Since ancient times, pure unadulterated honey has been considered a cure for many common ailments. Due to its powerful medicinal qualities, one variety of honey that has become increasingly popular over recent years is Manuka, a variety derived from the pristine forested wilderness areas of New Zealand where the endemic Manuka Myrtle bush is found. For those of us who prefer to opt for natural health tonics, Manuka honey is an essential item in the home medicine chest. Reputed to escalate healing for conditions ranging from insect bites and burns to stomach ulcers, it can be used to treat existing health issues or simply taken daily as a preventative measure.
Image courtesy of Andy Murray / Wikimedia Commons
While the healing potency of Manuka honey has been well-known to the indigenous people of New Zealand for millennia, over recent decades much research has been done, confirming its many medicinal qualities. Manuka honey has been described by various health experts as one of nature’s most potent antibiotics. Possessing powerful antibacterial qualities, it’s effective against a range of virulent bacteria, also escalating the healing of wounds once the infection has been dealt with.
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A powerful antioxidant, regularly ingesting Manuka honey also protects us from free radicals that accelerate cell damage and premature aging. Therefore, it’s an effective health elixir for the maintenance of our general wellbeing and vitality, and when used topically is a great ingredient for home-made facial treatments. For the same reason, many natural skin care companies have successfully incorporated it into their own formulae. Research has shown that Manuka honey also possesses miraculous anti-inflammatory qualities while other studies have revealed that it is also an anti-carcinogenic, effectively combating some forms of cancer.
Since most of us are more familiar with honey in our pantry than in our first aid kit, it’s sometimes a surprise to learn that Manuka honey can be used topically as well as internally. Before the advent of antibiotics, it was used as an infection-fighting dressing for cold sores, burns, ulcers, cuts, insect bites, wounds and other skin conditions, and many people today are rediscovering these remarkable qualities. Internally it can be used to combat colds, coughs, sore throats, respiratory tract infections, stomach ulcers and other digestive conditions. It’s also been found to be effective in the treatment of arthritis, acid reflux, eczema, acne, athlete’s foot, various allergies and even tooth decay.
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Each batch of Manuka honey is scientifically analysed and categorised according to its medicinal qualities, or the percentage of Manuka nectar in the honey. This accounts for the dramatic variation of price that you’ll see in health food shops, supermarkets and online. Though still delicious in taste, cheaper varieties that are easily available in many supermarkets will inevitably be lower in medicinal potency, while the rather pricey products that are usually only sourced in health food shops or online are always rated according to their UMF - Unique Manuka Factor, or in other words, their healing potency. Therefore a product that’s been rated UMF 30 has a greater medicinal potency than one with a simple UMF 10. This system of classification was introduced in the late 1990s to regulate the Manuka industry and to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for products that didn’t come up to the expected healing standards. While many companies sell Manuka honey, only licensed products that adhere to this strict criteria, are permitted to show the UMF trademark, thus confirming their status as a natural medicine.
In conclusion, if you’re stocking up your home first aid kit and have not yet purchased a bottle of this miracle of nature, then I strongly recommend that you do so. While compared to many health products on the market, Manuka honey can be rather pricey (especially if you opt for a higher UMF potency), it’s well worth it when you consider the health benefits that it possesses, both as a natural medicine and a daily tonic.
I have a question that I've been wondering for a while - does heating the honey reduce it's potency? I like to have some in my herbal tea and was wondering if this would be considered an effective use of the (rather pricey!) manuka honey? Many thanks, Lizzie.
To tell you the truth, I'm not sure. However, just in case there is some deterioration of the Manuka's potency with heating I generally only use a cheaper (albeit raw) honey in hot drinks. I usually just take the expensive stuff 'straight', on a tea spoon, straight out of the bottle.
Kind regards, Carolyn.