Medicinal Manuka Honey

Studies have found that Manuka honey contains very powerful antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. Manuka honey can even kill antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, a growing problem worldwide. It can heal a huge variety of health conditions. Make it part of your medicine cabinet.

What is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey comes from the nectar of the manuka bush (or tea tree – tea tree oil is made from a different plant). This bush is indigenous to New Zealand and thrives in the wild, uncultivated lands of New Zealand’s pollution free environment. It also grows in Australia where similar honeys are made. However, true Manuka honey is only from New Zealand.

How it Works

Bacteria have the ability to mutate and become resistant to elements that are attempting to destroy them, such as antibiotics. However, manuka honey destroys bacteria in a different manner, by drawing water out of the bacteria, making it impossible for the microbes to survive. To date, there has been no reported bacterium that has been able to develop a resistance to manuka honey.

The following six factors work together to provide broad-spectrum activity against bacteria. Honey has the right mix for maximum destruction.

  1. Methylglyoxal (MGO). The amount of MGO, an antibacterial compound, determines its level of antibacterial activity. This unique compound is what differentiates manuka from other honeys.
  2. Hydrogen peroxide. The honey enzyme called glucose oxidase makes hydrogen peroxide when honey is diluted with water. This is produced when the bee adds enzymes to the nectar.
  3. Sugar. Honey has so much sugar there’s hardly any water for bacteria to grow in.
  4. Bee defensin 1. A protein found in royal jelly (special food for queen bee larva) works as an antibiotic.
  5. Acid. Diluted honey has a pH of around 3.5; the acidic environment slows down bacterial growth.
  6. Dehydration. Manuka honey draws water out of the bacteria, making it impossible for microbes to survive.

Health Benefits

If manuka honey can kill MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it can kill your cold! Manuka honey aids in healing the following conditions:

  • Improves overall immune system function by killing harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (the GI tract contains 85% of the immune system)
  • Colds, flu, and sore throat (it kills the bacteria your throat)
  • Cough suppressant proven to work as good as over the counter cough medicines
  • Mouth infections like bad breath, dental cavities, plaque, gingivitis, and periodontal disease
  • Cold sores
  • Skin injuries and infections like MRSA, staph, abrasions, mastitis (breast infection), boils, diabetic ulcers, ringworm, rashes, athlete’s foot, nail fungus
  • Burns
  • Bedsores
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea
  • Acne
  • Gastrointestinal infections like Candida Albicans (yeast), etc
  • Heartburn, acid reflux, gastritis and indigestion
  • Stomach (peptic) ulcers
  • H. pylori (25-50% of people have this stomach infection)
  • IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Shown to be effective in controlling cancer tumor growth and metastasis
  • Can aid in relieving symptoms of chemotherapy and radiation

Recommended Manuka Honeys

MGO-550-Manuka-Honey-250g-lThe following honeys have a Molan Gold Standard or UMF rating. If you’re going to spend a billion dollars on honey it might as well be guaranteed. Though many UMF strengths are listed below, each brand listed has a wide range of UMF strengths from which to choose. When purchasing, be careful to compare prices with the same weight. These are my favorite manuka honeys as their attention to quality and craft is unparalleled.

How Manuka Heals Wounds

Manuka honey aids wound healing in so many ways. Its antibacterial action rapidly clears bacteria, diffusing into the skin tissues to reach deep infections. Anti-inflammatory action reduces swelling and pain. The honey also has an osmotic effect, lifting dirt out and cleaning the wound. Its moist healing environment allows for the regeneration of new skin growth, preventing scarring. When a dressing is changed, there is no tearing away of newly formed tissue since the honey forms a barrier between the wound and the dressing. And by killing the bacteria that produce ammonia, bad odor from a wound is greatly reduced.

Manuka Rating Systems

Be aware that not all manuka honey is of medical grade. Determining actual bioactivity or medicinal levels of honey is challenging. Producers use a wide variety of measures to rate their honey. Below are the ratings or words you will see on manuka honey labels:

  • Any prominent number between 1 and 50, with or without the symbol +
  • The words Active or Activity
  • The words Bio-active or Bio-activity
  • UMF®
  • MGS (Molan Gold Standard)
  • MGO (measures the amount of MGO, methylglyoxal, the antibacterial component of manuka honey)
  • AAH (Antibacterial, Antioxidant Honey)
  • NPA (Non Peroxide Activity)
  • TA (Total Activity)

The most obvious item you will see on a manuka honey label is a number between 0-30. This rating system is comparable to the percentage of its antibacterial activity. The higher the number on the label, the higher the manuka honey’s antibacterial potency. The higher the activity, the higher price it commands.

Only manuka honey 10+ or higher is considered to be active and suitable for therapeutic use. Although extremely potent, some consider 20+ manuka honey an unnecessary overkill. A medium range certified manuka is fine (i.e. 15+). A low certified manuka rating (i.e. less than 10+) does not have the curative qualities that are expected from manuka honey.

