We all know honey as the delicious natural sweetener that you can enjoy in a cup of tea or on a slice of warm toast. But there’s a bit more to honey than just being a tasty ingredient to sweeten your day.
Over the centuries, honey has been used by traditional healers and doctors as a natural remedy. The Egyptians, Greeks and field doctors during the wars all relied on honey in their medical kits.
In recent years, scientists have begun to look into whether these traditional uses of honey have any merit in our current modern first aid kit. One of the discoveries they’ve made is that not all honey is created equal. Different honey has different properties depending on the flowers the bees harvest the nectar from. Although the size and number of research studies are still small, there are fairly good indications that New Zealand Mānuka honey really is a little bit special.
What is Mānuka honey?
Mānuka honey is the honey that New Zealand is famous for. Bees gather the nectar from the white-pink flowers of our native Mānuka tree, and from this, they make Mānuka honey.
Mānuka in traditional Māori healing
In Maori traditional healing, Rongoā Māori, the New Zealand Mānuka tree is thought to have some very special properties, and all parts of the tree were used - bark, leaves, flowers and honey.
Are the traditional properties of the Mānuka tree seen in Mānuka honey?
All honey contains a range of proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phenolic acids and flavonoids that may be responsible for the traditional benefits. But Mānuka honey has something a bit extra.
Before scientists found out exactly what it was in Mānuka honey that made it so special, they identified this special something as the “Unique Manuka Factor” or UMF. You might see some brands of Mānuka Honey carry a UMF rating.
After further research, they found the unique property that may make New Zealand Mānuka honey a real super-food is a compound called Methylglyoxal (MGO).
Research has found that at certain concentrations, MGO has been shown to restrict bacterial growth and can help to reduce inflammation.
Reasons to use Mānuka honey
1. Wound healing
For centuries it’s been reported that honey was used on skin dressings for wounds, skin ulcers and burns.
When applied to the skin, MGO and hydrogen peroxide have been found to reduce the growth of some of the bacteria found in wounds.
Research also suggests that these compounds can reduce inflammation, increase oxygen supply to the wound, and increase cells that build the structure for new tissue growth.
Mānuka honey also contains bioactive agents, including MGO, flavonoids and phenolic compounds.
You can find Mānuka honey added to many skin creams, lotions and balms for skin conditions where infection or inflammation is common, such as dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis.
3. Sore throats and coughs
Mānuka honey is an ingredient in many winter wellness products, including throat lozenges and sprays. When you’ve got a sore, dry throat or cough Manuka Honey may be soothing for a sore and scratchy throat. Choosing Manuka Honey UMF or Manuka Honey MGO lozenges will give you all the benefits of Manuka Honey to help you feel better.
What to look for when buying “medicinal grade” Mānuka honey
When buying Mānuka honey, always look for either the MGO or UMF rating. Here’s what they mean: MGO 250+ and above, or UMF 10+ and above is considered to be “therapeutic grade”. Here’s how the UMF and MG ratings line up
References Here are the studies we reviewed to make sure we gave you trusted information about New Zealand Mānuka honey.
Al Somal N et al. (1994). Susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to the antibacterial activity of manuka honey. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 87(1), 9
Alvarez-Suarez J et al. (2014). The composition and biological activity of honey: a focus on Manuka honey. Foods, 3(3), 420-432
Bardy J et al (2012). A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial of active manuka honey and standard oral care for radiation-induced oral mucositis. British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 50(3), 221-226
Best Practice Journal. 2008. Issue 13. Demystifying Rongoā Māori: Traditional Māori healing. BPACNZ Better Medicine. Accessed June 2019 https://bpac.org.nz/BPJ/2008/May/rongoa.aspx
Eick S et al. (2014). Honey–a potential agent against Porphyromonas gingivalis: an in vitro study. BMC oral health, 14(1), 24
English HK et al. (2004). The effects of manuka honey on plaque and gingivitis: a pilot study. Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology, 6(2), 63-67
Lin SM et al (2009). The in vitro susceptibility of Campylobacter spp. to the antibacterial effect of manuka honey. European journal of clinical microbiology & infectious diseases, 28(4), 339
Lin SM et al. (2011). The controlled in vitro susceptibility of gastrointestinal pathogens to the antibacterial effect of manuka honey. European journal of clinical microbiology & infectious diseases, 30(4), 569-574
Mavric E et al. (2008). Identification and quantification of methylglyoxal as the dominant antibacterial constituent of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honeys from New Zealand. Molecular nutrition & food research, 52(4), 483-489
McGovern DP et al. (1999). Manuka honey against Helicobacter pylori. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 92(8), 439-439
McLoone P et al. (2016). Honey: A realistic antimicrobial for disorders of the skin. Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection, 49(2), 161-167.
McLoone P et al. (2016). Honey: an immunomodulatory agent for disorders of the skin. Food and Agricultural Immunology, 27(3), 338-349
Ministry of Health. 2010. Our Oral Health: Key findings of the 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
Patel S.& Cichello S. (2013). Manuka honey: an emerging natural food with
medicinal use. Natural products and bioprospecting, 3(4), 121-128
Rosendale,D. I. (2009). Antimicrobial Activity of Functional Food Ingredients Focusing on Manuka Honey Action Against Escherichia Coli (Doctoral Dissertation), /Massey University, New Zealand
Schmidlin PR et al. (2014). Antibacterial potential of Manuka honey against three oral bacteria in vitro. Swiss dental journal, 124(9), 922-924.
Tomblin V et al. (2014). Potential pathway of anti-inflammatory effect by New Zealand honeys. International journal of general medicine, 7, 149
Social media post Over the centuries honey has been used by traditional healers and doctors as a natural remedy to treat wounds, burns and infections. The Egyptians, Greeks and field doctors during the wars all relied on honey.
So, should New Zealand Manuka honey be in your medicine kit?
In recent years modern scientists have started to research whether these traditional uses of honey have any merit in our current medicinal tool-kit. One of the discoveries they’ve made is that not all honey is created equal. Different honey has different properties depending on the flowers the bees harvest the nectar from.
And although the size and number of research studies are still small, there are fairly good indications that New Zealand Manuka honey really is a little bit special.
In our blog we look at the benefits of using New Zealand Manuka honey in managing wounds, skin care, digestive health, oral health and sore throats and coughs. And share what you need to look for one the label to get one that really is the best.