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Aiding the physical and mental performance and wellness of active individuals at all ages is my passion. With the extremely busy lives we lead, it’s a priority for me to simplify nutrition, performance, and wellness science so I can provide you with practical advice. As a business owner who maintains a high level of fitness and a mom of two little ones in daycare and school, I relate to your desire for foods and products that fit into a busy routine with little to no effort and the potential for a big return. That’s why I am so excited to cover the evidence based benefits of Manuka honey and how I use it to support my active family’s wellness!
Thanks to my long time partner, Nature Nate’s for sponsoring this post. Thoughts are my own and all science is via peer-reviewed published research. Disclaimer: The information below is provided for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as individualized medical advice or care. For treatment of specific conditions, please seek the advice of a physician.
What is Manuka Honey?
While I’m a lover of traditional honey and use it weekly as a topping and in recipes, manuka is different. Genuine manuka honey is a monofloral variety that comes specifically from manuka trees in New Zealand. It is unique in that it has a more rich and earthy flavor, as well as thicker texture when compared to traditional honey. What makes manuka really stand out though, is that abundant research supports oral and topical uses that are backed by both alternative health as well as conventional medical providers.
Antibacterial and Anti-inflammatory Compounds in Manuka
Manuka honey has unique antibacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties that we don’t get from average honey. While research has shown since the 1980’s that manuka has the ability to kill many pathogens, it wasn’t until 2008 that a compound called MGO (methylglyoxal) was found to be the main reason for its antibacterial action. In addition to MGO, manuka honey also contains a variety of phenol and polyphenol compounds that increase the antibacterial actions while acting as antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers even believe these phenolics can work with antibiotics to enhance their action and benefit patients with more serious disorders and infections. Finally, another unique compound to manuka, called leptosperin, has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Antibacterial Benefits of Manuka Honey
Due to the compounds listed above, FDA approved medical grade manuka honey and manuka products are used regularly as wound care in clinical settings. In addition to aiding in recovery of pressure ulcers, burns and more, it has been found effective to prevent and treat infections. Studies even show it can defend against highly contagious MRSA, a drug resistant bacteria.
When it comes to other uses, preliminary studies suggest that potential benefits of manuka honey may include:
- care of mild eczema or psoriasis,
- beneficial effects on the bacteria and microbes in the digestive tract (the gut microbiome) when consumed with a variety of other foods,
- increased antioxidant intake, aiding in the body’s free radical defenses,
- enhanced healing of minor cuts and scrapes (that don’t require medical attention),
- fighting against H. Pylori, the bacteria associated with gastric ulcers,
- protection against the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes strep throat,
- anti-carcinogenic properties, related to colon cancer risk, melanoma progression and radiation side effects, according to in vitro studies,
- anti-viral properties against the virus causing chicken pox, shingles, and flu, also via in vitro research,
- and more!
While more research is needed, the lack of risk with manuka (and the delicious, decadent taste) mean there can only be a reward! To read more about Nate’s manuka, head to their site.
Manuka Quality and Strength
When you purchase manuka honey, you want authentic New Zealand manuka that has been UMFTM Certified. Studies have suggested there is adulterated manuka honey being sold and it’s important to ensure you’re actually buying a bottle with MGO and leptosperin for the benefits of manuka honey.
It couldn’t be easier to find a trusted brand since Nature Nate’s, the number one branded honey company in the US, now offers several strength of manuka honey! As with all of their honey products, Nature Nate’s manufactures only the highest quality, raw, unfiltered honey. Their New Zealand manuka has the international gold standard UMFTM certification by the UMFTM Honey Association.
UMFTM Certification is a quality assurance grading system with a four factor quality testing procedure validating potency, authenticity, shelf life, and freshness of New Zealand manuka honey.
- Potency: UMFTM ensures MGO is detected; stronger MGO concentrations are associated with higher UMFTM ratings. MGO may increase after the honey is packaged, which is why a “+” is present.
- Authenticity: The presence of the anti-inflammatory compound leptosperin shows that the manuka comes from New Zealand manuka flowers.
- Shelf Life: A minimum value of the compound that converts to MGO (called DHA) is necessary to be certifies and is an important marker of shelf life.
- Freshness: The presence of another compound in manuka honey, HMF, shows the honey has not been overheated, ensuring it is raw, like all Nature Nate’s honeys.
Nate’s offers 3 strengths of manuka honey: UMFTM 5+, 7+ and 10+.
How to Use Manuka Honey
When it comes to enjoying manuka as a regular part of your wellness routine, the UMFTM 5+ honey is recommended and you can use it the same way you use regular honey! I love it spread over whole grain or sourdough toast with cashew butter, but you can also include it in a vinaigrette or add to a smoothie.
If your intent is to use manuka more therapeutically, choose Nate’s UMFTM 7+ or 10+ options. 1-2 teaspoons per day is recommended for the potential therapeutic benefits mentioned above. I give my little boys half a teaspoon, twice a day when either of them starts to cough or show signs they may be getting sick. While I haven’t been sick in quite awhile (knock on wood!), I take 1-2 teaspoons a day myself if they’re showing any symptoms, just in case. It’s perfect as a pre-workout snack!
If you want to use manuka topically to a minor cut or scrape, spread a small amount on clean gauze or a bandage before applying (as a reminder, chat with your doc before replacing any other treatment with manuka on your own!). You can also apply to small patches of dry or irritated skin and even use it in a homemade face mask!
Key Takeaways About Manuka Honey
- Due to MGO, Leptosperin, and thousands of phenolic compounds, research and health professionals support both oral and topical uses for Manuka honey as it contains unique antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds not found in average honey.
- Not all honey marketed as Manuka is created equal. UMFTM Certification is the international gold standard for Manuka authenticity.
- Nate’s Manuka honey is pure, raw, and unfiltered, offering 3 UMFTM certified strengths.