Guest blog by Oliver Wastie
Benefits of Manuka Honey
There is a buzz of excitement in the air about honey and British shoppers seem to have rediscovered a taste for the delicious and fascinating world of honey. Waitrose, for example, reported that last year sales of honey overtook sales of jam for the first time ever. 1
What Makes Manuka Honey Special?
Manuka honey has entered popular consciousness because of its strong and unusual antibacterial properties but to better understand the benefits of manuka honey, it is good to know why it is different from other types of honey.
In fact, all types of honey have an antibacterial effect to a varying degree because it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide and this is why it was used and known for its healing properties even in the days of Ancient Greece. But the antibacterial activity of manuka honey is completely different and is also stable and does not degrade when exposed to heat or light, and this special activity has been termed its non-peroxide activity.2
Researchers have found that manuka honey’s unique antibacterial activity is caused by the presence of a substance called methylglyoxal, often abbreviated as MGO.
Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant & Antiviral too
But manuka honey’s famous antibacterial activity is not all that this wonder of nature has to offer. Research has shown that manuka honey has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant as well as antiviral properties, which is why it is being used to an increasing extent to treat wounds and burns, for example3.
One of the many exciting benefits of manuka honey is that it has been shown to be effective against bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics – so-called MRSA bacteria, which are more commonly known as ‘superbugs’.
Good for the Skin
Given the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of manuka honey, and its natural moisturising ability, it is not surprising to know that manuka honey is finding its way into an increasing number of beauty products, skin care remedies and also is popular as a face mask. Scarlett Johansson for one is a famous advocate of using manuka honey as a face-mask.
Variety of Benefits
In summary, manuka honey and manuka honey-based products have a wide variety of benefits thanks to its multiple actions including helping with:
Digestive problems, including acid reflux and gastritis4
Wound care and burns
Eczema and psoriasis
Many people also relate that the honey boosts immunity and helps with coughs and colds, and studies have also shown beneficial effects on oral health5.
Medical Grade Manuka Honey
Many manuka-based skin care and medical products on the market use a special medical grade manuka honey, which is basically manuka honey with strong antibacterial properties that has then been sterilized — a process that does not alter the special properties of the honey.
How to Buy Genuine Manuka Honey
The increasing popularity and scarcity of genuine manuka honey means obviously that the cost is higher than other honey varieties. Consumers need to know what to look for as there are a variety of labels, trademarks and systems for grading the honey. Confusingly, not all manuka honey has antibacterial properties, so it is important to know how to buy it if you want to try it because of its bioactive nature.
There are currently two trademark labels that can help consumers identify manuka honey that contains bioactive properties: UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) and MGO (Methylglyoxal) Manuka Honey. However, not all producers of high quality manuka have signed up to these, and another label to look out for is NPA, which stands for non-peroxide activity.
Expect Changes to Labelling
After some recent scandals concerning the labelling of manuka honey, the New Zealand government and the honey industry is trying to standardise the way manuka honey is labelled, and in future there will be more of an emphasis on the level of methylglyoxal (MGO) that the honey contains.
2 http://waikato.academia.edu/PeterMolan ‘What’s Special About Manuka Honey?’
3 http://waikato.academia.edu/PeterMolan ‘some significant research outcomes from Honey Research at the University of Waikato’
4 The Independent, Manuka Honey is the Bees Knees http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/manuka-honey-is-the-bees-knees-1690599.html
5 Effect of Manuka honey, chlorhexidine gluconate and xylitol on the clinical levels of dental plaque http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22114423
Oliver has had a fascination with manuka honey for as long as he can remember and writes about it on http://www.manukahoneyworld.co.uk/
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