Manuka Honey: Is It Worth it?
Manuka honey is a unique type of honey from New Zealand and comes from the Manuka tree. Manuka honey has long been used for its healing properties both internally and externally. There is an array of conclusive evidence to show that Manuka Honey can be very beneficial for healing wounds. All honey is acidic and that can be really useful in healing but Manuka honey contains a compound called methylglyoxal that other honey does not contain. This compound is one of the reasons Manuka honey has such useful antibacterial properties.
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There are two places that you might have seen Manuka honey, in the supermarket or the grocery store. Maybe noticed some really expensive honey on the shelf and wondered why that specific honey was $20 more expensive than the rest. You also might have seen it in first aid supplies like wound dressings. A study from 2017 by Bulman et al. found that Manuka honey can enhance wound healing and tissue regeneration when used in a wound dressing. Its immunomodulatory properties caused by methoglyoxal are at least in part responsible for this enhanced healing that happens when Manuka honey is applied to a wound.
Additionally there's really good evidence that Manuka honey has a beneficial effect on the immune system. It has anti-inflammatory properties which are really useful for athletes who are training and constantly putting their body into a position where there is inflammation. Whether or not you're an athlete there is a lot of benefits to be had from consuming foods that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect your cells from free radicals.
Another potential benefit to athletes is that Manuka honey has especially high levels of sugar and for many its very easily digestible and so could be used as a fuel source during races or longer workouts.
Manuka honey is very effective for addressing sore throats. The antiviral antibacterial properties will reduce inflammation and can attack the bacteria that is causing the sore throat and causing the pain Honey also has a soothing effect so it can immediately offer relief. Manuka Honey has also been studied for use in a sinus rinse (Lee et al, 2021) and was found to be effective in increasing quality of life for those with chronic rhinosinusitis. A 2018 study by Singhal et al. looked at using Manuka honey as a mouthwash and that found that it showed a promising antimicrobial effect on dental caries and plaque and gingival scores.
Manuka honey is more expensive than regular honey and typically costs around $25 to $40 for a tub so it's worth understanding how Manuka Honey is rated. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor and Manuka honey will have the UMF written somewhere on its packaging. This is a grading system that goes from 5 to 20 and it's indicates the antibacterial strength of the Manuka Honey. The higher the UMF, the more expensive the honey is going to be.
Bulman, S., Tronci, G., Goswami, P., Carr, C., & Russell, S. (2017). Antibacterial Properties of Nonwoven Wound Dressings Coated with Manuka Honey or Methylglyoxal. Materials, 10(8), 954–. https://doi.org/10.3390/ma10080954.
Lee, V., Humphreys, I., Purcell, P., & Davis, G. (2021). Manuka honey versus saline sinus irrigation in the treatment of cystic fibrosis‐associated chronic rhinosinusitis: A randomised pilot trial. Clinical Otolaryngology, 46(1), 168–174. https://doi.org/10.1111/coa.13637
Singhal, R., Siddibhavi, M., Sankeshwari, R., Patil, P., Jalihal, S., & Ankola, A. (2018). Effectiveness of three mouthwashes - Manuka honey, Raw honey, and Chlorhexidine on plaque and gingival scores of 12-15-year-old school children: A randomized controlled field trial. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, 22(1), 34–39. https://doi.org/10.4103/jisp.jisp_356_17