Honey has been cherished for centuries as a natural elixir with numerous health benefits, and Manuka honey takes this reputation to a whole new level. This exceptional honey variety, derived from the nectar of the manuka tree in New Zealand, is not just your ordinary sweetener; it's a powerhouse of wellness for your body and a secret treasure for your skin.
Manuka honey hails from the pristine lands of New Zealand, where the native Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium) blossoms with the sweet nectar that bees diligently collect. But what sets Manuka honey apart from most honey is its unique composition, containing potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant compounds, making it a true superstar in the world of natural remedies.
But what is Manuka honey good for? What are the health benefits of Manuka honey? In this post below, we'll explain what makes manuka honey different from other types of honey and how that unique manuka factor plays such a pivotal role in its health benefits!
If you are allergic to other types of honey or have a bee allergy, you can experience an allergic reaction after ingesting or applying Manuka honey.
What Is Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey, also referred to as tea tree honey, is exclusively produced from the nectar collected from the blossoms of the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium). This particular plant is indigenous to New Zealand. European honey bees can only pollinate these flowers during the two to six weeks out of the year when the manuka bushes bloom. This short blooming period, as well as the high concentration of active compounds found in honey made only from manuka nectar, explains the high price tag of manuka honey when compared to traditional local honey.
The distinctive feature that distinguishes Manuka honey from other varieties is its remarkable composition, which incorporates powerful bioactive compounds such as methylglyoxal (MGO) and dihydroxyacetone (DHA). These compounds give Manuka honey its remarkable antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
The quality and potency of real Manuka honey are often indicated by its Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating or MGO rating. UMF measures the concentration of specific beneficial compounds, while MGO refers to the content of methylglyoxal. The greater the UMF or MGO rating, the more potent and beneficial the honey is perceived to be.
Because of its distinctive characteristics and limited availability, authentic and premium Manuka honey tends to be pricier compared to regular honey. To ensure you are getting authentic and the best Manuka honey, look for reputable brands that provide proof of authenticity, such as UMF certification or labeling by a licensed New Zealand company.
Manuka Honey Vs. Traditional Honey
Traditional honey is made from nectar which bees forage from all sorts of flowers. Manuka honey is made solely from the nectar of manuka flowers. Because the specific benefits of manuka flowers are concentrated in manuka honey, it enhances the various properties that are already present in traditional honey, albeit to a smaller degree.
Manuka honey exhibits a darker and thicker appearance compared to other types of honey. It looks grainy and has a consistency similar to molasses. This is partly due to the fact that a significant portion of available manuka honey is unpasteurized. Raw honey of all types has a thicker consistency.
Although there are many benefits to manuka honey, it does not have the benefit of reducing seasonal allergy symptoms by desensitizing you to the pollen of the area, as local honey can do.
Health Benefits Of Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is a powerful antibacterial! Natural honey has always been known for its antibacterial healing properties since the ancient Egyptian days. This is because of the naturally-occurring hydrogen peroxide. However, manuka honey benefits from methylglyoxal as well! Methylglyoxal is incredibly strong, with clinical and mechanistic studies showing it as effective against antibiotic-resistant strains of staph infections!! So the bacteria hiding in your pores causing acne don't stand a chance. For acne-prone skin, utilizing manuka honey as a topical treatment is considered one of the most beneficial approaches.
Manuka honey contains flavonoid and polyphenol compounds that serve as powerful anti-inflammatories. Many standard medications that reduce inflammation, such as corticosteroids and NSAIDs, have significant adverse side effects. The anti-inflammatory properties of manuka honey have shown in studies that they are on par with these medications in reducing inflammation, and it is more easily tolerated by the body.
The same polyphenolic compounds that give Manuka honey its anti-inflammatory properties also make it a strong antioxidant! Antioxidants fight against the unstable free radical molecules that cause chronic health problems.
Containing fructo-oligosaccharaides, manuka honey is an effective prebiotic! Prebiotics help support healthy gut bacteria, and manuka honey specifically stimulates the growth of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Additionally, manuka honey can inhibit the growth of a damaging bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori, which can cause indigestion, stomach ulcers, and gastric cancer.
Manuka honey is deeply nourishing and hydrating to the skin due to its amino acids, fructose, and glucose. Besides being hydrating, it also operates as a humectant. Humectants pull water from the air down into the skin. This makes them hydrate in two ways - by using their own moisture and by pulling moisture from other sources.
Applications Of Manuka Honey's Benefits
A combination of manuka honey benefits - such as its antimicrobial properties, antibacterial properties, and ability to maintain a hydrating and protective barrier - make it a superstar when it comes to wound treatment.
Medical-grade manuka honey can treat wounds of all types, ranging from typical scrapes to diabetic foot ulcers. By combatting existing wound infections originating from within and forming a protective barrier against external bacterial threats, manuka honey plays a crucial role in the healing process. Moreover, its ability to encourage healthy tissue regeneration expedites wound healing, reducing the overall treatment duration. (1, 2)
Manuka honey can be used to treat burns and shorten healing times compared to traditional burn dressings. It serves a similar function as with wound healing, but the benefits of manuka honey when it comes to tissue regeneration is particularly helpful with healing burns. (3)
An increasing amount of studies are showing that manuka honey is beneficial in supporting oral health. Its potent antibacterial properties actively fight against harmful oral bacteria that can lead to plaque build-up, periodontal disease, and tooth decay. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to decrease gum inflammation. Manuka honey can be directly consumed, or you can use a manuka honey chew daily to prevent tooth decay. (4)
Consuming manuka honey or adding it to a hot tea will dramatically soothe a sore throat. This is because of the anti-inflammatory effects of New Zealand manuka honey, which will reduce inflammation of the throat and prevent coughs. The antibacterial effects also help to fight against whatever cold or infection is causing the sore throat in the first place! All of this is particularly helpful for children, for whom many cold medications are either not suitable or ineffective. (5)
Because manuka honey is a powerful prebiotic, consuming a tablespoon a day will promote a healthy gut microbiome. Manuka honey provides a type of carbohydrate that we ourselves cannot digest, but our healthy gut bacteria can! (6)
The many health benefits of manuka honey are particularly helpful against various skin disorders. Raw honey is a beauty treatment that goes back thousands of years. Applying manuka honey to the skin, or using facial creams that contain manuka honey as an active ingredient, will treat acne, decrease inflammation from rosacea, hydrate the skin, and provide a general antibacterial effect to reduce blemishes. (7, 8)
Antibiotic-resistance is becoming a larger and larger issue in the medical field. Scientific research has demonstrated that the consumption of manuka honey is particularly effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA infections can be deadly if not affected by antibiotics, so it is encouraging that manuka honey appears to be able to fight against this harmful bacteria. (9)
Gastric ulcers are sores that develop on the stomach lining, causing significant stomach pain and discomfort. Manuka honey benefits patients struggling with gastric ulcers in many ways. It reduces inflammation, fights infection caused by H. pylori bacteria, and increases the amount of certain enzymes that repair oxidative damage. (10)
Manuka honey's antibacterial properties can help manage the negative side effects of antibiotics in cystic fibrosis patients who tend to develop upper respiratory infections. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia are the typical microbes responsible for these potentially deadly infections for these patients. Manuka honey has been shown to be extremely effective in killing these specific bacteria. (11)