Honey benefits have been recognized for centuries because of its several medicinal properties. But not all honey is the same. Here, we look at manuka honey, which has shown a lot of benefits in the research setting. Some of manuka honey benefits on health include accelerated wound healing, antimicrobial effect against MRSA and C. Difficile, aids in sound sleep, immunity booster, prevents dental caries, etc.
Honey is a viscous, sweet, brownish golden, nutrient dense liquid obtained from beehives. Today with the advent of modern medicine it has been relegated to the category of alternative medicine which includes modalities like naturopathy, Ayurveda, Unani medicine, etc.
Honey protects against certain bacteria. It also stimulates certain cells that help in tissue repair.
What is Manuka honey?
It is a monofloral honey. It is obtained from the nectar of the manuka tree. The word manuka comes from the Maori language. It means a bush or tree.
Manuka honey is produced by Apis mellifera (European honey bee) foraging on manuka tree. This tree is found throughout New Zealand and Australia.
Manuka honey benefits on health in many ways and soon, it might become a cornerstone of therapy in some of the most dangerous diseases including cancer.
Nutritional composition of Manuka honey in 100 g serving. (1)
|Total carbohydrates||82.4 g|
|Total acid as gluconic||0.57 g|
|Moisture content||17.1 g|
|Amino acids||0.3 g|
Manuka honey benefits
Here, we take a look at some of manuka honey benefits on our health –
- Helps in cancer treatment
- Heal burns, wounds, and ulcer
- Difficile infection (pseudomembranous enterocolitis)
- Fights staphylococcus aureus infections
- Prevents dental caries and gingivitis
- Hypoallergic properties
- Helps in IBS and IBD treatment
- Sleep booster
- Bolster immunity and improve a sore throat
- Beauty Booster
- Manage the growth of probiotic and pathogenic gut bacteria
- Honey as an aphrodisiac
1. Helps in cancer treatment
Manuka honey benefits are also seen in cancer treatment. The side effects involved in cancer treatment are nasty. Few examples would be hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even secondary cancers as a result of chemotherapy.
These side effects occur as the treatment of cancer involves killing tumor cells, which are very similar to healthy cells except for their unregulated growth and unlimited growth potential.
Apoptosis is programmed cell death. The cells of our body undergo apoptosis once they have served their purpose. In cancer, this mechanism is evaded due to genetic damage.
Manuka honey induces apoptosis in cancer cells by activating certain enzymes known as caspases. (2)
Also, a study in 2010 by the scientific steering committee of the National Cancer Institute approved the use of manuka honey for the reduction of inflammation of the esophagus associated with chemotherapy.
2. Heal burns, wounds, and ulcer
Honey, including manuka honey, has antioxidant antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. All these properties help in faster healing.
However, manuka honey is ineffective in chronic venous ulcers. Also, there are concerns that it may delay healing of ulcers related to diabetes. (4)
3. Inhibits clostridium difficile infections
Clostridium difficile is dangerous bacteria which causes stomach and intestinal imbalances such as pseudomembranous colitis, diarrhea, toxic megacolon, etc.
Manuka honey benefits are seen in inhibiting and killing the bacterial growth. (5) It turns out that nature has a cure in the form of manuka honey for one of the most drug-resistant pathogens affecting the human body.
4. Fights staphylococcus aureus infections
Staphylococcus aureus bug was once treated effectively with a simple shot of penicillin. Nowadays, it has become resistant to penicillins (MRSA) and many other antibiotics, earning itself the dubious distinction of “superbug”. (6)
These superbugs are common in hospital environments and increase the morbidity and mortality of patients admitted for other causes.
Manuka honey benefits are seen in combating this superbug. The discovery that manuka honey inhibits specific essential genes of these superbugs has given us new hope.
In simple terms, manuka honey prevents genes critical for multiplication of these bacteria and as a result, they eventually die out. (7)
5. Prevents dental caries and gingivitis
A study showed that chewing on the honey reduced plaque incidence and gingivitis by a significant percentage. (8) It does so by reducing plaque buildup. Plaque build-up over a period can result in tarter or calculus.
Plaque build-up throughout the day and is not visible to our naked eye. It is the reason your dentist advises you to brush your teeth twice daily.
6. Hypoallergic properties
In a Finnish study, Manuka honey has been found to reduce allergy symptoms and anti-allergy medication use. It is especially useful in birch pollen allergy. (9)
The mechanism of its hypoallergic actions is currently unknown. Its effects on other allergens and potential manuka honey benefits against them are under study.
Caution – People who are allergic to bees or honey should not use manuka honey for treatment without consulting with your doctor.
7. IBS and IBD treatment
Irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease are due to inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Different parts of the GI tract such as terminal ileum or colon may be involved depending on the specific disease subtype.
But regardless of the location, it is inflammation which damages the mucosa and causes symptoms such as diarrhea, pain, passing blood in the stool, malabsorption due to damage to the villi, etc.
