Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy
Honey is popular in the natural health world, but manuka honey is in a special category of its own.
What is it, you ask? It’s a special type of honey that is revered for healing properties, especially in addressing burns and protecting the digestive system from damage and infection.
Manuka honey has such a proven history of being healing and therapeutic that it’s even an FDA-approved component of healing bandages.
What is Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey is sourced from a New Zealand plant which it is named after. When bees pollinate this particular plant, their honey is significantly more potent than standard honey.
The result is this potent, medicinal, antibacterial version of honey that is sourced today mainly for medicinal and supplemental purposes and less for sweetening tea or making desserts, although it does still have a sweet taste.
Manuka honey’s taste has an earthier tone than raw or pasteurized honey, but it can still be used in any way you’d normally use honey. However, heating or cooking manuka honey might destroy its medicinal properties, so it’s definitely not what you’d want to use to bake a cake or sweeten a pie.
How is Manuka Honey Different from Other Types of Honey?
While raw honey is lauded in the natural health world, manuka honey isn’t another type of raw honey. It’s a special type of honey that’s produced when bees pollinate a specific plant; raw honey is produced from normal plants that simply hasn’t been heated or processed.
While raw honey can certainly be beneficial, to get the medicinal benefits, purchasing manuka honey specifically is essential.
Manuka honey contains several nutrients, including:
- Vitamins B3 and B6
- Amino acids
While raw honey also contains these nutrients, manuka honey contains an average of four times more per serving than raw honey, as well as MGO and the other super antibacterial properties that makes it so unique.
Manuka honey also contains a lower glycemic index than other types of honey and most other sweeteners, so even though it still has sugar content, it’s not nearly as high in fructose as its counterparts.
Manuka honey has so many proven healing benefits that it deserves a place in everyone’s medicine cabinet. Read on to see how it can revolutionize your healing approach.
6 Healing Benefits of Manuka Honey
Manuka honey can promote skin healing, fights deadly bacteria, and improves digestive function—as well as a whole host of other functions in between.
Some hospitals even use it now to help fight antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, while others in the natural skin and hair industries recognize its preventive and youthful properties.
1. Fights Microbes
Manuka honey contains methylglyoxal, also known as MGO, which has potent antimicrobial action. Manuka honey is so unique in its antibacterial properties that its potency is referred to as UMF, or unique manuka factor.
It can kill staphylococcus bacteria as well as other resistant strains, like the dreaded MRSA. It’s so effective at working against hard-to-kill bacteria that it’s being utilized more and more in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria.
There are no reports of bacteria being able to resist manuka honey because it is, essentially, a “new” product every time because of the differences in batches as it is pollinated.
Manuka honey can fight active bacterial infections and when used regularly it may be able to prevent infections by boosting immunity and allowing the body to destroy bacteria before they set in.
Manuka honey is also effective against biofilm, which is a dangerous, thin but nearly indestructible layer of bacteria. It’s slippery and other antibacterial agents can’t penetrate it, but in the presence of manuka honey, biofilm can’t form a stronghold.
If you’re fighting fungal infections like ringworm, Athlete’s foot, or other similar issues, manuka honey can be applied topically to stifle the bacterial replication.
Instead of bandaging these, simply apply manuka honey directly to the affected area and allow to breathe. Reapply as often as needed until the affliction has been resolved.
2. Helps Heal Skin and Nourishes Hair
Manuka honey has been used topically to address anything from cuts, burns, stings, and scrapes. It is research-proven to help promote wound healing because the acid properties of manuka honey stimulate tissue repair and block the proteins that work against wound healing.
Even the sugar content in manuka honey serves as a protective barrier for topical wounds and injuries.
Honey is also a thick balm, and low in moisture. Because of this, it can bind well with a wound and pull fluids out of it that can slow healing time. It can prevent bacterial growth and reduce the chances of infection.
To use manuka honey for wound healing, apply honey to a bandage, and then apply the bandage to the affected area. Change the bandage a few times per day.
Manuka honey can also help to fight acne and restore skin to a balanced condition. Acne is rooted in bacterial triggers, and manuka honey can help to destroy the underlying microbes that perpetuate regular acne.
It can be applied directly to blemishes or can be used as a healing and preventive mask. Apply it to the skin and leave on for 20 to 60 minutes, rinsing gently with warm water and a soft cloth. Do not scrub or rub the face harshly but use gentle circular motions.
Manuka honey is so soothing that it can help to alleviate the redness, itching, and burning of eczema, especially when paired with beeswax.
However, this isn’t safe to apply to children who have eczema unless they’re older than age one, since botulism is still a concern in manuka honey. Never feed honey to a child or use topically unless they are over age one.
Even if you don’t have existing skin conditions, manuka honey can be a soothing skin treatment that promotes a youthful, vibrant appearance. Apply as often as desired for a relaxing, skin-soothing and toning mask.
It can also be used as a hair mask, helping to improve dry or damaged hair, nourishing split ends, and decreasing scalp irritation and dryness. It can even be applied to the scalp to help address hair loss issues and to provide a healthy environment for healthy new hair growth.
