Can there really be a type of honey that can treat infections better than antibiotics? Honey has been used until WWII , as an antibacterial to treat wounds.
Then the discovery of penicillin and other 20th century antibiotic drugs shoved honey to the wayside. Its valuable natural healing attributes were deemed inconsequential by conventional medical practitioners, just as so many other traditional and homeopathic remedies were.
It seems this long-standing snub may finally be resolved. During the last decade, medical establishments have begun to seriously investigate the possible clinical benefits of a certain kind of honey called active manuka honey. It is made by bees in New Zealand from the manuka flowering bush called Leptospermum scoparium.
Professor Peter Molan — a researcher at the University of Waikato in New Zealand — has spearheaded the efforts to determine manuka’s healing properties, which in some instances go beyond those of traditional antibiotics.
Professor Molan is the head of a research team known as the Waikato Honey Research Unit. Founded in 1995, the Unit grew out of the University’s already unparalleled study of the composition of honey and its antimicrobial activity. All honey has some bacteria-fighting capability due to its high concentrations of glucose, fructose, acid, and the hydrogen peroxide that is slowly released by the glucose oxidase enzyme.
In an interview with BBC News, Molan explained, “In manuka honey, and its close relative which grows in Australia called jellybush, there’s something else besides the hydrogen peroxide.” Molan and his team call that “something else” unique manuka factor, or UMF.
Although he’s not yet determined what exactly UMF is, he’s devised a system for measuring it. The results have been astounding.
Active manuka honey has proven to work as well as — or better than — standard antiseptics in fighting the following:
- All other infectious organisms
In 1996, the Unit partnered with TradeNZ to establish a classification system for manuka, which ranks each batch’s antibacterial efficacy based on the level of UMF it contains. In order to be considered “active,” and therefore useful for serious applications, the batch must be rated at a 10 or higher.
Active Manuka Honey Has a Wide Range of Uses Far Beyond Fighting Infections
Some of the most common uses of active manuka honey include:
- Wound healing
- Leg ulcers
- Skin conditions (such as acne and wrinkles)
While the most-studied uses for manuka so far have been centered on wounds and other external conditions, there’s evidence that manuka is also useful as a treatment for a variety of other medical conditions. For instance, because it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, manuka can be used to treat generalized muscle and joint pain as well as arthritis specifically.
Additionally, manuka’s antibacterial nature appears to have equally impressive effects on internal problems such as:
- Acid reflux
- Infections in the stomach and digestive tract
- Ulcers (both in the stomach and peptic)
Still, it’s understandable that the bulk of research probes so far have been directed at manuka’s external applications, as certified active UMF manuka can treat even antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which pose a serious threat in hospitals around the globe.
Active Manuka Honey Found Effective in Treating Hospital-Acquired Infections
According to the CDC, hospital-acquired infections are responsible for about 90,000 deaths in the United States every year. Of these infections, MRSA is by far the most common.
MRSA is a strain of the Staphylococcus aureas species, which by a happy coincidence is also the species of wound-infecting bacteria that is most sensitive to honey.
Although manuka’s end results speak for themselves, one might think that patients would initially be apprehensive about being treated with honey for such serious conditions as MRSA or wounds related to radiation treatment.
However, according to Julie Betts, a nurse practitioner interviewed for a BBC News article, that’s not the case at all.
“Humans in general have a fondness I think for natural remedies, so they’re quite happy to use them.” In fact, Betts says, “The problem we encounter is when people don’t understand how it works. They think that sourcing any honey will have the same outcome, and that’s not always true.”
Another potential concern might be that honey treatments would result in literally sticky situations. Fortunately, clever Professor Molan circumvented that problem by developing high-tech honey dressings that he says “are like a sheet of rubber, you can touch it without being sticky at all”.
For those interested in manuka to treat less dire afflictions, health practitioners recommend a more practical option would be to purchase a jar of active manuka honey from one of the many vendors that sell it.
Just be sure that you’re buying truly active manuka honey bearing the UMF trademark.