What is Manuka Honey?
Learn more about the wonder honey from New Zealand
Manuka honey is a honey produced by bees from the nectar of the Manuka trees which grow in New Zealand and south eastern Australia. The colour of the honey is dark cream to dark brown.
The honey has a strong flavour, characterised as “earthy, oily, herbaceous”, and “florid, rich and complex”.
Health benefits of honey in general
Honey has been used since ancient times to treat multiple conditions due to its natural antibacterial qualities.
Honey protects against damage caused by bacteria. Some also boost production of special cells that can repair tissue damaged by infection. And honey has an anti-inflammatory action that can quickly ease pain and inflammation.
But not all honey is the same. The antibacterial quality of honey depends on the type of honey as well as when and how it’s harvested. Some kinds may be 100 times more potent than others.
If you want to learn more about honey and general healing properties of honey, find out in this post: Health Benefits of Honey
Special health benefits of Manuka honey
In 1991 a New Zealand study showed that when you remove the hydrogen peroxide from a range of honeys, Manuka was the only type that kept its ability to kill bacteria.
Hydrogen peroxide gives most honey its antibiotic quality. But some types, including manuka honey, also have other ingredients with antibacterial qualities.
The major antibacterial component in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MG). MG is a compound found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities.
How does the Manuka Honey rating work?
In manuka honey, MG comes from the conversion of another compound, dihydroxyacetone, that is found in high concentration in the nectar of manuka flowers.
The higher the concentration of MG, the stronger the antibiotic effect.
Honey producers have a scale for rating the potency of manuka honey. The rating is called UMF, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor.
The UMF rating reflects the concentration of MG. To be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, it needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF. Honey at or above that level is marketed as “UMF Manuka Honey” or “Active Manuka Honey.”
Using Manuka Honey in Surgery
As the antibiotics resistance crisis continues, researchers are looking for replacements that can help to prevent in infection.
One solution to antibiotic resistance could be Manuka honey.
A new study from 2019 has highlighted the potential benefits of infusing medical implants with honey.
The study was led by an international team of scientists and engineers and was published in the journal Frontiers.
It has been shown that layering minute amounts of the special honey from New Zealand between layers of surgical mesh acts as a natural antibiotic that could prevent infection following an operation.
Manuka Honey to prevent infections after surgery
Meshes are used to help promote soft tissue healing inside the body following surgery and are common in operations. However, they carry with them an increased risk of infection as the bacteria are able to get a hold inside the body by forming a biofilm on the surface of the mesh.
Skin and soft tissue infections are the most common bacterial infections, accounting for around 10% of hospital admissions, and a significant proportion of these are secondary infections following surgery.
Currently, any infection is treated with antibiotics, but the emergence of antibiotic resistant means scientists are on the hunt for alternatives.
Dr Piergiorgio Gentile, lead author and a Biomedical Engineer at Newcastle University, said:
“By sandwiching the honey in a multilayer coating on the mesh surface and slowly releasing it, the aim is to inhibit the growth of the bacteria and stop the infection before it even starts.
These results are really very exciting. Honey has been used to treat infected wounds for thousands of years, but this is the first time it has been shown to be effective at fighting infection in cells from inside the body.”