Cancer: Manuka Benefits in Cancer Recovery

    Medicinal Compounds of Manuka Honey

    Manuka honey, nature's gift from the bees and nectar of the Manuka bush in Australia and New Zealand has garnered attention for its exceptional health benefits and medicinal applications.

    Manuka honey stands out due to its unique compounds, notably Methylglyoxal (MGO), which gives it potent antibacterial and wound healing properties, particularly beneficial against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

    To classify its antibacterial strength, a rating system was created, grading factors like Unique Leptospermum Factor (ULF), Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA), and Methylglyoxal concentration (MGO). Typically, the higher the rating, the stronger the bioactivity and the more potent the medicinal benefits.

    Beyond its antibacterial strength and role as a functional superfood rich in essential nutrients, Manuka honey boasts additional therapeutic potential supported by clinical trials and scientific research.

    Manuka honey's active medicinal components include flavonoids, phenolic acids, and dicarbonyl compounds. These components endow it with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumour properties.

    Studies have revealed its flavonoids and polyphenols can inhibit tumor cell growth, both in lab dishes (in vitro) and living organisms (in vivo). The synergy of various flavonoids within Manuka honey may explain its efficacy against complex breast cancers.

    1. Antioxidant Benefits of Manuka Honey for Oxidative Stress

    Manuka honey offers antioxidant benefits that can help combat oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when the body produces more harmful free radicals than it can counteract with antioxidants. This imbalance can lead to chronic inflammation and damage to cells, proteins, and DNA, ultimately contributing to chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart, brain, and lung problems.

    Manuka honey contains substances such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants. These antioxidants play a crucial role in neutralizing harmful free radicals. By doing so, Manuka honey helps reduce the risk of these chronic diseases that are triggered by prolonged oxidative stress. These benefits highlight the potential of Manuka honey in promoting overall health and well-being by mitigating the damaging effects of oxidative stress.

    2. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Manuka Honey for Chronic Inflammation

    Manuka honey offers notable anti-inflammatory benefits that can help combat chronic inflammation, which is linked to various diseases, including cancer. Chronic inflammation is a long-term, potentially harmful condition that can result from various factors such as infections, toxins, autoimmune diseases, and high-calorie diets, increasing the risk of cancer over time.

    Manuka honey is rich in potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants like flavonoids, which can counteract harmful molecules known as superoxide radicals. These antioxidants help reduce inflammation and its associated risks with a recent study demonstrating that daily Manuka honey supplementation protected rats from oxidative damage over a 30-day period. Manuka honey's anti-inflammatory properties make it a potential ally in mitigating chronic inflammation and its consequences, including the increased risk of cancer and even resistance to treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

    3. Manuka Honey Benefits for Immune Support

    Manuka honey has immunomodulatory and immunoprotective activity and stimulates the immune system in several ways. It encourages the production of germ-fighting cytokines, promotes the movement of white blood cells to where they are needed for healing, and enhances antibody production for protection. These actions contribute to a more robust immune response, enhancing the body's ability to combat infections. This can be particularly beneficial during cancer treatment and post-recovery, helping to bolster the immune system's function.

    Additionally, the prebiotics present in Manuka honey supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome, decrease the number of potentially harmful ones, and also assist the gut microbes in producing beneficial compounds such as butyrate, which we know has a protective role against the development of many bowel diseases including colon cancer.

    4. Chemoprotective Activity of Manuka Honey

    Chemotherapy can harm healthy cells, potentially leading to problems like relapses, secondary tumors, and drug resistance. Manuka honey has shown the ability to protect vital organs like the liver and kidneys from the toxic effects of chemotherapy drugs, such as Cisplatin. When given to rats alongside Cisplatin, it reduced harmful side effects and boosted the production of protective proteins, while also combating oxidative stress.

    The benefits of Manuka honey for wound healing can aid in managing painful side effects of radiation and chemotherapy such as ulcers of the mouth, throat, and digestive tract lining, reducing opioid use, and providing relief from treatment-associated nausea.

    5. Chemosensitisation Activity of Manuka Honey

    Chemotherapeutic drugs are the first line in the treatment of a wide range of cancer types. However, certain cancers are relatively resistant to chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Patients can also suffer from cancer recurrence which is characterised by the loss of sensitivity to chemotherapy.

