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Manuka honey is a type of dark honey produced by bees that pollinate flowers of the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium), a shrub native to New Zealand.
Health Benefits of Manuka Honey
Manuka honey has several health benefits, primarily due to its unique composition and properties. Here are some of its potential uses and benefits:
1. Supports Wound Healing
Studies have shown that manuka honey can benefit wound healing in various types of wounds, including surgical wounds, burns, pressure ulcers, and cancer-related wounds. The antibacterial properties of manuka honey, particularly its high content of methylglyoxal (MGO), help prevent and treat wound infections, including those caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA.
Additionally, manuka honey helps create a moist wound environment, reduce inflammation, promote new tissue growth, and aid in the removal of dead tissue from the wound. It has been found to be effective in promoting rapid wound healing.
2. Promotes Oral Health
Despite its natural sugars, manuka honey has been found to have beneficial effects on oral health. It possesses natural antibacterial properties that can inhibit the growth of harmful oral bacteria, including those associated with gum disease and tooth decay.
Studies have shown that manuka honey-based mouthwash products can significantly reduce plaque formation and gingivitis, although they may not be as effective as the gold standard plaque control agent, chlorhexidine. However, manuka honey has been found to improve gum health measures when used in combination with non-surgical periodontal treatment for individuals with periodontitis (advanced gum disease).
3. Soothes a Sore Throat
Manuka honey can be beneficial in soothing a sore throat due to its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It coats the inner lining of the throat, providing a soothing effect while also destroying harmful microbes that may be causing the infection.
Furthermore, honey, including manuka honey, has been found to be effective in suppressing coughs caused by upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). It has been suggested as a potential alternative to antibiotics for treating URTIs, which may help reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
4. Potential Digestive Health Benefits
Manuka honey contains nondigestible compounds like oligosaccharides, which may act as prebiotics, supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Although evidence on the effects of manuka honey on digestive health is limited and mixed, some studies have shown potential benefits.
For example, a test-tube study found that manuka honey can improve the balance of bacteria in the gut. Additionally, a study in rats with ulcerative colitis found that manuka honey improved antioxidant status and inflammation in the digestive system. However, more human studies are needed to fully understand the effects of manuka honey on digestive health.
Side Effects of Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is generally safe to consume and use topically, but there are some potential side effects and precautions to be aware of:
Allergic reactions: Although rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to manuka honey. Symptoms can range from mild coughing to severe life-threatening reactions like anaphylaxis. If you have known allergies to bee stings or other types of honey, it is best to avoid manuka honey.
Weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels: Manuka honey is relatively high in calories and natural sugars. Consuming excessive amounts of manuka honey can lead to weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels, especially in individuals with diabetes. It is important to consume manuka honey in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Infant botulism: Manuka honey should not be given to infants under 12 months of age due to the risk of infant botulism, a condition characterized by muscle weakness and loss of muscle tone.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Due to limited research, it is recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding individuals avoid consuming manuka honey in larger amounts than what is typically found in food.
Honey allergy or bee allergy: Individuals with a known allergy to honey or bees should avoid manuka honey, as it may cause an allergic reaction.
It is always advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before using manuka honey or any other supplement, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.
How to Choose and Store Manuka Honey
When choosing manuka honey, it is important to look for products that are certified by reputable organizations like the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) grading system in New Zealand or the Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) in Australia. These certifications ensure the purity and authenticity of the honey.
Manuka honey should be stored in its original container in a dry, cool location away from direct sunlight. If stored properly, manuka honey can have a shelf life of up to three years.
Manuka honey has several potential uses and benefits, particularly in wound healing and oral health. It possesses unique antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties that make it a valuable natural remedy. However, it is important to note that manuka honey should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment, and it is always advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before using it. When choosing manuka honey, look for reputable certifications to ensure its purity and authenticity. Remember to consume manuka honey in moderation as part of a balanced diet.