Manuka honey has been creating quite the “buzz” in health and wellness circles, but is there really such thing as a “miracle honey?” And how is it different from the kind of honey you spread on your toast?
To begin with, all honey has actually been used medicinally throughout human history — primarily as a wound dressing, due to its antimicrobial properties.
There are many types of honey because bees are drawn to many different kinds of flowering plants, and honey can vary substantially in its ability to kill bacteria depending on the plant. This has made the study of honey as a medicinal product much more complicated. 1
However, recent studies have focused on honey produced by the Leptospermum species — also known as a manuka tree — native to New Zealand and Australia.
An incredible discovery
This “manuka honey” had been used medicinally by the native Maori people of New Zealand for centuries. But in the 1980s, Professor Peter Molan of Waikato University in New Zealand first reported what he deemed to be unusual activity within the honey.
He began testing it against a wide range of bacterial species, but he was unable to identify the “miracle” ingredient that made active manuka honey so potent, even though it was heavily diluted and low in hydrogen peroxide content. 2
In 2008, two laboratories reported a substance known as methylglyoxal (MGO) in manuka honey. These high levels of MGO relate specifically to a phytochemical found in the nectar of flowers from the Leptospermum species of trees.
In the end, this chemical was able to distinguish between “good” human cells and “bad” bacterial cells — killing only the bacteria. 3 That’s some pretty clever honey!
But manuka honey doesn’t just fight bacteria.
Let’s take a look at all the ways that manuka honey can help your skin — including how it promotes the production of those anti-aging “miracle proteins” known as collagen and elastin!
Clinical trials show that manuka honey can kill more than 60 strains of bacteria — including drug-resistant superbugs like the deadly staph infection, MRSA.4
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology demonstrated that manuka honey can curb the growth of bacterial biofilms on surfaces and medical devices — even when it’s heavily diluted.5
Manuka isn’t just beneficial for curbing bacterial growth — it also has a stimulating effect on the production of cellular growth.6
Manuka honey bandages have long been used by doctors in Australia and New Zealand, and the FDA finally approved these for the U.S. in 2007. (In fact, you can often find them in your local CVS). These manuka bandages infuse wounds with honey in a watertight, sterile environment — to help nourish skin and heal wounds quickly.
Manuka honey is a natural humectant, which means it can draw and retain moisture in the skin. Hydration is essential for keeping your skin young and healthy — so using manuka can help promote better elasticity and promote healthy cell growth.
If you’re suffering from hormonal adult acne, manuka honey makes a great “acne-fighting” balm. Aside from those potent antibacterial properties against the P.acnes bacteria, it also has an acidic pH.8
You see, when your skin is too alkaline, it can become dry, sensitive and prone to infection — so manuka can help balance this pH level. Plus, it has many natural anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s also great for irritated skin.9
Anti-aging skin care
While scientists were studying the effects of the honey on wound healing, they also discovered something that could become far-reaching in anti-aging circles.
In one particular study, researchers evaluated the response of human fibroblasts (connective tissue), macrophages (white blood cells needed for healing), and endothelial cells (which organize the development of connective tissue) with manuka honey.
All three cell types demonstrated greater increases in activity with the added presence of the manuka — with human fibroblasts exhibiting the most response.10
You see, human fibroblasts are responsible for producing collagen and elastin, which help keep skin healthy, plump, bouncy — and ultimately, younger-looking.
How to use manuka honey
So finally, how do we use manuka honey?
Manuka honey comes in a variety of “medicinal” strengths known as the Unique Manuka Factor — or UMF — which indicate its activity level:11
- UMF 5-9: low level activity
- UMF 10-15: moderate useful level activity
- UMF 16+: superior high grade activity
(Unique Manuka Factor is a quality trademark that can only be used by licensed users. They must be a New Zealand company and meet the set criteria.12)
For wound healing: Apply the honey to the wound and then dress as usual. Change regularly.
For skin care: Try a manuka honey mask. Apply a very thin layer of honey to your face, then leave on for at least 30 minutes. (You can also try covering your face with a warm washcloth to help the honey further hydrate the skin!)
There are many ways to utilize one of Mother Nature’s secrets to beauty and wellness. Experiment for yourself to see which one works best for your needs so you can look your best — naturally!