There’s lots of buzz about manuka honey benefits, and for good reason! This unique type of honey has spectacular antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a wonderful natural remedy for issues ranging from digestive distress to sore throats to skin conditions.
Manuka honey gets its name from the Manuka tree on the Eastern Cape of New Zealand. Only honey produced by the bees that pollinate those trees can be called manuka honey. All varieties of honey have health benefits, but research shows that manuka honey has even more impressive powers.
In 2008, two laboratories separately identified an active compound called methylglyoxal that’s a crucial force behind manuka honey’s formidable effects. A study published in one of the foremost research journals states that manuka honey demonstrated up to 100 times the antimicrobial activity of other varieties!
Since manuka honey is, well, honey, you can eat it the same way you would any other variety of sweet, golden bee butter—spread it on toast, stir it into a cup of tea or coffee, or use it to sweeten baked goods and other recipes. Some people also use manuka honey topically to speed wound healing and soothe skin flare-ups, or they may take a daily spoonful to boost immunity and improve digestion.
Research indicates that manuka honey has numerous health benefits. It appears to have the ability to reduce systemic inflammation, which is the root cause of many diseases. Some ongoing studies using medical-grade manuka honey have even shown that it can be used to treat diabetes as well as some types of cancer! Here are six manuka honey benefits we’re especially excited about.
There’s a long tradition of using honey to treat wounds, and scientists as well as clinical practitioners are now taking its healing properties quite seriously. According to a 2016 study, one reason for the surge of interest in honey is the rise of antibiotic resistance to conventional treatments.
Honey has awesome antibacterial and antioxidant capacities, plus it can create a protective barrier over wounds that seals in moisture and prevents infection. Findings published in 2017 show that it can actually enhance tissue regeneration. Separate research shows it can also decrease pain levels for burn patients, as well as treat acute burns and quell inflammatory responses.
Another study on the healing abilities of honey found that it was able to cure 88% of nonhealing wounds of various origins. The authors described it as a “simple, efficient, cheap” treatment that has shown no side effects and deserves to be better known. And the results of a randomized trial showed manuka honey can also improve the way that surgical wounds heal, particularly when it comes to scarring. Patients who received manuka honey treatment reported that their post-surgical scars were less stiff and significantly less painful than those who received vaseline treatment.
Manuka honey even appears to be able to treat wounds infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can be both challenging and costly to treat. Although its mechanism of action has not yet been fully identified, it’s clear that it functions as a “broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent.”
It’s important to note that in each of these studies, medical grade manuka honey was used.
While the idea of eating something sweet to improve your oral health may seem too good to be true, using manuka honey for this purpose is actually backed by science.
Optimal oral hygiene depends on maintaining a balance between wiping out bad bacteria that lead to plaque formation and other adverse health outcomes while protecting the good bacteria. Scientists have found that manuka honey specifically targets harmful oral bacteria linked to both tooth decay and gum inflammation.
A 2014 study concluded that honey shows potential as a treatment for periodontitis, a serious gum infection that can damage soft tissues and eat away at the bone that supports your teeth. In severe cases, it can even lead to tooth loss.
Another study investigated whether honey could reduce dental plaque and treat clinical levels of gingivitis. The researchers behind it developed a chewable “honey leather” that participants chewed after each meal. After 21 days, they had significantly less plaque as well as fewer bleeding sores related to gingivitis compared to the control group.
Your grandmother knew what she was doing when she made you tea with honey to help soothe a sore throat. Manuka honey can reduce inflammation while eradicating the bacteria that caused your throat to start hurting in the first place. Plus, it coats the inside of your throat, keeping the tender tissue safe.
Research tells us that manuka honey can inhibit the growth of problematic bacterial pathogens, including antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Manuka honey has even been used to disperse and kill bacteria living in biofilms, which are notoriously difficult to eradicate with antibiotic treatments. One study found it can rid the body of Streptococcus bacteria, the cause of strep throat.
Manuka honey can also be used to address other causes of sore throats. Findings published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation showed that manuka honey can lower throat pain levels for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment for head and neck cancer.
The majority of stomach ulcers—sores that form on the lining of the stomach, causing pain, nausea, and bloating—are caused by Helicobacter pylori, one of the most common kinds of bacteria. It appears that manuka honey can prevent the growth of Helicobacter pylori, meaning it could be a good treatment option.
Large-scale human trials have not yet been conducted, but the results of test-tube studies and research carried out with rats have been highly promising.
Researchers have discovered that regularly consuming manuka honey decreases symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to one study, it does this by reducing inflammation.
It can also relieve acute inflammation caused by Clostridium difficile (often called C. diff), a bacterial infection that results in severe diarrhea. Findings published in 2013 make it clear manuka honey can kill C. diff cells, meaning it could be an effective way to treat that type of infection.
More research, including studies with human subjects, is needed to definitely determine how manuka honey lowers inflammation and resolves digestive distress.
Natural beauty aficionados swear by manuka honey for skin health. Manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory effects can reduce redness and congestion associated with acne and eczema. Manuka also oxygenates your pores and draws out bacteria, which can prevent acne from popping up in the first place. Plus, its skin regenerative properties lessen scarring and other signs of damage.
While there’s limited hard evidence on the ability of manuka honey to treat acne and other skin conditions, what does exist confirms the hype. According to one study, compounds found in manuka honey can inhibit MMP, a group of enzymes that destroy your collagen.
As we already mentioned, you can use manuka honey the same way you would any other kind of honey. But that’s definitely not the end of the story. Here are a few of our favorite manuka honey uses.
Buying manuka honey used to be tricky for anyone who didn’t live in Australia or New Zealand. Thanks to its newfound popularity, you can now purchase it from a number of grocery stores as well as a variety of online retailers.
When buying manuka honey, it’s important to check the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). Manuka honey UMF starts at 5 and increases by increments of five, with the high end topping out at 20+. As the UMF increases, so does the concentration of Manuka nectar, meaning it’s a purer product—and likely a more expensive one. Finding manuka honey varieties with a UMF of 20+ can be more challenging, but it you want to use it for medicinal purposes, it’s likely worthwhile.