With the over prescribing of antibiotics and the growing popularity of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, many scientists have been warning of a possible medical catastrophe from an epidemic of antibiotic resistant superbugs. New research shows that manuka honey may be a natural and ancient solution to a modern health disaster.
Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney have shown that medical-grade manuka honey, also known as Medihoney, improves the effectiveness of antibiotics and can prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to them. Medihoney is a highly-absorbent seaweed soaked in a special, sterilized manuka honey.
The new study published in the open-access science journal PLOS ONE, used Medihoney in combination with the antibiotic rifampicin to treat skin and chronic wound infections. Normally, if MRSA were treated with just rifampicin, the superbug became resistant to the rifampicin very quickly. Researchers were excited to find that when Medihoney and rifampicin are used in combination to treat MRSA, the honey somehow prevented the emergence of rifampicin-resistant MRSA.
Some studies had previously shown that unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, manuka honey does not promote the growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The researchers at UTS suggest that manuka honey may be a new weapon in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria such as the superbug MRSA (golden staph).
What is manuka honey?
Honey has been used since ancient times to treat multiple conditions. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that researchers discovered that honey has natural antibacterial qualities. Of all honey, manuka honey is particularly healing. It comes uniquely from honey produced by bees from the flower of the manuka plant in New Zealand.
In some regions of the world manuka is known as tea tree. The tea tree and especially its oil, is known to be antibacterial and antifungal. It’s been used in products like mouth washes and disinfectants.
Manuka honey combines the powers of tea tree with the natural antibacterial properties of honey. It is known to have potent broad-spectrum antibacterial activity, in treating infected chronic wounds and serious skin infections.
The active ingredient in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MG), a compound found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities.
You may see manuka honey labeled as “UMF honey.” This refers to “Unique Manuka Factor,” a scale that compares the honey with standard disinfectants. The UMF can run as high as 20 percent total content in some higher quality varieties, and UMF 10 is generally considered therapeutic grade.
Manuka honey is dark in color with an intense flavor thanks to it tea tree roots. It can be used just like regular honey as a sweetener.
Besides its use in wound care, manuka honey has also been found effective in treating stomach ulcers, gastritis, and other digestive problems. Because it has antibiotic, anti-fungal and antiviral effects, manuka honey has also been used for sore throats, colds, dermatitis, acne, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, acid reflux and heartburn.
Where to buy manuka honey
Manuka honey is available in health food stores and online. When shopping for manuka honey, look for a certification by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA), which independently tests and certifies manuka honeys to verify their legitimacy. Certified brands of manuka honey are available online.