Health Benefits and Uses of Manuka Honey
Since ancient Egypt, honey has been beloved for both its tasty flavor and its medicinal properties. Plenty of research has shown that honey can speed up wound healing and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. It can also be an excellent natural sweetener for those who want to avoid processed sugar. Manuka honey is gaining recognition because it provides all the fantastic benefits of regular honey while also containing some unique advantages.
What is Manuka Honey?
As the name manuka implies, Manuka honey is produced from the flowers of the manuka tree. This tree grows in Australia and New Zealand, and it is also known as a tea tree. Essential oil from this tree has long been used as a disinfectant and health aid due to the many beneficial chemicals in the trees. When a European honey bee uses nectar and pollen from the small white flowers on the manuka tree, it can create Manuka honey. In order to officially count as Manuka honey, at least 70 percent of the pollen in the honey must come from manuka flowers.
Manuka honey contains some unusual compounds that are not found in other types of honey. One naturally occurring compound in Manuka honey is methylglyoxal. This compound is produced in unusually high levels from the dihydroxyacetone that is found in manuka flowers. Manuka honey also contains many flavorful compounds from manuka flowers, so it has an earthy, herbaceous taste and scent. Manuka honey has some special proteins and colloids in it that give it its distinctive texture and promote healing.
To distinguish Manuka honey from other types of honey, experts mainly pay attention to its thickness, color, and taste. True Manuka honey should be very thick and viscous. Some Manuka honey may be so thick that it has a texture more like jam instead of syrup. The honey produced from Manuka flowers also has a dark brown color. This distinctive color is often one of the main ways to identify Manuka honey. Researchers can look at pollen in the honey to identify it, but manuka pollen and kanuka pollen look extremely similar. However, kanuka honey is a light, clear yellow while manuka honey is a rich, deep brown.
Most of the benefits of Manuka come from the methylglyoxal in the honey. This organic compound helps to fight against some types of particularly harmful and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Studies have found that it may help to inhibit growth of both E. coli and staphylococcus aureus bacteria. This means that Manuka honey can be a great way to lower levels of harmful bacteria in a person's body.
Another reason that Manuka honey is so beneficial is that it contains naturally occurring amounts of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is another disinfectant compound that degrades organic compounds. It is frequently used as a disinfectant and sterilization method for wound treatment.
A lot of the advantages of Manuka honey are also due to its rigorous production standards. Honey that is labeled New Zealand Manuka honey has been carefully tested and regulated to ensure that it is actually made from manuka flowers. Shoppers can find particularly potent and pure Manuka honey by looking at the UMF rating on the honey. This is a special scale called the Unique Manuka Factor that measures the amount of methylglyoxal and other beneficial compounds in the honey. People who want to use Manuka honey for therapeutic reasons normally need honey with a UMF of at least 10.
There are many different uses for Manuka honey since it has such powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and healing effects. Depending on how it is taken, the honey can provide medicinal benefits, or it can be used as a beauty aid. Some applications of Manuka honey use pure honey while others incorporate the honey into special recipes.
Manuka Honey Usage Tips
Helps with Wounds
One of the primary uses of Manuka honey is healing wounds. It helps to fight off bacteria that would otherwise lengthen healing times, and it also provides beneficial proteins and other healing compounds. Never apply it to a deep wound, but the honey can be spread over a mild burn or smaller abrasions. Even after a new scar has formed over the wound, people can continue to apply Manuka honey. Its moisturizing benefits will keep skin flexible and prevent a thick scar from developing later.
Helps Keep Skin Healthy
Manuka honey is great for keeping skin healthy because it is both moisturizing and antibacterial. When applied to the face, Manuka honey can fight inflammation and bacteria that cause acne, and it also provides plenty of moisture to keep skin looking firm and youthful. Another great benefit of Manuka honey for the skin is that it brings the skin's pH to optimal levels, which prevents dryness, redness, and acne. The low levels of hydrogen peroxide and antioxidants in Manuka honey can even help to fade dark scars left behind from past acne. The simple homemade face mask below will help to even out skin tone and prevent acne when applied a couple times each week.
Manuka Honey Facemask
- Mix all three ingredients together in a small bowl or jar.
- Use clean hands or a cotton pad to smoothly spread the mixture over the skin.
- Leave the face mask on for at least 20 minutes. The active ingredients will continue to provide benefits for up to an hour.
- Rinse the mask off with warm water and dry skin gently.
Helps Keep Digestive System Healthy
The antimicrobial effects of Manuka honey can be excellent for keeping the digestive system healthy. It kills off harmful bacteria while providing natural glucose that boosts the production of beneficial bacteria. This can help to ease bloating, stomach pain, excessive bowel movements, and acid reflux after eating. People with irritable bowel syndrome or stomach ulcers report that taking a couple tablespoons of Manuka honey each day can help to calm their symptoms.
Helps with Sore Throat and Coughing
The healing properties of Manuka honey make it ideal for calming a sore throat. It also helps to get rid of nasty bacteria lingering in the mouth and throat, so people may be able to ease their cold or flu symptoms. Try making this recipe to soothe a scratchy throat and reduce coughing. In addition to Manuka honey, it also contains thyme, which helps to ease respiratory or bronchial infections.
Homemade Manuka Cough Syrup
- 2 cups water
- 8 Tbs. chopped, fresh thyme
- 1 cup Manuka honey
- Put the water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and let it come to a boil.
- Remove boiling water from heat, add thyme, and let the concoction steep for at least 10 minutes.
- Pour in the Manuka honey and stir until thoroughly dissolved.
- Pour mixture into an airtight, glass jar, straining if desired.
This cough syrup will be good for at least three weeks if refrigerated, and a spoonful each time the throat feels rough can be very helpful.
Use as a Regular Sweetener
Manuka honey is used even by those who do not have any specific health concerns to address. It contains plenty of manganese, iron, copper, potassium, zinc, and calcium, so Manuka honey can be an excellent part of a healthy diet.
Since honey is higher in fructose than glucose, it provides a sweeter flavor. This means that people can use a smaller amount while still getting a taste as sweet as sugar. Manuka honey easily dissolves in oatmeal, coffee, yogurt, and other foods, so individuals can easily enjoy the great tastes and healthy properties of Manuka honey.