    Manuka honey's bioactive components have demonstrated the ability to sensitise cancer cells to chemotherapy, offering potential benefits in improving treatment outcomes.

    6. Anti-Tumour Activity of Manuka Honey

    In preliminary research, Manuka honey has been shown to exhibit anti-tumor, antimutagenic, and anti-metastatic effects against various cancer types, including melanoma, breast, lung, colorectal, liver, and pancreatic cancers.

    Its mechanisms of action trigger DNA fragmentation and apoptosis (death of damaged cells) in various cancer cell lines and disrupt cancer cell metabolism, stress response pathways, and the migration and invasion of cancer cells. 


      In conclusion, Manuka honey shows promise as a natural approach to support treatment and recovery from various types of cancer. While further research is needed into its use in combating cancer, these findings are encouraging for its potential as a cancer therapy.

      Read more Benefits of Manuka Honey.

      Download our free guide: Manuka Honey Benefits for Cancer Management


      Supporting Research

      1. Manuka honey, a unique mono-floral honey. A comprehensive review of its bioactives, metabolism, action mechanisms, and therapeutic merits PMID 2016 El-Senduny F.F.; Hegazi N.M.; Elghani F.E.A.; Farag M.A.
      2. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: How are they linked? PMC, 2011 Reuter S.; Gupta S.C.; Chaturvedi M.M.; Aggarwal B.B.
      3. Manuka honey-derived MGO enhances microbial sensing by T cells Food Funct., 2020 Tang J.S.; Compton B.J; Marshall A.; Anderson R; Li Y.; van der Woude H.; Hermans I.F.; Painter G.F.; Gasser O.
      4. Characterization of immunomodulatory responses induced by manuka honey Front Immunol. 2022 Masad R.J.; Nasser R.A.; Bashir G.; Mohamed Y.A.; Al-Sbiei A.; Al-Saafeen B.H.; Fernandez-Cabezudo M.J. Al-Ramadi B.K.
      5. Intravenous Administration of Manuka Honey Inhibits Tumor Growth and Improves Host Survival When Used in Combination with Chemotherapy in a Melanoma Mouse Model PLoS One, 2013 Fernandez-Cabezudo M. J.; El-Kharrag R; Torab F.; Bashir G.; George J. A.; El-Taji H.; al-Ramadi B.K. 
      6. Manuka honey synergistically enhances the chemopreventive effect of 5-fluorouracil on human colon cancer cells by inducing oxidative stress and apoptosis, altering metabolic phenotypes and suppressing metastasis ability Free Radic Bio Med 2018 Afrin S.; Giampieri F.; Forbes-Hernandez T.Y.; Gasparrini M.; Amici A.; Cianciosi D.; Quiles J.L.; Battino M.
      7. Effectiveness of honey on radiation-induced oral mucositis, time to mucositis, weight loss, and treatment interruptions among patients with head and neck malignancies: A meta-analysis and systematic review of literature PMID 2016 Co J.L.; Mejia M.B.A.; Que J.C.; Dizon J.M.R.
      8. Honey as a Potential Natural Anticancer Agent: A Review of It's Mechanisms Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013 Ahmed S; Othman N.H.
      9. Oral Administration of Tualang and Manuka Honeys Modulates Breast Cancer Progression in Sprague-Dawley Rats Model PMID 2017 Ahmed S.; Sulaiman S.A.; Othman N.H.
      10. The IL-6/STAT3 Signaling Pathway Is an Early Target of Manuka Honey-Induced Suppression of Human Breast Cancer Cells Front Oncol 2017 Aryappalli P.; Al-Qubaisi S.S.; Attoub S.; George J.A.; Arafat K.; Ramadi K.B.; Mohamed Y.A.; Al-Dhaheri M.M.; Al-Sbiei A.; Fernandez-Cabezudo M.J.; al-Ramadi B.K.
      11. Inhibition of Tyrosine-Phosphorylated STAT3 in Human Breast and Lung Cancer Cells by Manuka Honey is Mediated by Selective Antagonism of the IL-6 Receptor Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Aryappalli P.; Shabbiri K.; Masad R.J.; Al-Marri R.H.; Haneefa S.M.; Mohamed Y.A.; Arafat K.; Attoub S.; Cabral-Marques O.; Ramadi K.B.; Fernandez-Cabezudo M.J. al-Ramadi B.K.

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