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Top 7 benefits of Manuka honey

Laura Harcourt

Written byLaura Harcourt

heeral-patel-bio

Reviewed byHeeral Patel

Manuka honey pouring in a bowl
Manuka honey – a golden liquid that goes beyond your average honey.

Honey has been used in recipes and herbal medicine since ancient times, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that scientists found unique properties in one specific kind of honey – Manuka honey.1,2

With its rich, dark hue, Manuka honey contains a valuable compound called MGO, or methylglyoxal, that sets it apart from your normal runny honey. This powerful compound boasts incredible properties that mean Manuka honey could hold some impressive benefits for your health and wellness.3

Whether you're seeking to soothe a sore throat or looking to elevate your culinary creations, this remarkable honey may have you covered. Dive deeper into the world of Manuka Honey and uncover seven of its potential benefits here.

What is Manuka honey?

Manuka honey gains its name from the plant it originates from – the Manuka plant.

Native to New Zealand, the Manuka plant is an evergreen, small shrub or tree that has white flowers which blossom throughout the Summer.4  Bees collect the pollen from these flowers and then produce Manuka honey in their hives.

Manuka honey contains a compound called methylglyoxal (MGO) which is widely believed to provide Manuka honey with its unique properties and is thought to make Manuka more beneficial than other kinds of honey.5,6,7

What is manuka honey?

What are the benefits of Manuka honey?

The unique compounds found within Manuka honey are believed to provide it with great properties, so there’s thought to be many potential benefits of Manuka honey.

From soothing a sore throat, to adding flavour and texture to recipes, here are just seven of the potential benefits of Manuka honey.

1. Manuka honey is renowned for its antibacterial properties

Regular honey has a good reputation in this field too, but Manuka honey's MGO content puts it ahead of the game. Manuka honey's MGO content means it has antibacterial properties, and generally, the higher the MGO number, the greater the antibacterial/antimicrobial activity.8,9

The bees that frequent the Manuka bush carry back the antibacterial substance dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which originates in the nectar of Manuka flowers.10  The bees then carry it back to the hive and transform it into MGO-rich Manuka honey for us to enjoy – bee-utiful!

2. May soothe and calm sore throats

You've probably been advised by your parents or grandparents to drink some hot tea and honey when you have a sore throat. This is because anecdotally honey does an amazing job of soothing those sore throats.

Further research is needed to fully understand the medicinal benefits of honey, but at the very least you’ll have a tasty, sweet drink. Pair that with Manuka honey's valuable properties, and you're on to a winner!

Simply mix two tablespoons of Manuka honey with a warm glass of water or tea to possibly help soothe your throat. Just make sure the water isn’t too hot or fresh out the kettle, as boiling water can hinder honey’s effectiveness.

3. It could support the wound-healing process and help to treat wounds

Traditionally, Manuka honey was used to speed up the healing process of wounds.11

Due to its valuable properties, research found that Manuka honey was an effective treatment for encouraging wounds to heal and can even help to protect the wound from bacterial infections.12,13

As a result, in 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Manuka honey for wound treatment.14

4. Adds texture & flavour to recipes without lots of sugar

Manuka honey has a stronger, earthier taste than most other honey varieties, with a thicker texture like molasses. As such, Manuka honey can be a great addition as a sweetener to bakes, drinks, glazes, dressings, sauces, or even just on your toast in the morning.

Whether you add Manuka honey to your morning smoothie or your next delicious bake, you can find all the inspiration you need with our Manuka honey recipes.

5. Might support gut health

Whilst more research is needed in this area, in some studies Manuka honey, and honey in general, have been found to potentially be a great prebiotic.15,16

Prebiotics are a source of non-digestible carbohydrates, known as oligosaccharides, that are great for our gut.17 Our bodies can't digest these carbs, but the bacteria in our gut can.18 So, using these oligosaccharides as fuel helps the 'good' bacteria in our digestive system thrive.18

6. May help oral health

 Whilst more research and scientific evidence on how Manuka honey can help with oral health is needed, one early study showed promising results. It concluded that Manuka honey might protect teeth from plaque build-up and tooth decay, and their findings encourage further study in this area.18

7. It may help to treat blemishes and soothe the skin

The unique properties of Manuka honey have been anecdotally praised to be excellent for fighting blemishes, soothing skin, and even making your skin look radiant.19,20

Manuka honey's ability to help treat wounds can help fight harmful bacteria on your skin which may cause blemishes or irritation.13 In addition, it may also help reduce inflammation and calm any redness.21

Manuka honey is believed to be highly moisturising, so it’s often included in hydrating skincare products, and sometimes as part of a beauty treatment.21

How can I use Manuka honey?

Manuka honey has been used for centuries in food and on the skin, as it’s very versatile!

You'll find Manuka honey, or Manuka honey oil, in skincare products, recipes, and even cleaning products. So, whether you spread it over your toast in the morning, add it to a smoothie, or use it in your beauty routine – it's the new kitchen and beauty staple.

