The ancient Egyptians offered honey to their God Min, in the Hindu religion, honey is considered an elixir of immortality and even the prophet Muhammad promoted honey as “healing for mankind”. 1 It’s a wonder that scientists have taken to so long to discover what the ancients have known all along – that honey, and specifically Manuka honey, can be as effective as, if not more effective than traditional medicine, at treating certain wounds and conditions.
Manuka honey is honey produced specifically from the Manuka or Tea tree bush which is native to New Zealand and Southeast Australia.2 Whilst the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium )has recently been studied for its various pharmaceutical uses, Manuka honey in particular has caught the imagination of scientists. In fact they are so interested in its medicinal qualities, that the University of Waikato has established the Waikato Honey Research Unit in order to fully study the antimicrobial effects of this golden delight. Read on to learn what is manuka honey used for.
What scientists have been proving – the benefits of Manuka honey
Dr. Peter Molan, MBE, an Associate Professor of Biochemistry, has been at the forefront of Manuka honey since the early 1980’s, and through Dr. Molan’s extensive research on the subject, he has been able to study antibacterial effects of honey and Manuka honey in particular. What he has found is that Manuka honey contains not only one but two agents which help to heal wounds and fight bacteria. This additional antibacterial agent is referred to as non-peroxide activity.
Manuka Honey Testing and Rating
If you want to take advantage of manuka honey it needs to be tested for its antimicrobial activity. The thing that makes manuka honey unique is that it also has a non-peroxide anti-bacterial activity. (all honeys have hydrogen peroxide activity) Independent laboratories test batches of manuka honey on this unique trait. In order to determine its rating the batches are compared with the equivalent concentration of phenol with the same level of antibacterial activity. To illustrate; when Manuka Honey has a rating of 10, its non-peroxide antibacterial activity will fight off bacteria as effectively as will a 10% phenol solution.
So what exactly can Manuka honey do? – The benefits of Manuka Honey
Because Manuka is antibacterial, as well as having anti fungal properties, it has been shown to have both internal as well as external benefits.3 External application of the honey includes the treatment of eczema, arthritis, infected wounds, ring worm, acne and it even has anti ageing properties which fight the signs of ageing such as wrinkles.
Internal uses include the treatment of a sore throat, stomach ulcers, some cancers, gastritis, acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome. Manuka honey is used by many to treat sinus infection and as a natural remedy for strep throat. Furthermore it is popular as a natural water warts treatment. A visitor wrote me how manuka honey was able to cure bladder infection.
Manuka Honey for external use
Manuka has been scientifically proven to be effective in treating most wounds including skin ulcers, diabetic ulcers, wounds, burns, boils, acne, atopic eczema.4
Wounds generally become infected when they come into contact with or are infected by Eschericihia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.5 These infections are particularly difficult to treat successfully and can even lead to dire results such as amputation in the case of diabetic ulcers which become antibiotic resistant. Manuka honey is effective at killing these persistent bacteria. Here’s more info on how manuka honey can help heal a c-section wound.
Applying Manuka to wounds creates a moist wound healing environment which has been shown to speed up wound healing with the added benefits of reduced scarring. Moist wound healing techniques also require less dressings as the dressing for these wounds need to be changed less often than conventional dressings.
Manuka creates an optimal wound healing environment by excluding environmental influences on the wound. It also has a natural component which produces hydrogen peroxide which in turn aids the healing process while at the same time creating a germ free environment. And finally, the UMF antibacterial component found within Manuka also penetrates the tissue, thus reaching and treating deep seated infections.
Quite simply, Manuka treats external wounds by cleaning the wound by removing dirt from the wound, clearing the bacteria which are responsible for the infection, protecting the wound against further infection by environmental influences, and making the change of wound dressing easier. Honey wound dressings don’t need to be changed as frequently and they do not stick the wound like conventional dressings thus affecting the wound each time a conventional dressing is changed.6
Special, sterilized, FDA approved, class 1 medical devices are marketed under the brand name Medihoney dressings. The use of these medical professionals as well as individuals is increasing rapidly.
Manuka Honey for internal use
Stomach ulcers in particular dyspepsia and peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter Pylori. Although there seem to be no formal scientific studies on the subject yet, Manuka’s special UMF factor has been shown anecdotally to be effective in the treatment of the above conditions.7
The UMF factor present in Manuka has been proven to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter Pylori under laboratory conditions and it stands to reason that the honey should therefore be effective in the treatment of various stomach ailments including stomach ulcers. Once again we shall perhaps have to wait for science to prove what some ancients already knew? This post goes deeper into the question whether or not does manuka honey cure stomach ulcers.
Manuka and MRSA
MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has become the nightmare of hospitals all over the world. This highly infectious strain of Staphylococcus roams the passages of hospitals infecting already ill patients with a sometimes deadly strain of bacteria which has become resistant to most if not all conventional antibiotics.
Recent laboratories studies as well as hospital trials have shown Manuka honey to be effective in the treatment of wounds infected with MRSA. 8
So with all the medicinal benefits of Manuka honey in mind, should you rush off and purchase yours immediately? The simple answer is no. Not all honeys are born equal and this is true of Manuka as well.
Choosing Manuka honey
On active manuka honey testing for its level of antibacterial activity has been carried out. If correctly done these tests are carried out by independent laboratories on each batch of honey.
The abovementioned research trials and clinical studies have been based primarily on the work of Dr. Peter Molan. Dr. Molan makes it clear that when purchasing Manuka honey, you should be careful to choose Manuka with a UMF or Molan Gold rating of 10 or more. Dr. Molan created these ratings for Manuka in order to rate the antibacterial effects of the honey, and the higher the UMF or Molan Gold factor of the honey, the higher the anti-bacterial effect9, so it stands to reason that when choosing Manuka honey for medicinal purposes, you should choose the honey which will be most effective. Make sure you do your homework and find the highest quality Manuka that you can purchase.
5. Willix DJ, Molan PC, Harfoot CJ. A comparison of the sensitivity of wound-infecting species of bacteria to the antibacterial activity of manuka honey and other honey. J Appl Bacteriol 1992; 73: 388-94. as quoted on http://www.manukahoney.co.uk/article1.html