Top Functional Benefits of Manuka Honey
Not all foods are created equal. As a functional medicine expert, I know that different foods can affect each person differently - even the so-called “healthiest” of foods like spinach. But in general, there are certain foods we know are better than others when it comes to our health.
For example, we know that anything that comes in its natural form is going to be better for us than something processed. However, what many of us don’t realize is that the quality of those healthier options matter as well. And I’m talking more than just organic versus non-organic (even though that’s important too!).
One of my favorite examples of this is honey. This sweet substance is often used as an alternative sweetener to regular sugar in baking and other recipes. But there is a specific type of honey that is leagues above the rest.
Manuka Honey is so much more than just an alternative sweetener. While it works great for that too, there are so many additional hidden benefits just waiting for us to unlock. So let’s take a look at what exactly makes Manuka Honey unique and how it can benefit your health.
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What makes Manuka Honey different?
Manuka Honey is made by bees who pollinate the Manuka flower that is native to New Zealand. This honey is so special because it can only be produced in areas native to the Manuka flower - meaning, unlike other crops, it can’t be planted anywhere else in the world outside of New Zealand. This flower also only blooms 2-6 weeks per year, making this honey one of the rarest in the world.
Unlike other honey varieties, it contains unique compounds that makes it stand apart from other honey on the market:
- Methylgloyoxal (MGO): this is the compound responsible for Manuka Honey’s antibacterial properties and is the foundation of the UMF™ grading system
- Leptosperin: this compound is found in the nectar of Manuka flowers and helps distinguish Manuka Honey from other varieties
- Dihydroxyacetone (DHA): this compound in the nectar of Manuka flowers, converts to MGO once it’s made into honey from bees
But because Manuka Honey can vary dramatically in quality and potency, it’s important to know what to look for. The UMF™ grading system is the only one that measures and assures the presence of the 3 markers unique to Manuka Honey: Methylglyoxal (MGO), Leptosperin, and DHA. If it’s not UMF™ rated, you just can’t be sure what you’re buying.
A UMF™ rating between UMF™ 10+ to 15+ provides higher levels of the beneficial compounds on a daily basis. Anything above that offers the most concentrated levels of these compounds with antibacterial properties. Outside of the certification on the front of the jar, you can also distinguish Manuka Honey with higher concentrations of beneficial compounds by it’s darker color and richer taste. The higher the rating, the more ways Manuka Honey can benefit your health, including:
- Fights infections
Manuka Honey contains powerful compounds that make it antibacterial and antimicrobial at a 10+ or higher rating. Research has shown (1) that this makes it powerful enough to heal intensive injuries like burns and infected wounds due to its ability to fight off pathogens like Salmonella, E. Coli, as well as S. aureus, also known as MRSA.
- Boosts glowing skin
These topical antibacterial properties also make Manuka Honey a great addition to homemade face masks and other skincare products to treat acne and reduce scarring.
- Aids in digestion
Studies have shown Manuka Honey to be extremely beneficial for digestion due to its ability to lower inflammatory cytokines in the gut including IL-6 and TNF-a. (2). A diet supplemented with Manuka Honey can also help increase beneficial bacteria in the microbiome. (3)
- Supports immune health
The majority of your body’s immune system resides in your gut. Therefore, in order to have a healthy immune system you need a healthy gut, and as we’ve seen above, Manuka Honey has been shown to help improve your overall microbiome health. Manuka Honey has also been proven to help fight off (4) a variety of pathogens due to its antibacterial qualities.
If you are just looking for daily support, a UMF™ 10+ rating is a good go-to. But if you are looking for more targeted support to unlock the highest concentrations of these health benefits, you’ll want to look for a rating of UMF™ 20+, an extremely rare Manuka Honey offering nature’s most powerful health benefits in a single ingredient resource.
There are a lot of Manuka Honey brands on the market, but Comvita is the number one brand that I personally use and recommend, because it is real Manuka. They are experts in their field with over 45 years of experience in beekeeping. This long-standing experience has given them the ability to master the production of Manuka Honey. Not only are their practices sustainable to honor the environment, it helps ensure the highest quality honey goes into each jar you purchase now and for generations to come.
Comvita is also UMF™ graded, which is a New Zealand government-backed rating system that verifies quality and potency. It can’t be true Manuka Honey - beneficial properties and all - without this grading.
I always keep a jar of Comvita’s UMF™ 10+ (for daily use) and UMF™ 20+ (for targeted use) at my office to use in my tea or eat by the spoonful between my long days of consulting patients. I want to feel confident that whatever I am feeding my body, not only tastes good, but is good for me and is actively working to elevate my health with each bite and I know for a fact that is the case with Comvita.
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- Mandal, Manisha Deb, and Shyamapada Mandal. “Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity.” Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine vol. 1,2 (2011): 154-60. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(11)60016-6
- Almasaudi, Saad B et al. “Manuka Honey Exerts Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activities That Promote Healing of Acetic Acid-Induced Gastric Ulcer in Rats.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2017 (2017): 5413917. doi:10.1155/2017/5413917
- Ezz El-Arab, A. M., Girgis, S. M., Hegazy, E. M., & Abd El-Khalek, A. B. (2006). Effect of dietary honey on intestinal microflora and toxicity of mycotoxins in mice. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 6, 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-6-6
- Johnston, Matthew & McBride, Michael & Dahiya, Divakar & Owusu-Apenten, Richard & Nigam, Poonam. (2018). Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS Microbiology. 4. 655-664. 10.3934/microbiol.2018.4.655.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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