Honey has been used for millennia not only as a food, but also as a remedy for various diseases. A particularly effective form is the New Zealand Manuka honey. Thanks to its antibacterial effect, it is said to help with a wide range of ailments and is used in the form of numerous products such as ointment or sweets. How healthy manuka honey is and what to look for when buying honey, we explain below.
What is Manuka honey?
Like ordinary honey, manuka honey is also obtained from flower nectar. However, while native bees produce their honey from oilseed rape, clover or other flowers, manuka honey is produced from the nectar of the Manuka shrub, the South Sea myrtle (Leptospermum scoparium).
Where does manuka honey come from?
The Manuka shrub - a tea tree plant - is found in southeastern Australia, but especially in New Zealand home. There, the manuka honey is also mainly produced.
As Manuka honey only the honey can be called, which is proven to be obtained from the Manuka plant. Compliance with quality guidelines is checked with laboratory tests.
What's so special about Manuka honey?
Mainly manuka honey differs by its particularly high proportion Methylglyoxal (MGO) of normal honey. Methylglyoxal has an antibacterial effect and its concentration in manuka honey is up to 100 times higher than in conventional honey.
What does the number of manuka honey mean?
The potency of Manuka honey is given by a number that corresponds to the MGO value (in milligrams per kilogram of honey). The higher this value, the higher the content of methylglyoxal. And the higher the antibacterial mode of action of Manuka honey.
Manuka honey, which was bottled in New Zealand, however, often not only the MGO content is given, but also the UMF - The unique Manuka Factor, which should make a direct statement about the antibacterial efficacy. However, this label is only permitted to members of the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) association.
The following examples show the equivalent of MGO and UMF values:
- Manuka Honey 250: UMF 10
- Manuka Honey 400: UMF 13
- Manuka Honey 550: UMF 16
- Manuka Honey 800: UMF 20
Other ingredients of Manuka honey
In addition to the antibacterial ingredients Manuka honey contains mainly water and sugar. Also various other substances are contained - however in hardly appreciable concentration. These include:
- Vitamins such as vitamins B1, B2 and B6, biotin and nicotinic acid amide (niacin)
- Acids such as lactic acid or phosphoric acid
- Minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium
The antibacterial effect of honey
Scientists believe that the antimicrobial effect of honey is due to enzymes produced by the bees. Because in normal honey is hydrogen peroxide a central ingredient for controlling harmful microorganisms. It results from a reaction of honey with the enzyme glucose oxidase. However, to obtain this ingredient, honey must not be heat treated.
While hydrogen peroxide in manuka honey is contained only in comparatively small amount, the honey scores mainly by its high proportion of antibacterial acting Methylglyoxal. This is very stable due to its molecular properties compared to hydrogen peroxide. That is, manuka honey can even be heated without affecting the level of methylglyoxal. It is thanks to this ingredient that Manuka honey has far more antibacterial properties than normal honey.
On top of that, the high sugar content in honey causes water to be removed from the bacteria, which means they can no longer multiply so well.
Studies on the effect of manuka honey
There are many studies on the effect of manuka honey - most of which, however, were performed in vitro, ie in laboratory experiments, or on animals.
In a study, researchers from Southampton have shown that the antibacterial effect of manuka honey prevents bacteria from growing in a petri dish.1 However, the honey must come in contact with the affected area, which is why, for example, the use in the mouth and throat area may be more effective than, for example, the treatment of cough that comes from the bronchi. As a disinfectant for surfaces or medical devices Manuka honey could be suitable according to the researchers.
In another study in rats, an anti-inflammatory effect on gastric ulcers could be detected.2 In addition, honey in rats was able to reduce oxidative stress3 and promote wound healing in horses4.
Although the effects of manuka honey are still far from fully explored and, above all, studies with humans are still pending, these and numerous other studies already point to antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. A sufficient Proof of the effect in humans however, it does not exist.
Application of manuka honey
In medical and therapeutic treatments, the effect of honey has been used for a long time. For example, bandages with honey are created when patients have been sore. Manuka honey is also used for this purpose.
