Is manuka honey really a cure for a sore throat? In order to address this concern we’ll first have to determine what a sore throat actually is. A sore throat (pharyngitis) is an inflammation of the throat. According to Wikipedia:
“Most acute cases are caused by viral infections (40%-80%), with the remainder caused by bacterial infections, fungal infections, or irritants such as pollutants or chemical substances. Treatment of viral causes are mainly symptomatic while bacterial or fungal causes may be amenable to antibiotics and anti-fungals respectively.”
The most common bacterial sore throat, called strep throat, is caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. This type of sore throat is sometimes, after a positive strep test, treated with antibiotics to prevent serious complications. Only 5 to 10% of the sore throats are caused by a bacterial infection.
Laboratory studies have shown the unique antibacterial property of manuka honey has an antiviral and antifungal action. An important critical note; although research has shown manuka honey to fight certain fungi, viruses, and bacteria, this does not mean it is effective on all types. It, however, is effective against the streptococcus bacterium as well as many other types of bacteria. Another remark that has to be made is that in many studies viruses or bacteria are exposed to honey continuously whereas in the treatment of a sore throat it will be unfeasible to expose the throat to the honey constantly.
So in case of a strep throat manuka honey will probably be a welcome addition to the treatment. (When a strep throat is suspected, it might be recommended to consult a doctor to be tested.) But what about the viral sore throat?
Concerning the majority of sore throats, those caused by virii this is a little more complicated. Only limited studies on the sensitivity to honey of viral species that cause infections have been done. The so called adenovirus is the most common viral cause of sore throats. According to this study on the sensitivity of the most common sore throat virus to honey :
“honey is likely to be an effective antiviral treatment for the therapy of localized viral infections, this needs to be verified by clinical trials.”
So in conclusion there are no studies proving manuka honey (or other types) to be effective in defeating the most common virus causing a sore throat.
Manuka honey, on the other hand, has an anti-inflammatory action as well as strong moisturizing and soothing capacities. (The action behind many sore throat remedies such as humidifiers, vaporizers, and sucking on hard candies, lies in moistening and soothing a dry and painful throat.)
This versatility of active manuka honey might give manuka honey an edge in comparison to other honeys. But before the conclusion can made it really is a powerful, natural, and unique home remedy for all types of sore throat, more clinical research has to be done.
In case you’ll want to try it yourself make sure to buy manuka honey with active ingredients because not all manuka honeys are the same. There is much confusion on the consumer market but a rough guideline will be to buy UMF, MGO, or Molan Gold Standard honey with a rating of at least 10 and up to 18. These ratings are recommended for most therapeutic uses.