4 Health Benefits of Manuka honey Supported by Science
Honey, in general, has been used in health through history, only falling out of medical favour in the 1900s with the rise of modern antibiotics (1). With the increased use of antibiotics and antibacterial products more and more bugs are becoming resistant to current treatments (2). Attempts to make bugs resistant to Manuka honey (NPA 15+, MGO 550+ mg/kg) have failed, even when using diluted honey (4.0–14.8% honey) (2).
Honey for First Aid, cuts, wounds and burns
Manuka honey (minimum NPA 12+, MGO 350+ mg/kg) is used directly, in impregnated bandages and as a gel for first aid and in surgery (3). Some of the properties support by studies are:
Wounds being sterilised within 3 to 10 days cleaning any infection presence and reducing the chance of infection occurring (1, 4, 5).
As a protective barrier, it keeps the wound moist while keeping bacteria and other contaminations out (3).
Dressings are prevented from sticking to the wound while making them easier to remove (3).
Many wound products have warnings around ingestion, which can be problematic for small children, but no issues with using Manuka honey (4).
What is MGO?
MGO short for Methylglyoxal is a naturally occurring compound found in aged Manuka honey derived from the nectar of some members of the Leptospermum plant family.
Helps to heal and reduce the scarring of wounds
Numerous studies show honey and Manuka honey (minimum NPA 12+, MGO 350+ mg/kg) especially are good at healing wounds with reduced scarring. Manuka honey is set above other honey due to its naturally occurring MGO content giving this honey additional antibacterial properties compared to other honey.
Honey keeps the wound moist and supple, helping to reduce scaring(1, 4, 5).
The high sugar content in honey draws moisture from the wound, preventing bacteria growth and encouraging wound healing by drawing out wound toxicants (1, 4, 5).
The antibacterial properties of honey also sterilise the wound, cleaning and preventing infection reducing healing time and complications that might increase scaring.(1, 4, 5)
Honey is also can assist in removing dead skin from around and within a wound, keeping the wound clean to promote healing(1, 4, 5).
Due to its antibacterial properties, there is a reduction in the need to take oral antibiotics for wounds as wound infection is prevented (4).
The MGO in Manuka honey can penetrate bacterial biofilms, targeting bacteria within their protective film (6).
Though we see a lot of benefits in using honey for wound treatment, we also believe in full disclosure, and there are some risks when using honey on wounds.
Though it is rare, people with a honey allergy due to bee and plant proteins and the pollen found in honey should avoid using honey on wounds (1).
Infant botulism caused by the contamination of the honey with spores of the Clostridia bacteria (this is also why it is advised not to feed honey to infants under 1 year old) is another risk. However, no cases have been reported (1).
The last concern for some people is that honey can cause some pain when applied to a wound, but no worse than some other treatments (1, 7).
What is Manuka
Manuka is a common name of the Leptospermum plant family. Researchers have identified which family members produce medicinal honey, with some of Australia’s members being the best in the world
Honey can Soothe a Sore Throat and Reduce Coughing
Honey has been used as a traditional cure for sore throats and coughs through history.
A tablespoon of honey used twice a day in combination with anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and antiseptic gargles reduced the symptoms and increased the recovery time of 100 people with sore throats compared to those that did not use honey (12). This is due to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey, Manuka honey with its boosted antibacterial properties would be expected to have a more significant effect.
Studies have shown that honey does relieve cough symptoms but is not adequate for treating chronic coughs by itself (13).
A common cause of sore throats and coughs is the common cold, Manuka honey has demonstrated better antiviral properties against the common cold when compared to other honeys within laboratory tests (14).
Manuka honey is ok for people with diabetes
Though initially, there was some concern with people with diabetes using manuka honey (8). NO studies to date have found adverse effects around Manuka honey and diabetes. Studies do suggest some beneficial effects.
The glycaemic index (GI) has been found to range from 54 – 59 for Manuka honey (NPA 14-18, MGO 460-667 mg/kg) and is considered low/medium on the GI range giving it a better GI than straight sugar (9).
In addition to the benefits of eating the honey, Manuka honey has been used to heal diabetic foot ulcers giving comparable or better results than conventional medical methods (4, 10, 11).
- Bittmann, S. First results of Treating Pediatric Wounds with Medihoney: Analysis of 60 Cases. GSL Journal of Pediatrics 2018, 1, 102.
- Blair, S. E.; Cokcetin, N. N.; Harry, E. J.; Carter, D. A. The Unusual Antibacterial Activity of Medical-grade Leptospermum Honey: Antibacterial Spectrum, Resistance and Transcriptome Analysis. European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases 2009, 28, 1199–1208.
- Stewart, J. A.; McGrane, O. L.; Wedmore, I. S. Wound care in the wilderness: is there evidence for honey? Wilderness & environmental medicine 2014, 25, 103–110.
- Kamaratos, A. V.; Tzirogiannis, K. N.; Iraklianou, S. A.; Panoutsopoulos, G. I.; Kanellos, I. E.; Melidonis, A. I. Manuka Honey-impregnated Dressings in the Treatment of Neuropathic Diabetic Foot Ulcers. International Wound Journal 2012, 11, 259–263.
- Duncan, C. L.; Enlow, P. T.; Szabo, M. M.; Tolchin, E.; Kelly, R. W.; Castanon, L.; Aballay, A. M. A Pilot Study of the Efficacy of Active Leptospermum Honey for the Treatment of Partial-thickness Facial Burns. Advances in Skin & Wound Care 2016, 29, 349–355.
- Majtan, J.; Bohova, J.; Horniackova, M.; Klaudiny, J.; Majtan, V. Anti-biofilm Effects of Honey Against Wound PathogensProteus mirabilisandEnterobacter cloacae. Phytotherapy Research 2013, 28, 69–75.
- others,, et al. Evidence summary: Wound management: Medical-grade honey. Wound Practice & Research: Journal of the Australian Wound Management Association 2017, 25, 117.
- Majtan, J. MethylglyoxalA Potential Risk Factor of Manuka Honey in Healing of Diabetic Ulcers. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 2011, 1–5.
- Chepulis, L.; Francis, E. The glycaemic index of Manuka honey. e-SPEN Journal 2013, 8, 21– 24.
- Alam, F.; Islam, M. A.; Gan, S. H.; Khalil, M. I. Honey: A Potential Therapeutic Agent for Managing Diabetic Wounds. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 2014, 1–16.
- Gill, R.; Poojar, B.; Bairy, L. K.; Praveen, K. S. E. Comparative Evaluation of Wound Healing Potential of Manuka and Acacia Honey in Diabetic and Nondiabetic Rats. Journal of pharmacy & bioallied sciences 2019, 11, 116–126.
- Nanda, M. S.; Mittal, S. P.; Gupta, V. Role of honey as adjuvant therapy in patients with sore throat. National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy and Pharmacology 2017, 7, 412.
- Oduwole, O.; Udoh, E. E.; Oyo-Ita, A.; Meremikwu, M. M. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018
- Watanabe, K.; Rahmasari, R.; Matsunaga, A.; Haruyama, T.; Kobayashi, N. Anti-influenza Viral Effects of Honey In Vitro: Potent High Activity of Manuka Honey. Archives of Medical Research 2014, 45, 359–365.