Manuka Honey has been used for healing since ancient times dating back to the Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks and even Romans (1). Since then, scientific studies revealed that honey often has an acidic pH intolerable to bacteria and it produces hydrogen peroxide, making it a great disinfectant for wounds. There seem to be as many varieties of honey as there are varieties of flowering plants, but one particular honey from New Zealand, called Manuka honey has recently stood out for its extra therapeutic properties.
Manuka honey is well-known for its strong and broad-spectrum antibacterial and antifungal properties,* which is why scientists, hospitals, clinical practitioners and health enthusiasts have shown increased interest in the product (3). Some Manuka brands are even produced and licensed for medical use in Europe, Australia, and the USA. These are found in hospitals, especially in many wound care centers. Similar products are popular at natural food stores, like Good Earth Natural Foods.
Manuka honey has been used by the general public for many purposes, including wound healing, infections in the throat, gums, eyes, ears, nose, and other external infections. Internally it has been used for digestive issues, colds, flus, and an antimicrobial superfood to boost energy and immune function or to encourage detox. Scientific studies are currently testing to identify efficacy of these many uses.
Studies have already shown possible effectiveness for the use of Manuka honey for burns, coughs, oral mucositis, and wound healing. Even though studies have been conducted for hayfever, athletic performance, diabetes, gingivitis, hemorrhoids, herpes simplex, hyperlipidemia, infectious diarrhea, infertility, Leishmania lesions, malnutrition, itching, sinusitis, different forms of dermatitis, and many forms of infection, more studies need to be performed to produce sufficient reliable evidence. (Natural Medicines Database).
In the 1980’s, a professor in New Zealand named Peter Molan began studying Manuka honey to find unique antibacterial properties. His work started the ball rolling for many more scientific studies. In 2008, methyl glyoxal (MGO) was discovered in Manuka honey. MGO is a strong antimicrobial constituent created when bees harvest nectar primarily from theNew Zealand Tea tree called Leptospermum scoparium. Other tested Leptospermumspecies found in New Zealand and Australia also yield MGO, such as the Leptospermum polygalifolium. MGO is produced from a precursor called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) found in the nectar harvested from the Manuka tree. When the honey forms, the DHA spontaneously dehydrates during the process, converting it into MGO. MGO’s extra strong antimicrobial power combined with all other natural healing and antimicrobial qualities has made Manuka honey one of the most widely scientifically studied and medically used types of honey. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837971/
Higher levels of MGO would normally equate to a more effective product, consumers usually look for higher levels of MGO on a Manuka product label. MGO levels have also been converted into a UMF rating for easy labeling. UMF is a volunteer trade association and not a regulatory authority in New Zealand.
MGO vs. UMF
Further Factors in Quality ControlThere are more key factors to look for on top products in the market. MGO could be extracted and added to a product in order to report higher MGO levels on a label. They could also be heated and degraded. To help ensure the purity of product, the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries requires a“Science Definition Test” be performed which includes chemical and DNA tests before export, instead of just an MGO test. (2) These requirements must be met in order to label a product as “Manuka Honey”. Key factors of authenticating Manuka honey include:-Non-GMO Project Verification
-Ensuring it is Raw and Unpasteurized to ensure beneficial wellness properties are maintained-Traceability from the hive to your home-Ensuring it is free of antibiotics, glyphosate, and pesticides-Verifying it is produced and packaged in New Zealand.
Broad-spectrum of Bacteria*Several studies combine to give us a list of bacteria that Manuka honey has been shown to fight:Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, Actinomyces pyogenes, Alcaligenes faecalis, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus stearothermophilus, Bacillus subtillis, Burkholderia ambifario, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus stearothermophilus, Bacillus subtilis, Burkholderia ambifaria, Burkholderia anthina, Burkholderia cenocepacia, Burkholderia cepacia, Burkholderia cepacia complex, Burkholderia cepacia group K, Burkholderia multivorans, Burkholderia pyrrocinia, Burkholderia stabilis, Burkholderia vietnamensis, Citrobacter freundii, Clostridium difficile, Enterobacter aerogenes, Enterobacter agglomerans, Enterobacter clocae,ESBL producingEnterobacter clocae,ESBL producingEnterobactersp., Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcussp., VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci), Escherichia coli, ESBL producingEscherichia coli, Escherichia coli0157:H7, Helicobacter pylori, Klebsiella pneumonia, Listeria monocytogenes, Morganella morganii, Nocardia asteroids, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonasspp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella enteritidis, Salmonella mississippi, Salmonella typhimurium, Serratia marcescens, Shigella flexneri, Shigella sonnei, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus aureusresistant to antibiotics other than methicillin, MRSA, Epidemic MRSA, Staphylococcus(coagulase negative), Staphylococcus epidermidis, MRSE, Staphylococcus equisubsp.Equi, Staphylococcus equisubsp.zooepidemicus, Staphylococcus sciuri, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, Streptococcus agalactiae, Streptococcus dysgalactiae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus uberis, Yersinia enterocolitica.
Note that the product must be used as therapeutically as tested and only tested varieties are documented to show these conclusions] (2).References:1.Al-Jabri AA. Honey, milk and antibiotics.Afr J Biotechnol.2005;4:1580–15872.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/111140003.https://wedderspoon.com/pages/kfactor4.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837971/5.Natural Medicines Database, Manuka Honey