Read more: How to use Manuka

Potential Manuka honey side effects

While there’s many benefits of Manuka honey, there’s some things to keep in mind if you're considering trying Manuka honey in any way.
  1. If you suffer from a bee allergy, using or consuming Manuka honey, like regular honey, could result in an allergic reaction.22
  2. As honey is a form of sugar, consuming large quantities could result in a spike in blood sugar levels.23
  3. Some forms of Manuka honey are pasteurised, so we suggest avoiding giving it to children under the age of one.24
 If you have any concerns about whether Manuka honey is right for you, always have a chat with a medical professional, as they’ll be able to advise you further.

What is Manuka oil?

An ingredient you may spot in some products is Manuka oil. Manuka oil is a concentrated plant oil made using the leaves, bark, and seeds of the Manuka plant, that, like Manuka honey, are believed to hold beneficial properties.25,26

The uses of Manuka oil are vast, from skincare products to deodorants. The pure form of Manuka oil must be diluted with a carrier oil, like grapeseed oil, if you plan on applying it to your skin as this helps to prevent irritation.

Possible Manuka oil benefits

While there’s been a lot of small studies conducted into Manuka honey and its potential benefits, there’s very few studies that focus on the benefits of Manuka oil.

More recently, Manuka oil has been shown to have potentially valuable cleansing antibacterial properties.27 Further research is needed to fully understand the medicinal benefits of honey.27

What are Manuka honey creams?

Many believe that Manuka honey could hold a host of benefits for your skin, which makes Manuka honey creams for your face and body really popular.

Due to its sugar content, Manuka honey can lock in moisture when used on the skin.21 This makes Manuka honey a great addition to hydrating products, like creams and serums.21 Manuka honey creams often contain a blend of nourishing ingredients to create a rich, intensive, absorbent cream that is great for soothing the skin whilst adding hydration and a subtle, healthy glow.

The properties of Manuka honey are also great for blemishes.23 So, if you're looking for a soothing, hydrating face cream, look for Manuka honey creams on your next shopping spree.

FAQs

What do MGO and UMF mean?

When buying a pot of Manuka honey, you'll notice lots of different numbers on the label.

These numbers identify the potency of the MGO – basically, the higher the number, the better the antibacterial activity and the UMF (the unique manuka factor).6,7,8 But no matter which strength you choose, every jar will be packed full of benefits. Enjoy!

How do I know I'm buying real Manuka honey?

With so many options out there, buying Manuka honey can be tricky. But, here at Holland and Barrett, our Manuka honey is tested and checked, so we provide real Manuka honey for our customers.

In 2018, we made the decision as a brand to adopt new stringent guidelines in line with the New Zealand government-approved standard. These guidelines ensure customers know they are buying genuine New Zealand Manuka Honey.

We test our Manuka honey in New Zealand, where it’s harvested. This testing ensures our customers only get the purest, genuine Manuka Honey, where MGO strength is measured and presented transparently.

For all other Manuka honey varieties, we ask our suppliers to meet Good Manufacturing Processes in quality, traceability, and taste, to ensure everything on our shelves is of the highest standard.

The final say

Manuka’s unique properties make it a staple that could potentially hold a whole host of benefits. While more scientific research is needed, some early research shows it might help in various ways from soothing a sore throat, to hydrating, moisturising properties and many more.16,17,21

Like with any type of food, Manuka honey may not be suitable for everyone, including those with a bee allergy, children under one year old, and those with diabetes.24,25,26 You should always check with a medical professional if you have any concerns that Manuka honey may not be right for you.

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments, or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
 

