One of the more popular articles on this site is about how honey is nature’s antibiotic. It’s time to expand on that article. Based on research that was published in 2012 (and a little in 2013), here is an update on honey and its benefits. Specifically, we’ll focus on Manuka honey. Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand by honey bees (duh). They make it from the Manuka flower, Leptospermum scoparium. Whereas all honey has natural anti-microbial activity, Manuka honey is special. In fact, the antibacterial activity of Manuka honey is rated scientifically on a Unique Manuka Factor scale (UMF). So, here are some of the Manuka honey benefits, and the recent research that backs it up. (Also where you can get some Manuka honey for your own benefit: as an infection remedy, or for its nutrition, for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties!)
Manuka Honey Benefits
- Powerful anti-inflammatory
- Bactericidal for pathogenic bacteria – Manuka kills bad bacteria!
- Helps eliminate biofilm-forming bacteria
- Wound-healing properties
- Scar-reducing properties
So, what’s so special about honey?
All honey has four factors that make it a natural antibiotic:
- Osmotic effect: the high osmolarity of honey draws water out of bacteria; makes it difficult for them to survive, even in lower concentrations of honey.
- Low pH: the acidity of honey (your body likes pH of around 7.4; most honey is about 3.5). This naturally prevents growth of bacteria.
- Hydrogen peroxide: the glucose oxidase that is present in honey very slowly produces hydrogen peroxide from the sugars. Remember your mom putting hydrogen peroxide on a cut when you were a kid? Yup, hydrogen peroxide is a great, natural antiseptic.
- MGO: methylglyoxal (or “mojo”), is another strong antibacterial agent, present in all honeys to varying extent.
What’s so special about Manuka honey?
1. UMF: For the longest time, it has been recognized that Manuka honey had antibacterial activity that surpassed other honeys. And yet, the New Zealand scientists could not identify the precise agents or compounds that give Manuka this added oomph. Even within Manuka honeys, some are stronger than others.
How to rank them? Based on some lab testing against various bacteria, they graded this extra antibacterial ability on a scale, and called the scale the “Unique Manuka Factor” scale. The best Manuka honeys have a UMF of 16+, but of course, they are the most expensive.
More recently, there are suggestions that this UMF may have been identified as “Leptosin.” According to a report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (J Agric Food Chem, 2012, 60: pp 3418-3423), Leptosin may be a good chemical marker for the antibacterial activity of Manuka, because Leptosin levels were positively correlated with the Unique Manuka Factor value.
3. Manuka honeys have, in addition to the usual hydrogen peroxide found in “regular” honey, a unique, non-peroxide antibacterial agent. This has been shown to cause regulation of a group of bacterial proteins in Staphylococcus aureus (typically found in chronic rhino-sinusitis). This caused significant reduction in Staph a. bacterial growth. (This may be the same as UMF; it’s not clear yet). Published in the International Journal of Antmicrobial Agents.
4. Manuka honey actually kills (is “bactericidal”) Pseudomonas aeruginosa– one of the bacteria that is commonly found in chronic rhino-sinusitis, and known to be one of the biofilm-forming bacteria. It’s one of the bad guys!
5. Manuka honey inhibits biofilm formation by Streptococcus pyogenes, another of the biofilm-forming bacteria found in chronic sinusitis.
In addition to Manuka’s ability to kill bacteria, a recent report from 2012 suggest that Manuka honey is also a powerful anti-viral agent: http://goo.gl/hlwMR
In addition to Manuka honey’s powerful antibacterial and new-found anti-viral activity,
Manuka honey is a strong anti-inflammatory agent, and helps to heal wounds:
- Manuka honey was reported to reduce the radiation-induced oral inflammation (mucositis) caused by radiation therapy in head and neck cancer patients: http://goo.gl/CsquD
- Manuka honey was also reported to help heal diabetic foot ulcers faster than conventional treatment: http://goo.gl/onuPN
- It seems that all of these benefits were shown to work together for hastened healing and reduced wound scarring in contaminated and non-contaminated leg wounds horses: http://goo.gl/ajoVh
Finally, due to its antioxidant benefits, eating Manuka honey seems to have even more benefits: http://goo.gl/NiaGF.
Manuka … the perfect food? Seems like it.
Of course, this all comes at a price. First, Manuka is certainly more scarce than common, local honeys. Furthermore, the demand for medical grade honey causes added scarcity and increased price. Finally, the mysterious and widespread death of honeybees - Colony Collapse Disorder – is a problem for availability of all honey, and a problem for pollination of our crops.
Get your Manuka honey here!
The best price that I have found, and the place where I buy our Manuka honey (UMF 12+), is on the boogordoctor’s Amazon Store:
http://astore.amazon.com/asktheboogodo-20/detail/B000VK1DC8 (affiliate link)
If you find a better price, PLEASE leave a comment here and let us all know where!
NOTE: honey should never be given to infants younger than 12 months of age due to their immature immune systems.
Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.
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