What Is Manuka Honey + What Are The Health Benefits?

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Playing Health Benefits of Manuka Honey | Dr. Tania Elliott
Health Benefits of Manuka Honey | Dr. Tania Elliott

Manuka honey has been trending for a while now, but is all the hype backed up by actual science?

According to allergist Dr. Tania Elliott, an Associate Attending at NYU Langone Health in New York City, the answer is yes.

WHAT IS MANUKA HONEY?

Manuka honey is made from the nectar of the manuka bush, found mainly in New Zealand, Dr. Tania tells us.

While the concept of using honey for wound healing has been around for a very long time, "manuka honey has been shown to improve wound healing more effectively than other types of honey," she says.

WHAT MAKES MANUKA HONEY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER TYPES OF HONEY?

Manuka honey contains something called methylglyoxal, "which has antimicrobial properties and can withstand dilution from all of the 'gunk' produced by a wound," the doc explains. Other types of honey get their antimicrobial properties from hydrogen peroxide, which IS susceptible to dilution — making it less effective.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MANUKA HONEY?

Manuka Honey As an Antiseptic

Manuka honey can be used as an antiseptic to help heal wounds and reduce infection risk, Dr. Tania says. "You can put it on a wound and it will protect you from having an infection. If you eat it, it also protects you from having an infection."

RELATED: Dr. Oz On The Health Benefits Of Honey

USES FOR MANUKA HONEY

Manuka Honey's Antibacterial Properties

Another health benefit of manuka honey is that it can help prevent allergy flare-ups. "You can add it to sinus rinses to sterilize your nasal passages and prevent any bacteria from growing in there," the doc explains. 

She's a big fan of doing sinus rinses in general, because it's a medication-free way to protect you from nasal and sinus allergy flare-ups.

Sinus rinses wash out your nasal passages, but "the addition of the manuka honey, [which is] actually antibacterial, prevents any bacteria from growing in your nose," she says.

She cites a recent study showing that the nasal passages of people who used manuka honey and nasal saline rinses had significantly less bacteria in their noses.

How To Make a Sinus Rinse with Manuka Honey

You want to use lukewarm distilled water and a sinus packet for your rinses, according to the doc. Add one rounded teaspoon of manuka honey, stir it up and do the sinus rinse twice a day.

WHAT KIND OF MANUKA HONEY SHOULD I BUY?

It's also important to make sure that your manuka honey has a Unique Manuka Factor of 10+ — "so that it's legit," Dr. Tania adds.

The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is the manuka honey grading system that uses a scale of 5 to 20. The higher the UMF number, the stronger its antibacterial properties.

In order to be effective, the UMF has to have a rating of 10 or more, Dr. Tania says. You also want to make sure it's coming from a reputable manufacturer and is free from contaminants.

IS MANUKA HONEY ALWAYS EFFECTIVE?

Keep in mind that there are different underlying reasons for wounds to occur, and they aren't always infected, so manuka honey isn't effective for all wounds.

"Manuka honey is best used in conjunction with traditional therapies and overseen by a wound care expert," Dr. Tania says. "For straightforward cuts and scrapes, it's better to use irrigation with saline water and disinfectants like pure hydrogen peroxide." 

Always consult your doctor before treating a wound.

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