Manuka honey comes from the flower of the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) that is native to New Zealand and has been found to have amazing antibacterial properties. Whilst all honey has some level of antibacterial action, produced by enzymes in the honey, some honeys are more potent than others.
Honey has long been used for medical purposes both internally for relief from coughs, colds, stomach pain, indigestion, ulcers, etc, and externally to heal wounds and cuts. Ibn al-Qayyim described some of the many benefits of honey in his Prophetic medicine. He said that "nothing of this kind has been created for us which is more excellent, nor even similar or near to it in quality", and mentioned many of the healing, cleansing and preserving benefits of honey for the body, which are detailed in a previous article.
Modern research has investigated the healing properties of manuka honey and numerous studies have found it to be a powerful antimicrobial and antifungal when applied topically and ingested.
Fights Superbugs and Heals Wounds
In separate studies, researchers found that manuka honey is able to combat MRSA, a hospital infection that is resistant to all but the most powerful antibiotics. They found that the honey inhibited the growth of the bacteria even at very low concentrations. Another study found that bandages soaked in manuka honey given to cancer patients a Manchester hospital, reduce their chances of contracting the MRSA superbug and lessened wound inflammation following surgery. This honey is now used routinely and is licensed for use in NHS hospitals for dressing wounds and as sterilized manuka honey creams.
The honey not only fights infection and aids tissue healing but has been found in clinical trials to reduce inflammation and scarring. It has also been used successfully, when taken orally, on digestive problems, from diarrhea and indigestion to stomach ulcers and gastroenteritis. Its healing properties appear to be due to the presence of the enzyme glucose oxidase, which produces hydrogen peroxide - an antiseptic - and its high sugar concentration, which inhibits bacterial growth.
A study published in the European Journal of Medical Research in 2003 discovered that manuka honey - when compared with conventional treatments for infected postoperative Caesarean sections and hysterectomy wounds - had an 85 per cent success rate compared with 50 per cent for routine treatments.
Fights Gum Disease
Despite its sweetness, manuka honey has been found to disrupt three types of bacteria in the mouth which cause tooth decay.
In laboratory tests, it sharply reduced the acid levels produced by Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus sobrinus and Lactobacillus caseii.
Research by Professor Molan, a biochemist and director of the honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato, has shown that reducing the amount of acid stops the bacteria from producing dextran, which sticks dental plaque to the surface of teeth. He recommends rubbing manuka into the gums after brushing or, since it retains its anti-microbial properties even when diluted up to 50 times, it can be used as a mouthwash.
Soothes Sore Throats
Some forms of manuka honey have been linked to fighting infections, such as the bacteria streptoccous pyogones, that causes sore throats. Professor Molan found that taking a teaspoon three times a day, and keeping it in the mouth for as long as possible before swallowing, prevented most throat infections from developing or worsening.
Using honey, including manuka honey of varying strengths, during exercise was found to be as successful at improving performance and power among athletes as specialist energy drinks. Researchers found three to five teaspoons of honey reduced the time to complete a 64 km time trial by more than three minutes and improved cycling power by 6 per cent compared to a placebo.
Unique Manuka Factor (UMF)
So strong is its anti-bacterial component, that manuka honey has been given its own classification, the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). Strengths range from UMF5, which is believed to be equivalent to a 5 per cent solution of a standard antiseptic, to UMF20, which is equivalent to a 20 per cent solution of antiseptic. Different strengths are recommended for treating different conditions.
Manuka honeys below UMF 10 are recommended for maintaining general health and good digestion. UMF10 to UMF15 are for indigestion, heartburn and diarrhea. They can also be used externally on cuts, grazes, burns, fungal infections and wounds. UMF20 can treat gastroenteritis and stomach ulcers. There are also manuka honey creams for cold sores and skin conditions like eczema and acne.
Some Facts about Honey
- The nutritional value of honey varies depending on how it is produced and processed. The price of honey is usually a good indication of its quality. Mass produced, blended, imported honey is cheap, has very little flavor and bears little resemblance to real honey.
- Honey contains an amazing substance called propolis; a natural antibacterial produced by the bees to protect the hive from infection. That's why real honey never grows mould or goes off.
- Naturally produced, unfiltered honey contains pollen grains, making it an effective treatment for hay fever. Eating honey from your local hives, where the bees feed on the plants that trigger your allergies, can alleviate the symptoms of hay fever.
Here is a comprehensive list of research papers and publications about manuka honey