Honey is valued for both its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. It has traditionally been used externally (topically) to protect the body against infection, due to its hydrogen peroxide content. Because honey contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase, it converts glucose sugars into hydrogen peroxide, giving the honey a therapeutic benefit!
However, all honey is not created equal.
Each type of honey contains different ingredients, depending on the plants, bees and the process involved during harvesting. Currently, evidence suggests that the most clinically effective honey is Manuka honey.
Manuka honey is a type of honey harvested in Australia and New Zealand from bees that pollinate the Manuka bush. Manuka honey can exhibit a strong antibacterial and wound-healing action both topically and internally, due to several mechanisms and active ingredients.
- Hydrogen peroxide activity (HPA).
- Non-peroxide activity or Unique Manuka factor (UMF).
- Methylglyoxal (MGO) levels.
- High osmolarity of the honey.
- Low pH.
- Phenolic compounds.
When buying Manuka honey, it is important to ensure it has been tested to confirm it contains these active ingredients.
Most honey buyers look for a desired UMF rating, which takes many factors into consideration. It considers the level of MGO, in the honey, which identifies a honey's antibacterial strength. MGO levels are measured before packaging, and a number is placed on the jar label. This number is listed separately from the UMF rating, yet it is weighed when determining the UMF rating. Some of the most common UMF ratings are UMF 5+, UMF 10+, UMF 15+ and UMF 20+. The higher the rating, the more potent the honey.
Depending on the strength of the product, Manuka honey may:
- Inhibit an infection occurring and limit the damage that bacteria can cause in the body.
- Help to repair tissue, reduce pain and reduce swelling when there is an infection.
- Promote wound healing.
- Relieve symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.
- Inhibit the growth of oral bacteria.
- Regulate gastrointestinal microflora, via promoting the growth and activity of beneficial intestinal bacteria while inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria.
The easiest and most direct way to take Manuka honey for respiratory and gastrointestinal benefits is to directly eat it from a spoon. It is very thick and not as sweet as other kinds of honey, and it does not begin to dilute until it reaches the stomach.
Some people take Manuka honey in drinks, though it should never be placed in hot liquids. This destroys the active ingredients. For a tasty snack, try spreading the honey on toast or stirring it in yogurt.
For topical benefits, Manuka honey must be applied directly to the affected area. Ideally, this is done in a sterile environment by a health practitioner.