Manuka honey has powerful healing properties and is used to treat a variety of illnesses. Learn about manuka honey benefits, its uses and where to buy it.

By Anna Davies
Updated January 26, 2018
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Manuka Honey
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We all know honey is sweet, but did you know it has some pretty sweet perks for your health?

Manuka honey, made by bees who pollinate New Zealand’s Manuka bees, has been hyped as having powerful antibacterial and wound care properties. While there is emerging research on its efficacy in humans, people who swear by Manuka honey say that the honey has the power to help fight off colds and other illnesses, and may help heal wounds. Here, we outline what Manuka honey is, how Manuka honey differs from other honey you can buy in the store, where to find Manuka honey, and how you can incorporate Manuka honey into your own first line of defense strategy against illness.

Of course, no food takes the place of regular doctor visits and a healthy lifestyle. But if you already enjoy honey, why not consider this kind, and enjoy the potential health benefits?

What Is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey, named after the Manuka tree on the Eastern Cape of New Zealand, is produced by bees that pollinate this specific tree. While all honey—from anywhere in the world—has antimicrobial activity and may have antibacterial effects, according to studies, Manuka honey contains an additional active ingredient that sets it apart. With a high sugar content and a composition that is less vulnerable to heat, light, or dilution, Manuka honey may have even better healing properties than other varieties of honey.

Manuka honey is graded according to its Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). The higher the number, the higher concentration of Manuka nectar—and frequently, the higher the price point. The UMF factor starts at 5 and goes up by increments of 5, with the highest factor topping out at 20+.

While you can ingest Manuka honey the same way you eat any other honey—on toast, in your tea, as an ingredient in baked goods or recipes—some people use Manuka honey topically to help calm skin flare-ups and to cover wounds, or they may dose themselves every day with a spoonful of Manuka honey to ward off colds and infections.

Where Can You Buy Manuka Honey?

In the past, Manuka honey was hard to come by unless you lived in Australia or New Zealand. But now, thanks to its surge in popularity, combined with global commerce, Manuka honey is relatively easy to obtain online, at the grocery store or at a local specialty food shop. Here, some places to look for Manuka honey. Remember that the UMF will alert you to the purity value of the honey you choose. A UMF of 5+ is the least pure (and least expensive) while 20+ can be hard to find and pricey.

What Are the Benefits of Manuka Honey?

While all honey has health benefits, Manuka honey stands apart based on the specific composition of this honey. The higher the UMF rating, the more effective the honey. But of course, while it’s always good to add natural ingredients to your arsenal, talk with your doctor if you have any troubling symptoms. Some of the main benefits of Manuka honey:

  • May help treat gingivitis and gum disease
  • Can help heal wounds, burns, and reduce scarring
  • Can even skin tone, minimizing dryness, redness, and flaky skin
  • Can boost immunity
  • Can help eliminate sore throat symptoms
  • Can aid digestive health and may minimize gut ailments, including ulcers
  • Can reduce overall systemic inflammation in the body
  • Can help treat diabetes and some cancers (Studies are ongoing on these claims, but doctors researching use ‘medical-grade’ Manuka honey, not honey found in supermarkets. Discuss Manuka honey with your doctor if you have diabetes or cancer, as casual use is likely to be ineffective.)

How to Use Manuka Honey

If you like the taste of honey, you can simply swap in Manuka honey and use as you normally do. (Remember that any honey, including Manuka honey, is not recommended for babies under the age of one to ingest.) However, since Manuka honey may have specific properties that can help it heal wounds, maximize skin regeneration, and even out skin tone, Manuka honey may also be applied topically. Here, some ways it can help your body, inside and out.

As a digestive aid. Adding a teaspoon into your nightly tea may help aid digestion. Some research has found that Manuka honey may contain prebiotics to help support digestive health, according to a study of the antioxidant potential of Manuka honey. While the study was conducted on animals, researchers hypothesize the benefits could be helpful to humans as well.

As a face mask. Adding a few teaspoons to a homemade face mask (try these DIY face mask recipes) may help even skin tone, reducing redness, flakiness, and dullness, due to the documented anti-inflammatory properties of Manuka honey. As always, prior to trying a face mask, give yourself a patch test on your elbow to make sure your skin won’t adversely react to any ingredients.

As a throat soother. If you have a cough or cold, stirring Manuka honey into a cup of tea or eating it straight from the spoon can help coat your throat, relieving pain. In addition, the antibacterial qualities of Manuka honey may also help fight your illness before it gets worse—or before you have a chance to get to the doctor.

As a healing agent. Cut, burn or scrape? Manuka may help the wound heal faster, and may also minimize scarring, according to a recent study. Some adhesive bandages even add Manuka honey in them as an ingredient. If you do put Manuka honey directly on a wound, speak with your doctor first. In general, people who use Manuka honey on injuries should clean the injury, apply a thin layer of Manuka honey to the wound, then cover with a bandage and clean thoroughly with saline solution up to twelve hours later, before reapplying if necessary.

In baking. Manuka honey has a lower glycemic index than white sugar, and can be a simple swap for those looking to minimize sugars in their diet.