Honey has been used in medicines for thousands of years across many (if not all) ancient civilizations. The first known human use of honey was depicted by Stone Age paintings traced to some 8000 years ago.
It’s use as a treatment for common ailments has been depicted in historical records across Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Hindu civilizations, and it’s use continues to this day.
Ancient Egyptians commonly used honey on wounds to help with healing thanks to its antibacterial properties, and honey was a key ingredient in almost all Egyptian medicines. In fact, honey was so revered by the Egyptians that they offered it to their deities (gods) as a sacrifice. But they weren’t the only ancient civilization using honey as a medicine.
Hippocrates, the great Greek scientist, often prescribed honey for a range of ailments including wound healing, coughs and sore throats (just to name a few) and honey was a mainstay in Ayurvedic medicine, notably to aid digestive issues. It also features in Roman literature, Islamic holy books, and Jewish celebrations.
So what is it that the ancients knew that made honey so special they included it in their medicines?
It appears the ancients knew a thing or two about honey and it has recently undergone some research to truly understand its unique properties. The leading hypothesis is that honey has antimicrobial properties which would explain why wound care and digestion were common uses by the ancients.
The antimicrobial properties of honey appear to derive from three key factors:
- It draws moisture from its surrounding environment, thus dehydrating bacteria
- The low pH levels in honey inhibits the growth of most microorganisms
- It contains hydrogen peroxide which stops bacterial growth
It’s this third factor that research appears to render the most important. However, one interesting aspect of hydrogen peroxide is that when the honey is exposed to an enzyme found in almost every plant and animal, the hydrogen peroxide decays and the honey loses its ability to fight bacteria. Not ideal.
This is where Mānuka honey stands above all other honeys.
Scientists have discovered that the honey bees produce from the nectar of the native Mānuka tree contains a naturally occurring property called Methylglyoxal (MGO). It’s this unique property, MGO, that gives manuka honey the ability to fight bacteria without hydrogen peroxide. Amazing, right?
And what’s even more amazing is that MGO has a direct correlation to the Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA) found in honey. So the higher the MGO and NPA, the better the health properties of Mānuka honey. Pair this with the phenolic compounds found in Mānuka honey and you truly do have one of nature's superfoods.
Honey, revered for centuries by ancient civilizations for its natural medicinal properties, now has a superfood pair in Mānuka honey.