The Molan Gold Standard is guarantee of manuka honey potency. Professor Molan is the founding father of bioactive honey and an authority in manuka honey research. In 2009, he unveiled the latest benchmark for manuka excellence known as the Molan Gold Standard. This new certification uses an upgraded testing method, producing a more accurate measurement of bioactivity in manuka honey. He developed the Molan Gold Standard because he considers other rating systems to be outdated and the results too variable and unreliable. Watson and Son manufacture the only honeys currently on the market with the Molan Gold Standard seal. This is the honey I enjoy.

The most common rating system that measures the antibacterial potency on a scale from 0 – 50 is known as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). The UMF trademark indicates that the supplier is regulated and is required to perform laboratory tests on each batch of honey to measure its antibacterial potency. There should also be a license number listed somewhere on the label. When the label merely lists a number, i.e. 15+, without the letters “UMF” or just refers to it as “active”, there is no assurance that it is truly medical grade.

These two standards are the only ones that should be trusted. If a jar of Manuka Honey does not say UMF or Molan Gold Standard on the label, you have no way of knowing if a laboratory test was performed to measure its antibacterial potency. In fact, many honey producers have a rating system they devised themselves to test and label their own honey. Manuka honey without the third party tested UMF or Molan Gold Standard seal are usually less expensive, as well as less effective. Don’t be fooled by low cost manuka honey.

Some honeys are rated by the amount of MGO or methylglyoxal they contain, and given an MGO rating on the label. However, this is not considered a true measure of the antibacterial activity of the honey. Research shows that MGO levels do not relate directly to increased antibacterial activity. For instance, after honey is heated it has a higher MGO rating. Therefore, MGO level is not considered a reliable rating system.

The remaining ratings you will see on honeys are AAH, NPA, and TA. You will see these ratings on less expensive honeys. These are not to be trusted. Stick with the UMF rating and Molan Gold Standard.

Purity is Key

Understanding how honey is collected, processed and packaged is an important factor in determining the health properties of honey.  Only pure, unprocessed raw honey will provide you with optimal health benefits. This is honey that has not been heated beyond 95 degrees, killing healthful enzymes and probiotics, has not been micro-filtered, removing beneficial pollen residues, and has had nothing added. Organic honey has been produced with no herbicides or pesticides. This can usually only be accomplished when bees forage in pristine environments, avoiding contact with pesticide sprayed vegetation. Certified manuka honey possesses all these properties.


Manuka Honey can be used orally or topically. The following dosages are recommended:

  • Enhanced immunity: MGS (Molan Gold Standard) or UMF 10+ 1-2 teaspoons daily.
  • Digestive upset and infections: MGS or UMF 16+ to 25+  1-3 teaspoons daily
  • Topical: Apply honey with MGS 20+ or higher activity every 12 hours and cover with a dry sterile gauze and bandage.
  • Rosacea, Eczema, Psoriasis, or Acne: Apply honey to affected area, cover with dressing, and leave on for one hour a day.

Manuka Honey Products for Medical Use

As manuka honey has medicinal properties, there is a wide range of products one can use externally in the form of wound dressings, antibiotic honey ointments, and creams to treat skin conditions.


There are a few warnings about manuka honey worth mentioning.

  • As each health condition and person is different, manuka honey may not work for you or for every condition mentioned.
  • Manuka honey is very sweet. Taking three teaspoons a day can be trying for those strange individuals who don’t like sweets. The carbohydrate content of one teaspoon of honey is equivalent to one third of a cup of chopped apple, or roughly 5.5 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Manuka honey may be contraindicated in people with diabetics or other blood sugar issues. Individuals with diabetes, whose ability to metabolize sugar is impaired, may be subject to enhanced cellular damage due to increased tissue levels of methylglyoxal. Indeed, metformin, a drug commonly prescribed for diabetics, was designed to ameliorate the effects of methylglyoxal in the tissues of diabetic patients. Topical use is perfectly safe for diabetics.
  • Honey should not to be given to children less than one year old in case of rare botulism contamination.
  • People with severe pollen allergies should use honey with caution.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult their doctor.
  • While there are many claims that ingesting manuka honey can be a good for the side effects while undergoing cancer treatment like radiation and chemotherapy, the sugar content of honey is contraindicated for cancer, as sugar feeds cancer cells. You must decide for yourself if the benefits of honey outweigh the potential to feed and promote a cancer. Topical ingestion is fine for cancer patients.

Manuka in Your Tea?

Please don’t use rare, expensive Manuka honey in your tea. The hot tea will destroy live enzymes in the honey, rendering it less effective. This is a medicinal honey, not a sweetener for your tea. However, if you’ve purchased a ‘fake’ manuka and just need to use it up, by all means put it in your tea!

Other Medicinal Honeys

There are many medicinal honeys from around the world that have enhanced antibacterial properties. Try them all!

