I always find it interesting whenever I come across all these newspaper articles and adverts touting the benefits of manuka honey over the other bountiful and delicious varieties. I’ve always been an keen supporter of honey both for its therapeutic benefits and relatively low cost, though manuka honey, as most honey connoisseurs are aware, is thought of as the “crème de la crème” of all honeys and as such fetches a hefty premium; both for its glamorised health benefits and relatively low availability. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be, and how does manuka honey compare with raw honeys?
For the record, I have exceedingly high standards in what I expect from food produce. I’ll happily pay the extra premium for something that is more beneficial for my health and sourced organically; I just want to make sure that what I’m spending my money on is truly beneficial and not just another marketing ploy. So as I often like to do, I went out to research everything I could about the different types of honey and what is perhaps so special about manuka honey that sets it apart from the all the rest.
Why Honey is so good…
Honey has been used for thousands of years, at least since the time of the Vedas, where the mix of honey, wax and propolis were said to be an elixir of longevity. It has since been used medicinally in almost every culture throughout history, for good reason.
In scientific circles, the health benefits of honey are said to come primarily from two sources; most importantly its slow release of hydrogen peroxide and secondly the phytochemical activity of the type of honey used.
Hydrogen peroxide is well known as a potent anti-oxidant, anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-fungal agent within the natural community and pharmaceutical circles alike, there is even evidence to suggest it can decrease the risk of cancer and help to aid those suffering from it. Honey in its most natural state contains high levels of glucose oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down the glucose present in the honey to hydrogen peroxide and D-glucono-δ-lactone at a slow and steady pace, perfect for healing the body from the inside out.
The phytochemical activity in honey refers to all the rest of the components (minus the hydrogen peroxide) that can help fight infections; something that varies from one type of honey to another based on the species of plant the nectar is collected from.
Why Manuka Honey is said to be a special case…
Phytochemical activity is the unique selling point for Manuka honeys and is given a UMF (unique manuka factor) rating based on the microbe killing potential of the pytochemicals present. Almost all honeys contain a certain level of this activity, though manuka honey is said to have the highest of all.
Manuka honey is routinely used in hospitals to eradicate anti-biotic resistant “super-bugs” namely MRSA when conventional pharmaceuticals have failed. This amazing “super-bug killing” power of manuka honey has time and time again been accredited to its high phytochemical activity. However, recent research studies have demonstrated that this “superbug-zapping” ability is not exclusive to manuka honeys. The University of Waikato in New Zealand discovered that when raw honey is applied to MRSA wounds resistant to conventional antibiotics, that the wound becomes sterile and heals so quickly, patients can leave hospital weeks earlier. This has also been found to be the case for in vitro studies where the antibacterial effect of raw honey vs medical grade manuka was found to be of little difference.
Why Raw Honey is best…
Most honeys that you grab from the supermarket have been heat treated and filtered of their pollen and wax content; pollen and wax contain health benefits all of their own and are essential ingredients for any well rounded batch of honey. Moreover, this pasteurization process that honeys undergo has been proven to diminish the levels of enzymes; most notably the levels of glucose oxidase responsible for creating the all important hydrogen peroxide. It’s no wonder that heat treated honeys from the supermarket generally have been found to offer little to no health benefits.
Manuka honey is no exception, its hydrogen peroxide activity depletes similarly on heat treatment. It is only thanks to its abnormally high phytochemical activity that it still remains an effective remedy, and while everyone has gone barmy paying 6x the market value for the “supposed” most effective manuka branded UMF product as a result of this mass commercial marketing & scientific bias, they have been misled into ignoring the principal reasons for which all honeys are so good in the first place; or should I re-phrase… all raw honeys.
So next time you head out to buy some honey, all you’ve really got to do is be sure the honey is raw and preferably organic to ensure you’re getting the most effective therapeutic remedy. Of course, for those who can afford to pay the premium on raw manuka honey, I can see value when treating severe medical conditions simply because its phytochemical activity is the highest of all honeys and the hydrogen peroxide component in combination with the bug fighting potential of the phytochemicals in manuka honey can make for a potent combination.
Andrew Jenkins @ AlertMedical.org
The antibacterial activity of honey and its role in treating diseases – https://www.academia.edu/2189571/Pdf_6_The_antibacterial_activity_of_honey_and_its_role_in_treating_diseases
Honey as a topical agent – http://www.worldwidewounds.com/2001/november/Molan/honey-as-topical-agent.html
What is so special about manuka honey? – https://www.academia.edu/2187608/Pdf_7_Whats_special_about_Active_Manuka_Honey
Comparison of Mineral and Enzyme Levels in Raw and Processed Honey – http://www.honey.com/images/uploads/general/processed-versus-raw-honey.pdf
Honey: The ‘bee penicillin’ that could even beat MRSA – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2063588/Honey-The-bee-penicillin-beat-MRSA.html
Antibacterial Activity of Honey against Strains of Staphylococcus Aureus from Infected Wounds – http://jrs.sagepub.com/content/92/6/283.short
Causes of the antimicrobial activity of honey – http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02768748#page-1
The antimicrobial spectrum of honey and its clinical significance – http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02033065#page-1
Antineoplastic activity of honey in an experimental bladder cancer – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.0919-8172.2003.00602.x/full
Bioactivity of Greek honey extracts on breast cancer, prostate cancer and endometrial cancer cells – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814609003124
Investigation of in vitro antimicrobial activity of honey – http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/11702659
Organic honey standards – https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-animal-products/organic-honey/organic-honey-standards.html