Manuka Honey Uses Understanding the Potential Benefits and Uses of Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is a unique type of honey produced by bees that pollinate the flowers of the manuka bush, which is native to New Zealand. This dark honey is known for its rich antibacterial properties, thanks to the compound methylglyoxal (MGO) found in high concentrations. In addition to its antibacterial effects, manuka honey also possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can promote wound healing and support oral health.

Health Benefits of Manuka Honey

Manuka honey offers a range of potential health benefits, although it is important to note that it should not be used as a cure-all or as a substitute for medical treatment without proper supervision. Here are some of the potential uses and benefits of manuka honey:

1. Supports Wound Healing

Various studies have shown that manuka honey can benefit different types of wounds, including surgical wounds, burns, pressure ulcers, and cancer-related wounds. In fact, the FDA has even approved a manuka honey-based wound dressing for the treatment of mild to moderate wounds.

One retrospective study conducted in 2021 involving 15 individuals with chronic nonhealing wounds found that the topical application of manuka honey for four weeks led to rapid wound healing. This is believed to be due to the honey’s ability to create a moist wound environment, reduce inflammation, support new tissue growth, and remove dead tissue from the wound quickly.

Moreover, the antibacterial properties of manuka honey make it effective in preventing and treating wound infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a type of bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics.

2. May Promote Oral Health

Despite its high sugar content, manuka honey possesses natural antibacterial properties that can support oral health and protect against cavities. A review conducted in 2020, which included five randomized control trials and 11 test tube studies, found that manuka honey can inhibit the growth of harmful oral bacteria, including Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans.

Additionally, a randomized control trial conducted in 2018 involving 135 children examined the effects of manuka honey, raw honey, and chlorhexidine mouthwash on plaque formation and gum disease. The results showed that while chlorhexidine was the most effective in plaque control, honey-based mouthwash products also significantly reduced plaque formation and gingivitis.

A pilot study conducted in 2023 on 15 individuals with periodontitis (advanced gum disease) found that when manuka honey was used in combination with non-surgical periodontal treatment, it improved gum health measures, including pocket depth reduction (PPD) and clinical attachment level (CAL) gain.

However, it is important to note that the sample sizes of these studies were small, so further research is needed to determine the effects of manuka honey on oral health in the general population.

3. May Help Soothe a Sore Throat

Manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties make it a potential treatment option for sore throats. It can help soothe the throat by coating the inner lining and destroying harmful microbes.

There is also evidence to suggest that honey, in general, can help suppress coughs caused by upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). A review conducted in 2021, which analyzed 14 studies, found that honey was superior to typical care in treating cough severity and frequency in individuals with URTIs. Honey could potentially be an alternative to antibiotics, which may help reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

However, it is important to note that most studies have used traditional honey, so the effectiveness of manuka honey for this purpose is not yet fully understood.

4. Digestive Health

Honey contains nondigestible compounds like oligosaccharides, which can potentially act as prebiotics and support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. However, evidence regarding the effects of manuka honey on gut health remains limited and mixed.

One older study conducted in a test tube found that manuka honey can improve the balance of bacteria in the gut. However, a human pilot study conducted in 2022 found no significant benefit.

Manuka honey may also help reduce inflammation in the digestive system. A study conducted in 2019 found that manuka honey improved antioxidant status and reduced inflammation in rats with ulcerative colitis. Another study conducted in 2017 on rats found that manuka honey may help treat chronic stomach ulcers.

Further research is needed to fully understand the effects of manuka honey on digestive health in humans.

Side Effects of Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is generally safe to consume, but there are some potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Calorie and Sugar Content: Manuka honey is relatively high in calories and sugar. One tablespoon of manuka honey contains 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar. Excessive consumption may lead to weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels, especially in individuals with diabetes.

  • Allergic Reactions: While rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to manuka honey. Symptoms can range from mild coughing to severe life-threatening reactions called anaphylaxis. Individuals with known allergies to bee stings or other types of honey should avoid manuka honey.

Precautions

There are certain precautions to keep in mind when using manuka honey:

  • Infants: 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, pregnant and breastfeeding individuals should avoid consuming manuka honey in larger amounts than what is typically found in food.

  • Allergies: If you have a known allergy to honey or bees, it is best to avoid manuka honey to prevent an allergic reaction.

Dosage: How Much Manuka Honey Should I Use?

There are no official recommendations for the amount of manuka honey to consume. However, since honey is considered an added sugar, moderation is key.

The American Heart Association recommends that males consume less than 36 grams of added sugar daily, while females should consume less than 25 grams. If you do not have any other sources of added sugar in your diet, you can consume a maximum of 1 to 2 tablespoons of manuka honey daily.

When using manuka honey topically for wound healing, it is recommended to apply a thin layer of honey onto the wound or cut and cover it with a sterile dressing.

Interactions

There is no evidence of major drug interactions with manuka honey. However, individuals taking oral blood sugar-lowering medications or insulin should exercise caution, as manuka honey may affect blood sugar levels.

It is always best to consult with a healthcare provider or pharmacist to discuss potential interactions with medications, other supplements, and foods.

How to Store Manuka Honey

To ensure the longevity and quality of manuka honey, it should be stored in its original container in a dry, cool location away from direct sunlight. When stored properly, manuka honey can remain good for up to three years.

Sources & What to Look For

When purchasing manuka honey, it can be confusing to determine which type to buy due to various grading systems. The UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) grading system used in New Zealand is considered the most comprehensive.

The UMF number, ranging from UMF 5-plus to UMF 20-plus, indicates the concentration of MGO in manuka honey. It also tests for other signature compounds like leptosperin and dihydroxyacetone (DHA) found in genuine manuka honey.

Manuka honey with higher UMF numbers is believed to have stronger antibacterial properties, but it is usually more expensive. Recent studies have shown that lower UMF grades can also have similar or even higher antimicrobial activity, which may be influenced by storage conditions, product age, and other compounds present in different batches of manuka honey.

You may also see other numbers on product labels, including MGO (methylglyoxal) and NPA (non-peroxide activity). MGO is the primary ingredient responsible for manuka honey’s antibacterial properties, while NPA measures the additional antibacterial activity found in manuka honey.

For authenticity and purity, it is recommended to look for manuka honey products that are UMF-certified, AMHA Authentic, or AMHA Authorised.

Similar Products

If manuka honey is not readily available or suitable for your needs, there are other products that offer similar health-promoting compounds:

  • Regular Honey: Regular honey is an affordable alternative to manuka honey. While it may not possess the same strong antibacterial properties, regular honey still contains beneficial compounds that provide antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects.

  • Aloe Vera: Aloe vera is a medicinal plant known for its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. When applied topically, aloe vera gel can help retain skin moisture and integrity, protecting against skin ulcers. It may also help alleviate digestive symptoms like constipation.

  • Yacon Root Syrup: Yacon root syrup is derived from the edible portion of the yacon plant. It is lower in calories and sugar than manuka honey but still offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Yacon root syrup may also benefit gut health.

In conclusion, manuka honey has unique properties that make it a valuable natural remedy with potential health benefits. It can support wound healing, promote oral health, soothe sore throats, and potentially benefit digestive health. However, it is important to use manuka honey in moderation and consult with a healthcare provider before using it as a treatment for any health condition.

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