While the New Zealand honey is known as a delicious spread on toast, or used in a nice cuppa, it has also been long-regarded for its powerful health benefits.
But a study published in the science journal PLOS ONE, has revealed the humble honey could prove vital in the fight against superbugs, as an alternative treatment to antibiotics.
Research conducted by Australian scientists at the University of Technology Sydney, in collaboration with a New Zealand health and beauty company, looked at Manuka, kanuka and clover honeys to assess which was the most effective of all at inhibiting four types of bacteria commonly found in chronic wounds.
“Honey has long been known to have anti-bacterial activity. We wanted to compare the effectiveness of different honeys on various bacteria to determine how they relate to bacterial growth inhibition,” the study’s lead researcher, Professor Liz Harry said.
“What we saw was that the Manuka honeys were the most effective at inhibiting growth of all the bacteria,” she added.
The mono-floral honey, made by bees that pollinate one species of flower, known as Leptospermum scoparium or Manuka – its Maori-given name – is derived from the Manuka tree, which flowers for 2-6 weeks every year; a rarity, which makes Manuka honeys somewhat more expensive than others.
Historically, the leaves of the Manuka plant were used by Maori people as a medicinal drink used to treat symptoms of fever, while the plant’s natural oils served as a natural antiseptic to treat wounds.
In an era where treatment of chronic wounds is becoming increasingly difficult due to antibiotic resistance, natural products with antimicrobial activity such as honey, are now coming under the spotlight as a viable alternative to antibiotics, because of their innate resistance.
“Unlike antibiotics, it is not expected that bacteria will become resistant to honey, a claim that has been supported by our research,” Professor Harry pointed out, adding that honey was a good example of “where years of evolution can provide an effective, long-term medical solution compared to the alternative of pure-compound antibiotics to which bacteria will always eventually develop resistance.”
But as the study found, not all Manuka honeys are created equal: “Not all honey is the same and not all honey labelled ‘Manuka’ is the real thing,” Professor Harry warned.
With the Manuka honey industry is worth more than $100 million a year, since its distinct anti-bacterial properties were discovered by scientists at Waikato University, many companies have turned to artificially increasing the natural antibacterial properties of inferior honey and labelling them as genuine Manuka. The study’s researchers have advised those seeking the real deal to always check the labels.
”We believe that it’s really important for clinicians and patients to use natural honey products that have been minimally processing for the best results in treating chronic wounds,” they said.
In your First Aid Kit
Manuka Honey is a must-have staple and can be used for multiple medical uses. Added to lukewarm water, a bit of Manuka honey is a soothing aid for a sore or irritated throat. Gargle for 60 seconds, expel and be sure not to eat or drink for at least 20 minutes to allow the antibacterial properties to work their magic.
To use as a cough suppressant, take a few teaspoons of the nourishing honey before bed to soothe a dry cough.
Use as a topical ointment to cuts and scrapes by applying a thin layer to wounds, repeat a few times a day until healed.
Sip the benefits
Use Manuka honey in your next healing tonic to reap the benefits. Try one of these four recipes here.
Do you use Manuka Honey?