Sweet Stuff: The Many Benefits of Mānuka Honey

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Every so often, a brand-new, much-hyped superfood takes the world (and our grocery lists) by storm—we’re talking about you, kale, chia seeds, apple cider vinegar and coconut oil. Now, there’s an all-new, all-natural, all-powerful remedy that has the homeopathic community buzzing: mānuka honey. A strain of the sweet stuff that comes from the mānuka bush in Australia and New Zealand, this honey is touted as a powerful ally against issues like acid reflux, eczema and staph infections. But is it just too sweet to be true?

First, it’s important to understand exactly what mānuka honey is. Produced by honey bees that forage on the mānuka or ‘tea tree,’ a plant that grows wild in New Zealand and Southeast Australia, mānuka honey is darker and thicker than what you’ll find in a bear-shaped squeeze bottle. While all varieties of raw honey have long been valued for various health benefits, mānuka honey’s nutritional content is up to four times more potent than honey derived from other plants, a characteristic measured by Unique Mānuka Factor (UMF).

The antibacterial properties of UMF are the most well-studied benefits, a result of the honey’s high levels of hydrogen peroxide, methylglyoxal and dihydroxyacetone—an antibacterial power trio produced by naturally occurring enzymes. Not all honey labeled as mānuka honey contains significant levels of antibacterial factors. To be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, mānuka honey needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF. Honey at or above that level is marketed as “UMF Mānuka Honey” or “Active Mānuka Honey.”

So, what should you do once you get your hands on a jar of “Active Mānuka Honey?” Therapeutic uses can be broken down into two categories: Topical application and ingestion.

Topical application of the sweet stuff has been shown to be effective in treating wounds, fighting infection and promoting healing. Unlike antibiotics, UMF Mānuka Honey has not been reported to cause development of resistant bacteria like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), leading scientists to suggest that regular topical use on cuts and infections (especially in the hospital and nursing home setting) may keep MRSA naturally at bay. Some people have linked the honey’s antibacterial and healing properties to a treatment option for skin conditions like acne and eczema, although no clinical studies support this yet.

Ingesting medical grade mānuka honey allows the antibacterial properties to work their magic on your insides, a benefit sought after by those suffering from Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), low stomach acid and acid reflux. Research supports that Clostridium difficult, a bacteria related to gut health, was found to be effectively treated by mānuka honey in a lab setting. The anti-inflammatory properties of the wonder-honey have been shown to be helpful in treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome and inflammation in the throat caused by chemotherapy.

Mānuka honey is also just as effective (if not more) at providing relief for seasonal allergies and sore throats as its grocery store counterparts, making it a one-stop shop for all your therapeutic honey needs. Added bonus: it’s so much tastier than a shot of apple cider vinegar!

To reap the antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and all-around-badass benefits of this homeopathic wonder, mix a heaping spoonful into a glass of warm water with lemon every morning and you’ll be sure to have a sweet day!

Anna Quinlan 

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