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- Manuka honey is exclusively from New Zealand and boasts more medicinal properties than other honey.
- Manuka honey may treat inflammatory skin conditions, heal wounds, and improve oral health.
- Do not use manuka honey if you have diabetes, an allergy to bees, or are under the age of one.
Manuka honey is a type of honey exclusively found in New Zealand. Because the window for bees to pollinate the manuka plant is less than six weeks per year, it is more expensive than other types of honey, up to $99 per 100 grams. It also boasts more medicinal benefits than other forms of honey.
Here are four health benefits of manuka honey, where you can buy it, and who should avoid it due to adverse side effects.
What is manuka honey?
Manuka honey differs from regular honey because it contains the active ingredient methylglyoxal, which potentially gives it antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It can be purchased at most health stores and even some supermarkets.
Authentic manuka honey is given a Unique Manuka Factor, or UMF, grade. The grading system was developed by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association in New Zealand and is used to confirm the authenticity and quality of the honey. Ratings range from 5+ to 25+, determined by how much methylglyoxal and leptosperin – a stable chemical used to identify manuka – are in the honey.
The strength and dosage of manuka honey you want depends on your goals. According to Amy Shapiro, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition, the strength and dosage you choose differs based on what you’re aiming to treat:
- 5+ to 9+ is for general wellbeing
- 10+ 15+ for therapeutic purposes
- 15+ for dental hygiene
The higher the grade, the more expensive it may be.
General advice: Consuming one to two tablespoons of manuka honey a day is the standard dosage, says Shapiro.
Manuka honey has many purported health benefits, but not all of them are backed by scientific research. Here are some of the benefits with some scientific backing:
1. May treat skin conditions
Manuka honey is widely used in skin care products thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, says Serena Poon, a certified nutritionist with her own practice. The sticky ointment can inhibit bacterial growth that may cause or worsen acne and soothe redness or dryness that comes with inflammatory skin conditions.
According to Shapiro and Poon, skin conditions manuka honey may help with include:
- Dry skin
Apply a coin-sized amount of manuka honey to your skin and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water, says Poon. Remove immediately if it begins to burn or cause itchiness.
Any grade will work for skin conditions, but the higher the grade the more effective it will be.
2. May heal wounds
Not only can manuka honey help soothe skin conditions, but it can also help heal wounds thanks to its antibacterial properties. However, you should not apply manuka honey to wounds without first consulting a medical professional.
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Important: The manuka honey used to topically treat ulcers, burns, and wounds is a medical-grade product – a 15+ UMF – with impurities removed, says Annamaria Louloudis MS, RDN, founder of Louloudi Nutrition.
Most of honey’s antibacterial activity is due to hydrogen peroxide, which is less effective once it mixes with blood or serum in the wound. However, in manuka honey the antibacterial properties come from methylglyoxal. Methylglyoxal does not become less effective when in contact with bodily fluids, meaning manuka honey prevents bacterial growth for longer periods without reapplication.
3. Soothes sore throats
Honey, of all types, is a well-known natural remedy for easing sore throats and coughs.
“Honey forms a soothing film over the throat, reducing irritation,” says BB Arrington, a certified nutritionist, with her own practice.
Manuka honey, in particular, reduces inflammation caused by coughs and can speed up the healing of any scratches in the throat, says Arrington.
There are a few ways you can consume manuka honey to help with a sore throat, including:
- A plain spoonful
- In hot water
- Mixed into tea
4. Improves oral health
While it may seem contradictory that something as sweet as honey could improve your health, manuka’s antimicrobial activity inhibits plaque formation, says Arrington. This is especially true when applied to the area where gum and tooth meet.
What the research says: In a 2018 study Indian children aged 12 to 15 used ten milliliters of manuka honey as a mouthwash twice a day for 21 days. At 22 and 28 days, researchers found there was a reduction in plaque and gingival scores.
Manuka honey may improve oral health when:
- Consumed directly
- Used as a mouthwash
- Put on a toothbrush
Consult with a dentist before using manuka honey to determine which grade you should use and if it’s right for you.
Unproven benefits of manuka honey
Not all touted benefits of manuka honey have scientific evidence behind them. Here are some unproven benefits of manuka honey:
- Cancer prevention or treatment
- Managing diabetes symptoms
- Improving gastrointestinal issues
- Limiting side effects of radiation
Manuka honey side effects
Manuka honey is generally safe to use or consume, but some people may have an adverse reaction, such as an allergic reaction or high blood sugar.
According to Shapiro, people who should avoid manuka honey include those with:
- Allergy to bees or honey
- Elevated blood sugar levels
Important: Honey can contain a form of bacteria that can become toxic if ingested by infants, says Shapiro. As a result of this condition, known as botulism, children one year or younger should not consume honey of any kind, manuka or otherwise.
Manuka honey is a more expensive, sought-after form of honey only cultivated in New Zealand. Its benefits can include soothing a sore throat, healing wounds, and treating skin conditions, such as eczema. Before trying manuka honey, speak with a medical professional to see if it’s the right fit for you.