- Tea tree honey
- Australian tea tree honey
- Active Manuka honey
- Antibacterial honey
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Manuka honey may help prevent infections and promote wound healing when used externally.
Manuka honey can help fight bacterial infections and has been used in dressings to promote wound healing. Methylglyoxal, a major compound in this honey, is thought to be responsible for these effects. In vitro and animal studies also suggest anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcer properties. Small studies in humans suggest its benefits against gingivitis and inflamed nasal sinuses. However, it has not been found to be effective in reducing cancer treatment-related side effects such as inflammation or sores in the mouth or throat. Larger studies are needed.
- Wound dressings Small studies suggest the value of manuka honey in wound healing.
- Antibiotics Topical use of manuka was shown to be effective against bacteria.
- Diabetes Clinical trials are lacking. Excessive use of honey may increase in blood sugar levels.
- Gastrointestinal tract problems Clinical trials have not been able to confirm if manuka can improve beneficial bacteria in the gut.
- Infections Several case studies have described manuka as being effective to treat wounds that did not respond to standard treatment.
- Cancer prevention/treatment Clinical trials are lacking.
- Radiation side effects Clinical trials did not find any benefit with manuka for either radiation-induced oral mucositis or esophagitis, but one study found that it reduced bacterial infections.
- Oral health One small study suggests using manuka may help reduce buildup of plaque and gingivitis. Large-scale studies are needed.
For Healthcare Professionals
Manuka honey is collected from beehives around the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) that is indigenous to Australia and New Zealand. It has been used both as food and as a topical treatment for wounds, burns, and ulcers.
In vitro and animal studies show that manuka has antibacterial (1) (25) (26), anti-inflammatory (9) (27), antioxidant, and anti-ulcer (27) effects. The constituent methylglyoxal is the major bactericidal factor (21). Manuka honey was also effective against several antibiotic-resistant bacteria (28) (29) (30).
Small studies in humans suggest potential utility of manuka honey preparations for atopic dermatitis (35), gingivitis (2), oral hygiene (33), rhinosinusitis (32), corneal edema (24), and dry eye symptoms (36). However, randomized trials did not find it more effective than standard treatments for catheter-associated bacterial infections (6), nasal decolonization of meticillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) (37), venous leg ulcers (20), or eyelid surgical wounds (31). Although manuka honey has been used to increase beneficial bacteria levels and relieve gastrointestinal problems, it was not found to be useful in healthy subjects (7). It also did not reduce cholesterol levels in subjects with hypercholesterolemia (8).
The anticancer potential of manuka honey has not been investigated yet, although a few studies evaluated it to relieve treatment-related side effects. Manuka was not effective in alleviating radiation-induced oral mucositis (19) (22), although one study reported a reduction in bacterial infections (22). It was also not superior to best supportive care to prevent radiation esophagitis, but did appear to reduce opioid use at 4 weeks (5). Larger studies are needed to determine the therapeutic value of manuka.
Mechanism of Action
Flavonoids present in manuka demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties (13). Methylglyoxal, a phytochemical, is the major bactericidal factor and promotes free radical generation (14) (21). Manuka honey was shown to reduce motility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a gram negative bacterium and opportunistic pathogen, by suppressing genes associated with its flagella, thereby reducing virulence (34). It also inhibited the formation of biofilm, a complex polysaccharide structure produced by some bacteria such as Clostridium dificile, which confers antibiotic resistance (30). Anti-ulcer effects are attributed to increased gastric mucosal levels of glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase and reductions of inflammatory cytokines including tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha), Interleukins 1-beta and 6 (27).
Manuka honey enhanced effects of antioxidants in animal studies (15) and promoted wound healing by modulating cytokine production (4) and lowering pH on wound surfaces (16). Some products list antibacterial potency by using a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating, which is equal to the inhibitory potential of a phenolic solution of the same strength (7). However, clinical relevance of this measurement is unclear.