Inflammation is a process which involves migration of white blood cells to the affected site and releasing inflammatory mediators. These mediators include Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).
Manuka honey benefits in IBS and IBD treatment are because of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. (10) This means that it can inhibit the inflammation occurring in your bowel and help with the symptoms.
The antioxidant properties of manuka honey mean it can help prevent free radical formation and free radical-mediated damage.
Therefore, Manuka honey acts on many aspects of IBS and IBD. If approved for use in human IBD/IBS it would help us cut down on chronic medications such as steroids or costly monoclonal antibodies for these conditions and their toxic side effects.
8. Sleep booster
Our sleep is of two types as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement). The REM sleep is the one during which we dream.
The NREM sleep is also called deep sleep. Deep sleep is the phase where the brain rests and recuperates, making us feel fresh the next morning.
Manuka honey benefits by increasing the deep sleep. Deep sleep is necessary for memory consolidation and good brain health. So, next time if you don’t feel fresh and rested after a night sleep, then have some Manuka honey.
9. Bolster immunity and improve a sore throat
The Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggested that “A 5.8-kDa component of Manuka honey stimulates immune cells via TLR4.” (11).
Several studies have also shown that honey stimulates cytokine production from human WBCs. This finding is interesting because Cytokines are chemical messengers that the immune system uses to communicate.
Remember, taking a spoonful of honey can soothe a sore throat. Well, the antibacterial effect of honey might be responsible for this behavior. Streptococci commonly cause a sore throat and honey reduces the inflammation.
10. Beauty Booster
The nutrient-rich honey improves skin tone and texture and fills one with youthful energy. People use it in a homemade face wash to fight free radicals and acne. It is also used in some ayurvedic or herbal shampoo to give shine to your hair.
Free radicals are considered to be one of the causes of aging. They are basically reactive oxygen species that cause damage to our lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins.
This damage builds up over time leading to the changes seen in aging such as wrinkles on the skin. Antioxidants keep these free radicals in check. Since manuka honey is rich in antioxidants, it can help you fight to age.
11. Manage the growth of probiotic and pathogenic gut bacteria
Probiotics are substances which help in gut colonization by helpful bacteria. People, who undergo long-term regimens of antibiotic therapy, are often prescribed probiotics by their doctors to re-establish the gut flora.
These bacteria prevent overgrowth of bad/harmful bacteria in our intestines. Many benefits have been linked to probiotic bacteria in our gut.
Some include a reduction in cholesterol, preventing diarrhea, boosting immune function, reduced allergies, and eczema, weight loss, etc.
12. Honey as an aphrodisiac
When men are aroused, lots of changes occur in the body. One of them is increased production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator and increases the blood flow to your penis, causing it to erect. This is also known as the boner.
Be it Indian culture, Viking tradition or Eastern European countries, manuka honey has a long tradition of being used as an aphrodisiac.
- Suggested read: How to Increase Testosterone Naturally?
The postulated mechanism behind this aphrodisiac effect is that honey increases nitric oxide production. So next time, before going to bed with your loved one, try some manuka honey as a dessert.
Unique manuka factor
UMF is a global standard in identifying the quality and antibacterial strength of Manuka honey. Higher UMF assures the quality and purity of Manuka honey.
Unique manuka factor constitutes of a combination of hydrogen peroxide, methylglyoxal, and dihydroxyacetone. These enzymes are found at a higher level in manuka honey than in other types of honey.
Methylglyoxal is postulated to be responsible for several manuka honey benefits. Hydrogen peroxide is well known for its antibacterial properties.
What to buy?
Manuka with a UMF rating of –
- 0 to 4 – Non-therapeutic
- 4 to 9 – Similar to regular honey
- 10 to 14 – Good at healing
- 15 and above – The best quality
To receive maximum manuka honey benefits, a UMF rating of 10 and above is necessary. Honey that has a UMF rating of 10 and above is available as “UMF Manuka honey” or “Active Manuka honey.”
Lab studies have shown that manuka honey with an activity level of UMF 12 to UMF 15 is effective against a wide range of very resistant bacteria.
You may have to visit your local farm or an organic store to get your hands on purest or unadulterated manuka honey with highest UMF rating since most supermarkets don’t stock this product on their shelves.
Side effects of Manuka honey
- Persons allergic to bees should use it with caution.
- As with any nutritional supplement, one should not go overboard.
- Always consult your doctor before taking any nutritional supplement.
- People with diabetes should consult their doctor before taking honey as it is rich in sugar.
- Possible interaction with certain blood thinners and seizure drugs.
- New-borns babies should not be fed honey. It may lead to botulism if contaminated with spores.
Over to you on manuka honey benefits
Manuka honey benefits make it a new wonder food on the block. Having a lot of potential benefits, this superfood might soon be a staple seen in every household. If you are allergic to bees or taking any nutritional supplements then use it with a doctor’s advice.
Also, you are diabetic then use manuka honey in consultation with your doctor.