Benefits of Manuka Honey
Healthy foodies have fallen head over heels for manuka honey, a type of honey that hails from New Zealand. Pronounced “MAH-nooka,” it’s named after the manuka bush, from which bees gather nectar and pollen. Historically honey has been used for medicinal purposes dating back thousands of years. Yet because of industrialization, honey isn’t what it used to be. Like most things today, not all honeys are created equal. Most products at conventional supermarkets are not much different from high fructose corn syrup. To get good honey today, you pretty much have to go to your local health food store, local farm co-op or go online to purchase the real deal.
What is manuka honey? All honey has some antibiotic qualities. In typical honey, it is hydrogen peroxide that provides this benefit, whereas in manuka honey, it’s UMF that is antibiotic. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor, a grading system that uses a scale of 5 to 30 to gauge each batch of honey’s antibacterial strength. Manuka honey is very expensive because of its medicinal properties as well as exclusivity. But anything below UMF 10 does not justify paying a premium for it since it is only as good as any other type of natural honey. UMF 10-15 provides some additional benefits and would be sufficient for maintaining general health and vitality, but if you are intending to take advantage of the therapeutic effects of manuka honey, you should go for UMF 15+ or, if possible, UMF 20+.
Manuka honey is an excellent nutritional supplement. Honey is naturally rich in fructose and many other reducing sugars, amino acids, enzymes and B-complex vitamins, particularly thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), and B6. The mineral content of honey is usually determined by testing its electrical conductivity; the higher the conductivity, the higher the mineral content. Manuka honey generally exhibits four times the conductivity of regular honey, proving to be much superior in mineral content.
Gastritis, or the inflammation of the stomach lining, can be caused by bacterial infections, bile reflux, the use of aspirin and similar non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and excessive alcohol intake. Gastritis causes stomach pain and discomfort, bloating, vomiting, indigestion and heartburn. Left untreated, it can result in severe blood loss, and in some cases, stomach cancer. Honey is commonly used for gastritis, but manuka honey with its high antimicrobial activity is even more beneficial. It has been found to be effective against Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria most commonly seen in the highly acidic environment of the stomach.
Manuka honey has been found to be effective in preventing colonic inflammation and effecting the repair of colon lining damaged due to chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Although the symptoms of IBD such as stomach pain and cramps are similar to those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the two are different in many aspects. People who have used manuka honey regularly for its health benefits often report increased resistance to diseases. The high nutritional value of the honey, especially the presence of a wide range of vitamins and minerals could be responsible, but it is mainly attributed to the immune-boosting capacity of manuka honey. Taking manuka honey during the flu season may protect you against catching the bug. Colds and flu are highly contagious infections caused by viruses.
Manuka honey is a blessing to people suffering from chronic sinusitis that takes several weeks to resolve, even with the use of antibiotics. The reason is that, the microbes that cause the infection of the warm, moist sinus chambers often make a biofilm with a polysaccharide matrix that prevents antibiotics from reaching the target. Honey has a drying effect on the mucosal lining, which helps bring down sinus congestion. Its capacity to draw out water helps it to destroy the bacterial biofilms. Manuka honey, in particular, can act against virulent bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa that are the common pathogens found in sinus infections.
Many skin conditions such as eczema and hives result from allergies and autoimmune problems. Characterized by extreme skin dryness and scaling, eczema can be worsened by scratching, which can result in the skin peeling and starting to ooze. It can be further complicated by secondary infections by opportunistic bacteria and fungi. Manuka honey can be used to manage eczema and prevent complications. A mixture of Manuka honey, Manuka oil and beeswax can act as a moisturizing shield on the damaged skin and keep it intact. It helps hydrate the skin and protect against infections.
Honey has long been used for treating cuts and burns, but Manuka honey is exceptionally good for this owing to its higher antimicrobial effect. Honey’s mechanism of action is multipronged. On contact with water and body fluids, the hydrogen peroxide reacts by releasing oxygen and disinfecting the wound.
Manuka honey’s healing properties can improve your scalp health and control problems like dandruff. Dandruff, whether it is oily or dry, is a result of scalp dryness and flaking of dead skin. Honey applied to the scalp draws out dirt and grime from the skin pores. It also draws in water from the atmosphere, keeping the skin hydrated. The antimicrobial properties work against bacteria as well as fungi such as Malassezia globosa and M. furfur that are implicated in dandruff and folliculitis.
Manuka honey with its high mineral content, amino acids, and B-complex vitamins can nourish the scalp and rejuvenate the hair follicles. Apply honey on the scalp and rub it in with your fingers. Wash with a mild conditioner mixed with a teaspoon of honey to maintain good hydration. To get smooth, shiny hair without frizz, add a teaspoon of Manuka honey of UMF 5-10 to your regular conditioner. On rinsing the hair with the conditioner, your hair will become shiny and smooth as silk.
Manuka honey and regular honey have about the same sugar content, though some reports suggest manuka honey could have a slightly lower glycemic index. Yet overall, manuka can be consumed just like regular honey: added to sweeten tea, spread on toast, drizzled on top of desserts, and more.
*Caution: Manuka honey is considered safe for topical use except in those who have allergies to bee products. However, diabetics should consume it with caution. The earthy flavor and slightly bitter taste of manuka honey may take some getting used to, but it can be safely consumed by adults and children above 1 year. Doctors warn against feeding any type of honey to infants because of the risk of botulism.