effective because of its higher antimicrobial action, thanks to the presence of MGO and other bioactive compounds besides the hydrogen peroxide found in other honeys.
Cough lozenges containing manuka honey and propolis are available, but you can get the same benefit by taking 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw Manuka honey with UMF 15+ or more.
Manuka honey is an effective remedy for tonsillitis, which is a painful inflammation of the tonsils found on either side of the throat. The lymph tissue that makes up the tonsils is part of our immune system and produces white blood cells that fight off pathogenic bacteria and viruses that try to enter the body through the mouth. In the process, the tonsils themselves become infected and inflamed. A sore throat, difficulty in swallowing food and fever are common symptoms.
Tonsillitis is often treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. In case of severe, recurring tonsillitis, tonsils may be surgically removed. However, natural remedies like manuka honey should be tried instead of surgical removal or antibiotic treatments that are potentially harmful.
Taking a teaspoonful of manuka honey 3-4 times a day brings down the infection and inflammation whether it is caused by bacteria or virus. It acts by directly destroying the pathogens with its antimicrobial substances as well as stimulating body’s own defense system.
8. Chronic Sinusitis
Manuka honey is a blessing to people suffering from chronic sinusitis that takes several weeks to resolve, even with the use of antibiotics. The reason is that, the microbes that cause the infection of the warm, moist sinus chambers often make a biofilm with a polysaccharide matrix that prevents antibiotics from reaching the target.
Honey has a drying effect on the mucosal lining, which helps bring down sinus congestion. Its capacity to draw out water helps it to destroy the bacterial biofilms. Manuka honey, in particular, can act against virulent bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa that are the common pathogens found in sinus infections. The Methylglyoxal (MGO) in this honey should be responsible for this effect.
Many people use manuka honey in a neti pot to irrigate the sinuses, but intake of high grade (UMF 15+) could be just as effective.
9. Improves dental health
It may be counterintuitive to think that something as sweet as honey would have any part in promoting dental health. But there’s proof that manuka honey and propolis can help improve dental health and fight dental plaque.
The high mineral content of the manuka honey, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc, in particular, help build strong teeth that resist tooth decay. Besides that, eating manuka honey and chewing the propolis resulted in a 35% reduction in plaque formation, according to a study conducted by the School of Dentistry, at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
Inflammation of the gum (gingivitis) and the periodontal disease called pyorrhea that results from severe gum infection and decay can be prevented or controlled by manuka honey. Use it regularly to combat bad breath too.
10. Manuka honey as facial mask
Manuka honey makes an excellent facial cleanser and toner. It is mild enough to be used on a regular basis and better than chemical cleaners any day. The hygroscopic nature of honey draws out the dirt and grime trapped in the hair follicles and facilitates the free flow of natural oils.
Manuka honey has a pH around 4.5 which helps lower the skin pH, keeping it optimally acidic. Alkalinity makes the skin dry and prone to eczema and other skin disorders. Antibacterial and antifungal action of manuka honey help to control the microbial overload in the skin pores and prevents acne.
Apply manuka honey in a thin layer and work it in. It helps to cover the face with a wet towel wrung out in warm water. This will make the honey penetrate deeper into the skin. It also allows the honey to hydrate the skin by drawing in water and acting as a humectant. Use a moisturizer after washing off the honey.
11. Manuka honey helps resolve rosacea
Rosacea is a skin disorder characterized by enlarged skin pores which often become red and inflamed. It is accompanied by soreness, scarring, and disfigurement of nose, cheeks and chin. Although this condition is considered incurable, treatment with Manuka honey has shown great promise, almost completely restoring the natural skin texture in many cases.
The cleansing action of manuka honey helps clear out the pores while it tightens the skin and reduces pore size. While its anti-inflammatory action brings down redness and soreness, its antibacterial and antifungal properties help control microorganisms that complicate rosacea. Use manuka honey of UMF15- 20, but test for skin sensitivity before applying it on the face.
12. Manuka honey for eczema and hives
Many skin conditions such as eczema and hives result from allergies and autoimmune problems. Characterized by extreme skin dryness and scaling, eczema can be worsened by scratching, which can result in the skin peeling and starting to ooze. It can be further complicated by secondary infections by opportunistic bacteria and fungi.
Manuka honey can be used to manage eczema and prevent complications. A mixture of Manuka honey, Manuka oil and beeswax can act as a moisturizing shield on the damaged skin and keep it intact. It helps hydrate the skin and protect against infections.
13. Heals cuts and burns faster
Honey has long been used for treating cuts and burns, but Manuka honey is exceptionally good for this owing to its higher antimicrobial effect. Honey’s mechanism of action is multipronged. On contact with water and body fluids, the hydrogen peroxide reacts by releasing oxygen and disinfecting the wound. Its hygroscopic nature draws out water and pus from the wounds, making it impossible for microbes to survive.
Manuka honey has an additional action, thanks to the MGO. It is effective against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Vancomycin- resistant Enterococci. Besides the direct action on pathogens, it also triggers cytokine production, accelerating body’s own defense mechanisms.
14. Manuka honey for treating athlete’s foot and ringworm
Manuka honey is effective against athlete’s foot and ringworm, two of the most common fungal infections of the skin. While the former usually appears in skin folds and areas that remain warm and moist, ringworm can occur anywhere.
Applying honey to the affected area will relieve the itch and help clear the infection, thanks to the antifungal action of the honey. The sticky nature of honey will make it stay on the site and do the trick, but you can use it on a bandage if you prefer.
15. To control dandruff and scalp problems
Manuka honey’s healing properties can improve your scalp health and control problems like dandruff. Dandruff, whether it is oily or dry, is a result of scalp dryness and flaking of dead skin. Excess oil production by the scalp glands is actually an attempt to counteract scalp dryness, but it often results in other problems like scalp acne.
Honey applied to the scalp draws out dirt and grime from the skin pores. It also draws in water from the atmosphere, keeping the skin hydrated. The antimicrobial properties work against bacteria as well as fungi such as Malassezia globosa and M. furfur that are implicated in dandruff and folliculitis.
16. To reduce hair loss
Premature thinning of hair could be due to deficiency of minerals and vitamins or undernourishment of the scalp. Dandruff resulting from the dryness of the scalp could be another reason.
Manuka honey with its high mineral content, amino acids, and B-complex vitamins can nourish the scalp and rejuvenate the hair follicles. Apply honey on the scalp and rub it in with your fingers. Wash with a mild conditioner mixed with a teaspoon of honey to maintain good hydration.
17. Prevent frizz and split ends
The hygroscopic nature of honey makes it act as humectants when applied to the hair. It draws water from the surrounding air and locks it in, preventing the hair becoming dry and brittle. To get smooth, shiny hair without frizz, add a teaspoon of Manuka honey of UMF 5-10 to your regular conditioner. On rinsing the hair with the conditioner, your hair will become shiny and smooth as silk.
Honey is sticky, of course, but using it this way will not make your hair sticky. The protective coating will, in fact, keep dust and pollutants from spoiling your hair.