Most health claims about manuka honey lack scientific-backing – here are the 4 with some evidence

Manuka honey
Manuka honey comes from New Zealand and is thicker and more granular than regular honey. KPS/Getty Images
  • Manuka honey is exclusively from New Zealand and boasts more medicinal properties than other honey.
  • Manuka honey may treat inflammatory skin conditions, heal wounds, and improve oral health.
  • Do not use manuka honey if you have diabetes, an allergy to bees, or are under the age of one.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Manuka honey is a type of honey exclusively found in New Zealand. Because the window for bees to pollinate the manuka plant is less than six weeks per year, it is more expensive than other types of honey, up to $99 per 100 grams. It also boasts more medicinal benefits than other forms of honey.

Here are four health benefits of manuka honey, where you can buy it, and who should avoid it due to adverse side effects.

What is manuka honey?

Manuka honey differs from regular honey because it contains the active ingredient methylglyoxal, which potentially gives it antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It can be purchased at most health stores and even some supermarkets.

Authentic manuka honey is given a Unique Manuka Factor, or UMF, grade. The grading system was developed by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association in New Zealand and is used to confirm the authenticity and quality of the honey. Ratings range from 5+ to 25+, determined by how much methylglyoxal and leptosperin – a stable chemical used to identify manuka – are in the honey.

The strength and dosage of manuka honey you want depends on your goals. According to Amy Shapiro, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition, the strength and dosage you choose differs based on what you’re aiming to treat:

  • 5+ to 9+ is for general wellbeing
  • 10+ 15+ for therapeutic purposes
  • 15+ for dental hygiene

The higher the grade, the more expensive it may be.

Manuka honey has many purported health benefits, but not all of them are backed by scientific research. Here are some of the benefits with some scientific backing:

1. May treat skin conditions

Manuka honey is widely used in skin care products thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, says Serena Poon, a certified nutritionist with her own practice. The sticky ointment can inhibit bacterial growth that may cause or worsen acne and soothe redness or dryness that comes with inflammatory skin conditions.

According to Shapiro and Poon, skin conditions manuka honey may help with include:

Apply a coin-sized amount of manuka honey to your skin and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water, says Poon. Remove immediately if it begins to burn or cause itchiness.

Any grade will work for skin conditions, but the higher the grade the more effective it will be.

2. May heal wounds

Not only can manuka honey help soothe skin conditions, but it can also help heal wounds thanks to its antibacterial properties. However, you should not apply manuka honey to wounds without first consulting a medical professional.

Most of honey’s antibacterial activity is due to hydrogen peroxide, which is less effective once it mixes with blood or serum in the wound. However, in manuka honey the antibacterial properties come from methylglyoxal. Methylglyoxal does not become less effective when in contact with bodily fluids, meaning manuka honey prevents bacterial growth for longer periods without reapplication.

3. Soothes sore throats

Honey, of all types, is a well-known natural remedy for easing sore throats and coughs.

“Honey forms a soothing film over the throat, reducing irritation,” says BB Arrington, a certified nutritionist, with her own practice.

Manuka honey, in particular, reduces inflammation caused by coughs and can speed up the healing of any scratches in the throat, says Arrington.

There are a few ways you can consume manuka honey to help with a sore throat, including:

  • A plain spoonful
  • In hot water
  • Mixed into tea

4. Improves oral health

While it may seem contradictory that something as sweet as honey could improve your health, manuka’s antimicrobial activity inhibits plaque formation, says Arrington. This is especially true when applied to the area where gum and tooth meet.

Manuka honey may improve oral health when:

  • Consumed directly
  • Used as a mouthwash
  • Put on a toothbrush

Consult with a dentist before using manuka honey to determine which grade you should use and if it’s right for you.

Manuka honey side effects

Manuka honey is generally safe to use or consume, but some people may have an adverse reaction, such as an allergic reaction or high blood sugar.

According to Shapiro, people who should avoid manuka honey include those with:

Insider’s takeaway

Manuka honey is a more expensive, sought-after form of honey only cultivated in New Zealand. Its benefits can include soothing a sore throat, healing wounds, and treating skin conditions, such as eczema. Before trying manuka honey, speak with a medical professional to see if it’s the right fit for you.

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