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The Benefits of Manuka Honey, Explained

Honey isn’t just sweet—it’s also good for you. It has proven natural antibacterial and digestive properties, and can even treat acne and help speed up the healing of wounds. But not all honey is created equal. There’s one type that rises above the rest—especially when it comes to health benefits. And that honey is Manuka honey.

What is manuka honey?

Rare and precious, Manuka honey is a type of monofloral honey produced by bees who exclusively pollinate the flowers of the Manuka shrub, a type of tea tree native to New Zealand and Australia.

The health benefits of Manuka honey are plentiful; in fact, it is often called New Zealand gold because of its unique healing benefits—it has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. It’s been used for centuries by the Maori as a natural and effective remedy to treat everything from wounds to sore throats. Modern scientific research supports this: studies have found Manuka honey to be an effective treatment against all sorts of conditions, including dental plaque, gingivitis, ulcers, and acne.

What’s so special about Manuka honey?

The power of Manuka honey lies in its unique chemical composition. It contains high levels of methylglyoxal (MGO), an organic compound with powerful antibacterial properties. This active ingredient is absent (or barely present) in other types of honey.

Because of its special antibacterial composition, Manuka honey is capable of inhibiting the growth of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli; it can also help rebalance the gut microbiome. It has been proven to soothe pain, promote wound healing, and can even help the body regenerate tissue. Experts say the antibacterial properties of Manuka honey are up to 100 stronger than that of regular honey.

A guide to choosing Manuka honey

Real Manuka honey from New Zealand is independently certified and labeled with a UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor, which notes its active concentration of MGO. The higher the number on the bottle, the more powerful and effective your Manuka honey will be.

Here’s a helpful guide to what the UMF numbers mean—

Manuka honey UMF20+ / MGO 829+

This is the most powerful, luxurious, and exceptional dosage. Used for medical purposes, it treats severe infections and difficult-to-heal wounds. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory for the digestive system.

Manuka honey UMF15+ / MGO 514+

This concentration is also very effective for therapeutic applications. It is commonly used to strengthen the immune system, improve digestive health, stop a dry cough, and soothe an irritated throat.

Manuka honey UMF10+ / MGO 263+

This is the ideal, common dosage for daily use, offering a perfect balance between potency and taste. It strengthens immunity and maintains good health.

How to use Manuka honey

Manuka honey, like all honey, can be used in a variety of ways. Of course, the most pleasurable way is probably just to eat it—it has a delicate floral sweetness with lightly camphorous, caramel notes. Drizzle Manuka honey over greek yogurt; stir it into your favorite hot tea. Or, just eat it by itself—a spoonful is a tasty way to soothe a sore throat, cough, or cold. Fans say the effects can be felt almost immediately.

You can also apply Manuka honey directly to skin. Smooth a thin layer over your face to create a moisturizing, antibacterial mask, or, gently pat a small amount onto cuts or scabs to prevent infection and speed up the healing process. The natural humectant qualities of Manuka honey also make it a great natural hair conditioner. Just mix the honey with coconut oil, apply the concoction to damp or dry hair, leave on for 30 minutes, and then shampoo.

Should I use Manuka honey?

Manuka honey can be pricey—but the health benefits of Manuka honey make it well worth the cost, especially if you’re someone who prefers using natural remedies or has an interest in preventative health and nutrition. Consuming Manuka honey doesn’t have many risks, but some people do report feeling a slight tingling sensation when it's applied directly to the skin—likely those antibacterial properties doing their thing!

If you’re watching your glucose levels or caloric intake, you also may want to take note: Manuka honey has about 72 calories per tablespoon and 16 grams of sugar. And, it should go without saying, but just in case: if you’re allergic to honey or bees in general, you should definitely avoid consuming or using Manuka honey altogether.

Article written by Melanie Defouilloy for Vogue

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