Manuka Honey: More Than A Sweetener
Sometimes, well many times, nature gives us the sweetest benefits. Honey and raw honey have been used for centuries for their health benefits, particularly Manuka Honey – more than a sweetener. Archeologists have found unspoiled honey thousands of years old in excavated tombs of ancient Egyptian royals.
While honey is still used for health, much of the honey today on the market doesn’t come close to its ancestors. Through pasteurization and modern industrial types of beekeeping, much of the honey sold in stores is basically fructose sugar with no health benefits. Manuka honey, though, is not just an ordinary table honey.
What’s in Manuka Honey that Makes It Healthy?
Manuka honey’s nutritional content can be up to four times of other kinds of honey.
Manuka is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and it contains antioxidants. It also has several B vitamins, calcium, amino acids, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc. However, the compound that gives manuka its most medicinal characteristic is methylglyoxal (MGO).
Professor Thomas Henle, Head of the Institute of Food Chemistry at the Technical University of Dresden, in 2008 discovered that manuka honey was rich in MGO. Methylglyoxal is an antimicrobial plant compound found in the pollen of the manuka flower that transfers to the honey. It’s found in small quantities in all honey and some other foods, such as cocoa. However, active manuka honey contains high concentrations of MGO which are necessary to kill bacteria and viruses.
Only manuka honey graded UMF 10 and up is considered to contain enough antibacterial activity to be beneficial. Manuka UMF rating goes as high as 26 and as low as 5. The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMF) evaluates and grades New Zealand manuka honey.
“‘Manuka honey should be one of the few food items for which a health-promoting property beyond the basic nutritional function can be clearly documented. Health claims require significant scientific consensus, and I think from a scientific point of view, the data concerning the Methylglyoxal-induced antimicrobial properties of Manuka honey are very promising to fulfill the requirements’ Professor Thomas Henle.”[i]
Health Benefits of Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is one of the most studied kinds of honey. While its strongest benefits are to the skin, studies show it may help with other health-related conditions. Here are areas in which manuka honey has been proven to be beneficial.
- Wound Healing – The high sugar content, low pH level, and antimicrobials in Manuka work together to heal and prevent infections from cuts and sores.
- Staph Infection – Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other superbug staph strains are on the rise due to the overuse and ineffectiveness of antibiotics. Research from UK’s Cardiff Metropolitan University found that manuka honey when applied topically to skin sores, cuts, and wounds, etc. may prevent MRSA.
- Wrinkles, Oily, Dry Skin – John Layke, MD, a Beverly Hills dermatologist, says manuka honey is a great moisturizer and can diminish the appearance of lines because it helps to remove dead skin cells. He also recommends the honey for oily skin that is blotchy or bumpy because of the antibacterial qualities of methylglyoxal.
Stomach and Digestive Conditions
In animal studies, manuka was shown to reduce inflammatory bowel disease. Research suggests ulcers caused by H. pylori may heal from high-grade manuka honey. The anti-inflammatory properties of the honey also showed the ability to reduce inflammation and pain from colitis.
The National Cancer Institute approves manuka honey for chemotherapy-related sore throats. It coats, soothes, and reduces the inflammation of a sore throat. In addition, manuka because of its antimicrobial properties may help sore throats caused by strep bacteria.
Some studies show that manuka honey can reduce plaque buildup on teeth and prevent gum disease, such as gingivitis. A 2010 India study showed that manuka honey had the same results as chlorhexidine, an antimicrobial mouthwash.
Buying Authentic Manuka Honey
Just because a label says it’s manuka honey doesn’t mean that it is. Because of its popularity and high price, counterfeit manuka honey is being marketed. Manuka has a very distinctive, stronger taste than other honeys. It’s also a little darker in color and is costly (the higher the grade, the pricier). There are, however, other concrete methods to distinguish manuka honey from imposters. Here’s what to look for when buying manuka honey:
- Look for the UMF trademark on the label.
- The labels should indicate that it’s a New Zealand UMF licensed company.
- The company’s UMF license number should be on the label.
- All UMF graded honey will have the honey’s UMF rating number on the label (from 5 to 26).
- If in doubt, the UMF website lists licensed companies (http://www.umf.org.nz/). You can also enter a license number from the product label to verify that a beekeeper is an accredited licensee.
How to Use Manuka Honey
One of the most common ways people use Manuka is to eat a tablespoon or two a day. Manuka can also be used as a spread on toast, English muffins, bagels, etc. Mixing it with some cinnamon or turmeric will add additional antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. It can also be added to oatmeal, chia puddings, smoothies, juices, tea, coffee, etc.
The medicinal benefits of Manuka honey prove once again that food can be medicine. Nature provides many beneficial nutrients that are not only healthy but can also heal. All that is necessary is that the healing secrets of nature be unlocked, which many scientists are beginning to do.
[i] Manuka Online, MGO Manuka Honey, Web.
Axe, Dr. 10 Proven Manuka Honey Benefits & Uses. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/manuka-honey-benefits-uses/.
Berheiser, Kaitlyn, RD, LDN. 7 Health Benefits of Manuka Honey, Based on Science. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/manuka-honey-uses-benefits.
Cokcetin, Nural and Blair Shona, UTS. Manuka honey: Is it really a “superfood” for treating colds, alleries and infections? (September 15, 2017). Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-15/manuka-honey-is-it-really-a-superfood-for-colds-and-infections/8949110.
Layke, John, Dr. Manuka Honey: Is It The Best Type Of Honey For Your Skin (January 20, 2017). Retrieved from https://beverlyhillsmd.com/skin-benefits-manuka-honey/.
Mavric, Elvira, et al. Identification and quantification of methylglyoxal as the dominant antibacterial constituent of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honeys from New Zealand (April 01, 2008). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.200700282.
MGO Manuka Honey. Retrived from https://www.manukaonline.com/mgo-Manuka-Honey-benefits.html.
Weil, Andrew, M.D. Can Honey Heal? (January 1, 2013). Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/wellness-therapies/can-honey-heal/.