Sources

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2. Carter D, Blair S, Cokcetin NN, Bouzo D, Brooks P, Ralf Schothauer, et al. Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative. Frontiers in Microbiology [Internet]. 2016 Apr 20 [cited 2024 Jan 3];7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837971/
3. Hossain L, Lee Yong Lim, Hammer KA, D.S. Hettiarachchi, Locher C. Monitoring the Release of Methylglyoxal (MGO) from Honey and Honey-Based Formulations. Molecules [Internet]. 2023 Mar 22 [cited 2024 Jan 3];28(6):2858–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10051060/
4. Johnston M, McBride M, Divakar Dahiya, Owusu-Apenten R, Poonam Singh Nigam. Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS microbiology [Internet]. 2018 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Feb 1];4(4):655–64. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6613335/
5. Parmar M. Methylglyoxal. Elsevier eBooks [Internet]. 2014 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Jan 3];302–5. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/methylglyoxal
6. Hossain L, Lee Yong Lim, Hammer KA, D.S. Hettiarachchi, Locher C. Monitoring the Release of Methylglyoxal (MGO) from Honey and Honey-Based Formulations. Molecules [Internet]. 2023 Mar 22 [cited 2024 Jan 3];28(6):2858–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10051060/
7. Methylglyoxal in Manuka Honey – Correlation with Antibacterial Properties - ProQuest [Internet]. Proquest.com. 2024 [cited 2024 Jan 3]. Available from: https://www.proquest.com/openview/70b3fe09f6dd98f9eeec3f8e435d91a0/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=5009622
8. Johnston M, McBride M, Divakar Dahiya, Owusu‐Apenten R, Singh P. Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS microbiology [Internet]. 2018 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Jan 4];4(4):655–64. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6613335/
9. Almasaudi SB, Alaa A.M. Al-Nahari, El, Barbour EK, Muhayawi A, Soad Al-Jaouni, et al. Antimicrobial effect of different types of honey on Staphylococcus aureus. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences [Internet]. 2017 Sep 1 [cited 2024 Jan 4];24(6):1255–61. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5562472/
10. Atrott J, Steffi Haberlau, Henle T. Studies on the formation of methylglyoxal from dihydroxyacetone in Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey. Carbohydrate Research [Internet]. 2012 Nov 1 [cited 2024 Jan 4];361:7–11. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0008621512003175
11. Molan P;Rhodes T. Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing. Wounds : a compendium of clinical research and practice [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2024 Jan 4];27(6). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26061489/
12. Kapoor N, Yadav R. Manuka honey: A promising wound dressing material for the chronic nonhealing discharging wounds: A retrospective study. National journal of maxillofacial surgery [Internet]. 2021 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Jan 4];12(2):233–3. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8386265/
13. Hanaa Tashkandi. Honey in wound healing: An updated review. Central European Journal of Biology [Internet]. 2021 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Jan 4];16(1):1091–100. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8496555/
14. 510(k) Premarket Notification [Internet]. Fda.gov. 2015 [cited 2024 Jan 4]. Available from: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfpmn/pmn.cfm?ID=K133729
15. Schell KR, Fernandes KE, Shanahan ER, Wilson I, Blair S, Carter D, et al. The Potential of Honey as a Prebiotic Food to Re-engineer the Gut Microbiome Toward a Healthy State. Frontiers in Nutrition [Internet]. 2022 Jul 28 [cited 2024 Jan 4];9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9367972/
16. Suraiami Mustar, Ibrahim N. A Sweeter Pill to Swallow: A Review of Honey Bees and Honey as a Source of Probiotic and Prebiotic Products. Foods [Internet]. 2022 Jul 15 [cited 2024 Jan 4];11(14):2102–2. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35885345/
17. Dorna Davani-Davari, Manica Negahdaripour, Iman Karimzadeh, Mostafa Seifan, Milad Mohkam, Seyed Jalil Masoumi, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods [Internet]. 2019 Mar 9 [cited 2024 Jan 4];8(3):92–2. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463098/
18. Singhal R, Mahantesh Siddibhavi, Roopali Sankeshwari, Patil PA, Sagar Jalihal, Ankola AV. 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 [Internet]. 2018 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Jan 4];22(1):34–4. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29568170/
19. Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology [Internet]. 2013 Dec 1 [cited 2024 Jan 4];12(4):306–13. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24305429/
20. McLoone P, Afolabi Oluwadun, Warnock M, Fyfe L. Honey: A Therapeutic Agent for Disorders of the Skin. Central Asian Journal of Global Health [Internet]. 2016 Aug 4 [cited 2024 Jan 4];5(1). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29138732/
21. Abdullah Alangari, Morris K, Lwaleed BA, Lau L, Jones K, Cooper R, et al. Honey is potentially effective in the treatment of atopic dermatitis: Clinical and mechanistic studies. Immunity, inflammation, and disease [Internet]. 2017 Mar 30 [cited 2024 Jan 4];5(2):190–9. Available from:https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/iid3.153
22. Wasp and Bee Sting Allergy | Allergy UK | National Charity [Internet]. Allergy UK | National Charity. 2021 [cited 2024 Jan 4]. Available from: https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/wasp-and-bee-sting-allergy/
23. JPMA - Journal Of Pakistan Medical Association [Internet]. Jpma.org.pk. 2022 [cited 2024 Jan 4]. Available from: https://jpma.org.pk/article-details/5744?article_id=5744
24. NHS Choices. Foods to avoid giving babies and young children [Internet]. 2024 [cited 2024 Jan 4]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/weaning-and-feeding/foods-to-avoid-giving-babies-and-young-children/
25. Avonto C, Chittiboyina AG, Wang M, Yelkaira Vásquez, Rua D, Khan IA. In Chemico Evaluation of Tea Tree Essential Oils as Skin Sensitizers: Impact of the Chemical Composition on Aging and Generation of Reactive Species. Chemical Research in Toxicology [Internet]. 2016 Jun 27 [cited 2024 Jan 4];29(7):1108–17. Available from:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27286037/
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27. Hegazi NM, Ghada E. Abd El‐Ghani, Farag MA. The super-food Manuka honey, a comprehensive review of its analysis and authenticity approaches. Journal of Food Science and Technology [Internet]. 2021 Jun 30 [cited 2024 Jan 5];59(7):2527–34. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35734106/
 

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