Manuka honey has been claimed to:
- kill bacteria
- heal wounds and burns
- help with allergy
- boost immunity – protect against common cold and flu
- improve dental health
- prevent diabetes
- improves sleep
- help with skin complexion and has anti-ageing properties
- prevent hair loss and protect damaged hair
Manuka honey does sound like magic, doesn’t it? Do not get overexcited because like everything else, T&Cs apply!
Firstly, not all manuka honey are created equal; some are more effective than the others.1 They do, however, share something in common – they cost an arm and a leg!
Secondly, some of the claims above have been scientifically proven while others may be fraudulent i.e. the efficacy of manuka honey in treating certain conditions are questionable.
What is manuka honey effective for?
The anti-bacterial activity of manuka honey has been tested in many studies,2,3 supporting its use for wound dressing. Besides having good anti-bacterial activity, manuka honey has anti-inflammatory activity, anti-oxidant activity and speeds up wound healing. In addition, the risk of bacteria acquiring resistance towards manuka honey is low. This means that unlike antibiotics, manuka honey will still be effective after repeated use.
What is manuka honey NOT effective for?
Evidence for the antibacterial activity of manuka honey is often from laboratory assessment where the active ingredients of manuka honey were shown to inhibit bacterial growth on an agar plate.
However, the active ingredients of manuka honey will not survive the digestion process of the human body. This means that manuka honey may help with a sore throat but the anti-bacterial properties are no longer present when you drink it!
Like any types of honey, manuka honey possesses anti-inflammatory activity, anti-oxidant activity and prebiotic properties. Simply put, if you are taking manuka honey for general health, you should be able to obtain similar benefits by taking other types of honey, which are also much cheaper.
What about other claims?
There is some evidence that manuka honey may be effective against periodontal (gum) diseases and plaque formation, but more research is needed before advocating its use. There is no scientific evidence to support use of manuka honey to prevent diabetes, improve sleep, prevent hair loss etc.
How is manuka honey graded?
The antibacterial activity of manuka honey is mainly due to the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO). You probably have seen the word ‘MGO’ or ‘UMF’ (Unique Manuka Factor) on the packaging of manuka honey. As a rule of thumb, the higher the MGO or UMF, the higher the anti-bacterial activity (and the price).
- Manuka honey has been proven to be clinically effective for external use such as for wounds and skin infections.
- There is no need to spend a fortune on manuka honey if the purpose of you taking manuka honey is for general health.
- Talk to your pharmacist or doctor to find out how you can optimise use of your expensive manuka honey.
- Do not feed manuka honey to children under one year old. The same warning applies to any other types of honey because of the risk of botulism (a rare and potentially fatal poisoning).4
- Honey may be a healthier alternative to sugar, but its high sugar content means we should take it in moderation.
Now go call your honey 🙂
1) Irish J, Blair S, Carter DA (2011) The Antibacterial Activity of Honey Derived from Australian Flora. PLoS ONE 6(3): e18229.
2) Hammond EN, Donkor ES. Antibacterial effect of Manuka honey on Clostridium difficile. BMC Research Notes. 2013 May 7;6:188.
3) Sherlock O, Dolan A, Athman R, et al. Comparison of the antimicrobial activity of Ulmo honey from Chile and Manuka honey against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2010;10(1):47.
4) World Health Organisation. Botulism. 2018; Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs270/en/. Accessed 25 March, 2018.