3. Boosts Healthy Digestion
Manuka honey can help to normalize and improve digestion and can even help to address stomach aches, nausea, and even heartburn. It can boost stomach acid and naturally decrease chronic acid reflux.
It’s so potent that it can also fight bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, known as SIBO, and promote proper bacterial balance in the large intestine, by working against gram negative, or “bad” bacteria that can lead to health problems in the gut.
It can even fight inflammation in the colon and works to help restore balance in cases of irritable bowel disease (IBD), preventing further damage, reversing tissue damage, and even alleviating associated pain.
Eat one or two tablespoons daily to use manuka honey for digestive support. For more serious issues, like colon inflammation, SIBO, or the like, three to four tablespoons of a high UMF version might be needed.
Remember, never feed honey to a child who is younger than age one.
4. Fights Viruses
While manuka honey fights bacterial infections, it’s also amazingly effective at fighting viral infections. Its active ingredients are as potent as hydrogen peroxide and it can kill viral germs, making it an excellent defense against cold and flu viruses.
While manuka honey products will vary in their volume of antiviral properties, all manuka honey is antiviral and medicinal.
Take it two or three times daily if you have a cold or flu infection, or if you’ve been exposed to these but aren’t yet sick, you can take it preventively to boost your immune system.
5. Supports Dental Health
Manuka honey is so powerful that even with its sugar content, it is still a beneficial food to actually fight cavities, plaque, and disease in the mouth. Research shows that manuka honey can help to reverse gingivitis and periodontal disease because it fights and kills bacteria.
Chewing or sucking on manuka honey can reduce plaque by up to 35 percent, and it can also reduce bleeding gums in gingivitis. It also contains minerals that help to support healthy teeth.
6. Fights Seasonal Allergies and Sinus Infections
No one likes a regular attack of seasonal allergens, and antihistamines aren’t always effective.
Manuka honey can so effectively cut inflammation that it can work to calm histamine overproduction in the body, which is what drives the maddening symptoms of allergies: sneezing, itching, coughing, and drainage.
Take manuka honey internally to address seasonal allergies.
Sinus infections can occur as a result of seasonal allergies or other inflammatory triggers but taking it internally can help cut down on sick time.
Some even suggest using manuka honey in a neti pot to irrigate the nasal passage, but other research has shown that it’s effective when just taken internally, especially if it’s a UMF of 15 or higher.
Manuka honey can even help to alleviate tonsillitis, which can sometimes be exacerbated by allergies or infections. If you have a chronic cough, whether from allergies, throat irritation, or something else, manuka honey can coat the throat.
While any type of honey can do this, manuka honey can also reduce inflammation and swelling and provide longer lasting relief.
Instead of relying on lozenges which might contain other ingredients, simply swallow one teaspoon of manuka honey any time you would typically reach for a cough drop.
How to Buy Manuka Honey
Manuka honey products can differ, but they’re rated according to how potent they are with their UMF, or unique manuka factor. A low score means lower levels of UMF, whereas scores of 16 or higher are considered the highest quality and effectively therapeutic.
UMF scores go as high as 30. Keep in mind that certain manuka honey products do not contain UMF, so you’ll need to verify the UMF rating on your selected product before purchasing.
Depending on your desired use, you may not need a 16+ version, but anything under 10 is not considered therapeutic. Manuka honey is traditionally pricier than raw honey, so make sure that if you’re purchasing it, it contains the healing properties that you’re expecting.
Manuka honey is available from many different brands and companies and is usually found in health food stores and at various online retailers. Some brands sell different UMF potency levels, so it’s important to pay attention to that when ordering.
How to Take Manuka Honey
Regardless of your intended use, if you’re taking manuka honey internally, usually one to three tablespoons daily will be the effective dose, although some experts will recommend as many as four or five.
Caution should be used if you have diabetes or are sensitive or allergic to bee products. If you’ve never tried it before, start small and work your way up to ensure that you won’t have a reaction to it.
Some will be able to take it internally but might notice skin sensitivity, or vice versa.
Taking manuka honey can be extremely healing, but it’s not magic. It won’t replace the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and it won’t undo the damage that an unhealthy lifestyle can cause.
Manuka honey is a therapeutic food that is used as a supplement, but it won’t effectively boost immunity or health otherwise if your overall lifestyle is working against your health.
When using topically, use the smallest effective amount, although manuka honey can be reapplied as often as needed.
Whether using internally or topically, there is no level that is considered unsafe or toxic, although when consumed in large amounts the healing benefits may be overshadowed by the higher volume of sugar intake.
This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
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- Al Somal N., Coley K. E., Molan P. C., Hancock B. M. (1994). Susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to the antibacterial activity of manuka honey. J. R. Soc. Med. 87 9–12.
- Dart A., Bischofberger A., Dart C., Jeffcott L. (2015). A review of research into second intention equine wound healing using manuka honey: current recommendations and future applications. Equine Vet. Educ. 27 658–664. 10.1111/eve.12379.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.