In addition, the honey is used, for example, in the following cases:
- in acne and psoriasis
- in fungal infections
- for the treatment of herpes
- Sweets with manuka honey or pure for sore throat, throat infections and colds
- Manuka ointment for external wounds such as abrasions and burns
- Manuka honey creams have anti-inflammatory and calming properties
Manuka honey is also used as an ingredient in cosmetics, toothpaste or, of course, as food.
How to take and use Manuka honey
Manuka honey is a home remedy, which is why recommendations for use are mostly based on the experience of the respective patient and therapist - there are therefore no general recommendations for use.
- In the external application The honey can be applied pure or diluted as needed to the appropriate place - but be careful with open wounds, because the honey is not germ-free as a natural product.
- For internal use Usually, three teaspoons of Manuka honey are given throughout the day.
- How much and how often one ointment applied or a tea is to be drunk, is usually recommended by the manufacturer.
If in doubt, discuss this with your doctor in advance, as home remedies such as manuka honey are often inadequate for the sole treatment of discomfort.
Dosage: Which manuka honey is the best?
In general, it can be said that the dosage of Manuka honey depends on its quality, ie its potency. Thus, a honey with a higher concentration of methylglyoxal is dosed lower than one with a low MGO value. Manuka honey with a high MGO value is also more expensive.
Which Manuka honey you should buy, depends on the intended use. The following rules of thumb apply when choosing the right manuka honey:
- Manuka honey is available from a MGO value of 100. Recommended for medical use, however, is Manuka Honey 400.
- To alleviate the symptoms of a cold Manuka honey 250 is usually used.
Since the exact effects of the various - especially the high - MGO values have not yet been explored, it is advisable to resort to lower MGO values.
Buy and store manuka honey
Manuka honey and Manuka products can be purchased in pharmacies, health food stores and drugstores - preferably in organic quality to ensure that there are no residues of pesticides or contaminants. MGO or UMF seal of approval help to distinguish real manuka honey from the numerous counterfeit products that are in circulation.
The honey should be stored cool, dry and dark, but it should not be stored in the refrigerator.
For whom is manuka honey suitable?
For people with an intact immune system, the consumption of Manuka honey is generally considered harmless. For women in pregnancy, manuka honey is just as suitable as normal honey.
Also children After the first year of life, you can benefit from the positive properties of Manuka honey - younger children or infants, however, should not take the natural product.
possible side effects
The side effects of Manuka honey are considered insufficiently researched. In a study of a highly concentrated Manuka solution for use on the middle ear, hearing damage occurred.5 Therefore, especially with high MGO concentration one should exercise caution with independent treatments.
People with diabetes should not use Manuka honey without consulting their doctor, as honey is suspected of favoring the disease and methylglyoxal in this group may also have negative effects on wound healing.6 Also in chronic wounds, the application is not recommended, as the methylglyoxal can negatively affect the development of pain.
As a natural product manuka honey can also trigger allergies, diarrhea and other ailments.
What else is in the Manuka plant?
South Sea myrtle is a shrub related to the tea tree of Australia and is referred to as Manuka in the language of the Maori, the New Zealand indigenous people. In the Maori Manuka shrub is considered a medicinal plant and is used among other things for gastrointestinal complaints and for the treatment of wounds, fever or bladder infections.
In addition to manuka honey, the bark and the leaves are mainly used, which are processed into manuka tea, for example. Also manuka oil, which is distilled from the leaves and branches of the plant, is appreciated for its healing properties.
Sources and studies
- Emineke, S. et al. (2017): Diluted honey inhibits biofilm formation: potential application in urinary catheter management?
- Almasaudi, S.B. et al. (2017): Manuka Honey Exerts Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activities That Promote Healing of Acetic Acid-Induced Gastric Ulcer in Rats.
- Jubri, Z. et al. (2013): Manuka honey protects middle-aged rats from oxidative damage.
- Dart, A.J. et al. (2015): A review of research into second intention equine wound healing using manuka honey: Current recommendations and future applications.
- Aron, M. et al. (2012): Otologic safety of manuka honey.
- Majtan, J. (2011): Methylglyoxal-a potential risk factor of manuka honey in healing of diabetic ulcers.