Manuka honey, from New Zealand, continues to enjoy a sort of revival in the health world – and rightfully so, according to several recent studies.
Manuka has a long and growing list of health benefits. For starters, it’s known to be effective for treating skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis, along with effectively healing wounds, burns, and ulcers. (All honey is effective as a wound dressing, as far as that goes.)
Of course, most of us eat honey instead of smearing it on our skin. And the health news there is very good, too. Keep reading. . .
This specific honey helps your gut health thanks to a certain type of sugar called oligosaccharides, which help promote good bacteria thanks to a prebiotic effect. A prebiotic is a food your “friendly” bacteria like to eat.
The list of benefits goes on. Manuka helps with oral hygiene, and with allergies. It supports your immune system thanks to a plethora of flavonoids. It improves your sleep thanks to high levels of tryptophan.
Lately, manuka honey has even gotten fanfare for cosmetic benefits like increasing collagen and skin elasticity.
With a healing résumé so extensive, is it any wonder manuka also gets credit for helping to heal a host of cancers? But more on that in a moment. First let’s look at what’s special about this type of honey…
The story behind Manuka’s superiority
First, it’s important to recognize that manuka honey is quite a bit different from regular grocery store honey. For starters, take the bees that pollinate the manuka bush, a scrub-type tree with white or pink flowers. Manuka bushes grow uncultivated throughout New Zealand and southeastern Australia.
Manuka honey has lately gained celebrity status as a remedy for just about everything – but only if you purchase quality manuka honey and know how to use it properly.
Several stories throughout history depict the use of honey as a medicine – mainly as an antibacterial and antimicrobial treatment for wounds and infections. The sticky sweet stuff actually has some acidity that increases the body’s release of oxygen from the blood’s hemoglobin. This effect makes wounds a less inviting place for destructive enzymes. Along with that, the dense concentration of honey pulls fluid from wounds.
Honey also contains hydrogen peroxide — another reason it works well as a wound dressing, and this is one of the ways manuka honey is superior to common honey.
In most honey, any antibacterial activity is due to hydrogen peroxide. But a lot of that hydrogen peroxide content gets inactivated when it comes into contact with blood, serum, and wound tissues, because of the enzyme catalase.
But in the case of manuka honey, antibacterial activity comes from methylglyoxal, which does not become inactive in the presence of human tissues. Manuka honey can also handle getting diluted with large amounts of fluid and cells from a wound, and yet still retain enough activity to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Add to that the clinical evidence that manuka honey boasts bioactivities that improve immune function and suppress inflammation, and you have a very intriguing healing food.
This is due in part to its extensive list of nutrients, including B vitamins, amino acids, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium, just to name a few. The compounds found in the nectar of the manuka flower are what give this special honey its potent nutritional profile.
New research shows
manuka honey stops cancer cold
When it comes to cancer, manuka honey primarily helps by reducing oxidative (free radical) damage. Research also shows it can help stop the growth of cancer cells and inhibit tumor growth. Here’s what’s been discovered just in the past year:
- In a recent study from the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences, honey was shown to reduce the metastatic characteristics of prostate cancer cell lines.
- And then in a different study from the Food & Function Journal, manuka honey had an inhibitory effect on human colon cancer. This was likewise conducted with lab-grown cells.
- In addition, a study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that honey can help stop cancer thanks to its known ability to lower inflammation, prompt apoptosis, fight infection, and boost the immune system.
Lab studies are just the first word, not the last. We need human studies to be sure, and those are difficult to do on a food, with cancer patients. My guess is that manuka is a mildly helpful addition to the ten or a dozen other things you should be doing if you’ve got cancer. It’s not a magic bullet.
But it’s healthy stuff – with clear medicinal benefits – and a worthy addition to almost anyone’s diet. . .in moderate amounts.
How to buy the best manuka honey
Despite superiority to grocery-store brands, not all manuka honey is created equal. That’s why a numerical grading system called the Unique Manuka Honey Factor (UMF) was established. This measures levels of methylglyoxal (MG) and dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the two chemical compounds credited for the distinctiveness of manuka nectar.
The quality assurance grades range from UMF 5+ to UMF 20+. The higher the number, the higher and more potent the concentration of MG and DHA.
If you decide to buy medical grade manuka honey, pay attention to a few things. For one, you want it to come from a New Zealand company with a label that says it is genuine manuka honey and has a UMF trademark. Also look for a UMF rating of 10+ or higher.
You won’t find manuka at a regular grocery store. Visit a quality health food store instead, or look online.
As to how you take it and in what quantity, that should be specific to your own needs and the recommendations of your health care provider. Some people swear by a tablespoon of manuka a day or by mixing it into recipes, others prefer a jelly form or topical version.
If you’re using it to fight cancer, be aware that sugar – any sugar — is cancer’s best friend and your worst enemy, foodwise. I think a tablespoon of manuka doesn’t pose a huge problem as long as you’ve cut all other sources of sugar to a bare minimum.
On the other hand, if you have a sweet tooth and you want your chosen indulgence to at least be healthy, manuka is a good solution. I think it might be most helpful for cancer patients who find they just can’t give up sweets.
- “Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing.” By Molan, P. and Rhodes, T. Wounds. 2015 Jun;27(6):141-51.
- “Honey: A Therapeutic Agent for Disorders of the Skin.” By Pauline McLoone, et al. Journal ListCent Asian J Glob Healthv.5(1).
- “Honey recommended for breast cancer.” By Bill Gluyas from an article by foodforbreastcancer.com on May 24, 2018.
- “Honey reduces the metastatic characteristics of prostate cancer cell lines by promoting a loss of adhesion.” By Sean D.A. Abel, et al. PeerJ. 2018; 6: e5115.
Published online 2018 Jul 3.
- “Manuka Honey.” Video, 8 October 2018.
- “The inhibitory effect of Manuka honey on human colon cancer HCT-116 and LoVo cell growth. Part 1: the suppression of cell proliferation, promotion of apoptosis and arrest of the cell cycle.”
By Afrin S., et al. Food Funct. 2018 Apr 25;9(4):2145-2157.
- “What is the relationship between Honey and Cancer?” From Natural Cancer Solutions.