I hope you enjoy Manuka Honey as much as I do! I take a spoonful every day, but more if I’m sick to kill germs. Do you have a story about Manuka Honey? I’d love to hear about it! Tell me your story by leaving a comment below.

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Wendy Myers, FDN, CHHC, is a functional diagnostic nutritionist, certified holistic health coach and founder of Her passions include getting you healthy, Modern Paleo, retoxing and detoxing. Discover her Myers Detox Protocol and enjoy freedom from fatigue and brain fog with metal detox.

  • sunny

    why do you say only true manuka is from NZ in your article. This honey is from the Leptospermum tree which is native to NZ and Australia. Both Australian and NZ’s indigenous people’s used this honey for it’s heali
    ng properties. I don’t understand why there’s so much online information saying this honey is only available in NZ. I understand Manuka is just the NZ name for the honey.

    • Yes, you’re right. I had read that quite a bit online that Manuka is only from New Zealand. and since that’s the New Zealand name for it, that would be correct. However, you are correct that the bush grows in New Zealand AND Australia. And hence, Manuka can come from either country. I will correct this.

  • Joyce

    I just bought a brand called Airborne at our local supermarket – it says AAH 18+. Compared with other honeys, it was plenty more expensive. Now, is this a “fake” honey, in terms of effectiveness for all the things that the UMF honeys reportedly cures/alleviates/improves, etc.? I would really appreciate an answer. Thank you.

    • HI Joyce,
      It’s not necessarily fake, it’s just that there is no regulatory agency overseeing that claim of 18+. So, you don’t know what you’re getting. The only honey that has a third party overseeing it is UMF or MGO.

  • Chad Graeber

    Normally I only ingest about a tablespoon of manuka honey a day. My mother has been making me sandwiches lately with bananas, peanut butter, and manuka honey on them. However, I did not tell her how much honey to put on the sandwich. As I have come to find out, she has been slathering almost as much manuka honey on the sandwich as she does peanut butter. Could this be the reason for some sudden breakouts I am having on my sensitive skin? Can too much manuka honey cause acne breakouts at all?

    • Like any healthy food, you can get too much of a good thing. Moderation is key. You want a teaspoon a day but no more. May be better to measure it yourself. But those sandwiches sound good!!

  • Carmen Leung

    sugar feeds cancer cells, but i think the key is to use manuka honey as a trojan horse and combine it with tumeric or ginger.or something else that’s non sugary and kills cancer.

  • Wild Cape Manuka Honey has remarkable antibacterial property and hence, is very popularly used in wound management. Honey is known to protect against bacteria. Honey also has a very good anti-inflammatory property. Research has claimed that it can be used to prevent and treat various types of Cancer, Reduce Cholesterol, treat ENT infections and certain gastrointestinal disturbances. It is a very unique and special kind of honey available.

  • Vanisha

    I am 3 months pregnant..i just bought the pure manuka honey 15+. Is it safe for me to consume daily? as I normally mix 1tsp with hot water too drink.. hope it will not affect my baby in any way?!

    • Yes, manuka honey is perfectly safe to use while pregnant.

  • Joan White

    What kind & strength of manuka honey should i get? I have venous stasus ulcer [1.5″X2″] & MRSA,what do you suggest?

    • I would get the 25+ as it’s the strongest. I only use the 25+. It’s expensive, but as long as you’re spending the money, you might as well get the strongest antimicrobial activity if you’re dealing with a severe health issue.

  • Joan White

    How long does approval take?

  • Des

    What an absolute nonsense & outright lie that “true manuka honey only comes from New Zealand”. No New Zealand honey maker would make such a claim. Both Australian & New Zealand certified manuka honeys are chemically identical (indeed have to be scientifically proven so for accreditation). The ONLY difference is that the WORD for the certain bush on which the bees forage is different in each country. As the bioactive honey that is produced thereby came to be known to modern users as ‘manuka’ first, then that term was adopted by the honey industry in BOTH countries. It is a purely historical accident that the term manuka honey came to be used rather than teatree honey or some other Australian Aboriginal variant. The Australian Aborigines have been present in Australia for at least 60,000 years. They are known to have utilised the bioactive honey produced by australian native bees feeding on the tea tree bush (called ‘manuka’ in NZ) throughout their history. Conversely it is believed that New Zealand was setted by the Polynesian Maori people no more than 1000 years ago, & so use of manuka there can be no older than that. So if one were to make the claim that one country’s manuka should be considered ‘truer’ or somehow more historically valid, then it would be hard to look past 60,000 years of history opposed to 1000. But of course it is a specious argument because certified bioactive medicinal tea tree (manuka) honey produced in either country is 100% scientifically guaranteed to be identical in terms of its active constituents. I believe Ms Myers owes the Australian honey industry a retraction…

    • HI there, I”m not trying to intentionally mislead people. It may be that when I was researching the article, I read that and it sounded plausible to me. The article is an attempt to warn people against fake manuka honeys that charge a lot of money but don’t deliver the antimicrobial benefits. I am happy to change it.