Anyone who has used Manuka Honey knows what an amazing natural gift it is. For those of you who want to dig a little deeper we have compiled some information below and references to studies so you can get do some more research yourself… Introduction Historically honey has been used for medicinal purposes dating back thousands of years. It was used extensively for wound care and gastric complaints by the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Romans and Greeks. Jars of honey have been found in Egyptian temples, with the honey still being deemed edible even after 3000 years. Manuka honey, produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium). New Zealand Manuka honey is famous, not only for its unique flavor profile but also its unique medicinal properties. Manuka honey is superior to other honeys as a medicine due to the presence of the bioactive constituent methylglyoxal, the compound responsible for the so called non-peroxide antimicrobial activity of manuka honey. This activity is also known as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). (Alvarez-Suarez, Gasparrini, Forbes-Hernandez, Mazzoni, & Giampieri, 2014). Whilst most types of honey exhibit some amount of antimicrobial quality, only active Manuka honey (as measured by the UMF grade) exhibits an antimicrobial activity that is stable and persists after the honey is consumed, diluted or exposed to heat. In addition to the antimicrobial constituents of hydrogen peroxide and methylglyoxal, Manuka honey is also rich in polyphenolics. These polyphenolic compounds not only give Manuka Honey it’s unique flavor and color but also impart an antioxidant effect to the honey. It is thought that these polyphenolics may help modulate the antibacterial effects, and contribute to the anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties of Manuka honey (Carter et al., 2016). Therapeutic actions of Manuka honey Antimicrobial The bioactive constituents of manuka honey, hydrogen peroxide, and methylglyoxal have demonstrated antibacterial activity against a wide range of bacteria that cause human disease in lab trials. Some more well-known organisms that manuka is effective against include Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus sp. It is important to note that manuka honey has been shown to be effective against a range of antibiotic resistant bacteria and that attempts to develop honey resistant strains have been unsuccessful (Carter et al., 2016). Early lab trials have been able to show antiviral activity as well as antibacterial activity of manuka honey including efficacy against the influenza virus (Watanabe, Rahmasari, Matsunaga, Haruyama, & Kobayashi, 2014). Antioxidant – The polyphenolics in manuka honey, most notably the flavonoid compounds are responsible for it’s antioxidant effects. Antioxidants mop up damaging free radicals produced by inflammation or tissue damage and help the body increase its own innate antioxidant defence mechanisms (Al-Waili, 2003). Immunomodulatory and Anti-inflammatory Manuka honey has been shown to stimulate the immune system by modulating multiple cytokines (messenger molecules of the immune system) (Tonks et al., 2007). Honey has also been shown to reduce both acute and chronic inflammation of mucosal and wound tissue in lab trials (Prakash et al., 2008) . Vulnerary (enhances wound healing) The ability of honey to speed the wound healing process due to the therapeutic actions mentioned above has now been demonstrated in several published case series using honey for non-healing wounds and ulcers (Carter et al., 2016). Health Benefits of consuming Manuka Honey The beneficial effects of manuka honey for wound care are well established. The following discussion will focus on the benefits received by consuming honey as a functional food product.
Oral health (gingivitis) Researchers from the School of Dentistry at the University of Otago in New Zealand discovered that chewing or sucking on a Manuka honey product not only caused a 35 percent decrease in plaque, but that it led to a 35 percent reduction in gum bleeding sites in people suffering from gingivitis (English, Pack, & Molan, 2004).
Respiratory system (sore throats, coughs) The soothing demulcent action of honey, coupled with its therapeutic anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects make honey a logical choice for treating sore throats and coughs. A recent Cochrane review found that honey was superior to diphenhydramine and comparable to dextromethopram in treating acute coughs in children (Barker, 2016).
Digestive System (reflux, gastritis, dysbiosis and leaky gut, IBS) Manuka honey exerts a positive effect on the digestive system by exerting a modulating effect on the gut microflora. Manuka honey has been shown to enhance the growth of beneficial gut bacteria whilst inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria thus helping to prevent dysbiosis (A state of imbalance of the flora of the digestive tract) (Eteraf-Oskouei & Najafi, 2013). Through this mode of action Manuka honey may therefore reduce gut inflammation and permeability and have a role in the support of many disorders of the digestive tract including reflux, IBS, and gastritis (Thursby & Juge, 2017).
Skin health Gut dysbiosis is known to contribute to leaky gut which in turn can drive skin inflammation appearing as atopic dermatitis for example (Rutten et al., 2015). Therefore, consuming honey may indirectly improve the health of the skin by improving gastrointestinal health.