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Manuka honey, gathered from groves of manuka trees growing naturally on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, is known around the world for its amazing power in promoting healing of skin diseases.

Manuka honey gets world-wide attention for its power in healing the skin. Manuka honey is a mono-floral honey, that is, bees produce from the nectar and pollen of just one plant, Leptospermum scoparium, a species of flowering myrtle that grows on the western coast of New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia. In New Zealand the plant is known by its Maori name, manuka, while in Australia the plant is known as the tea tree. 

Commercial production of manuka honey is almost entirely located in New Zealand, and commercial production of tea tree oil, made by distilling the essential oils from the leaves and branches of the shrub, is carried out in Australia.

The essential oils of the manuka plant are well known for their ability to fight the bacteria that cause acne and staph and strep infections. When bees harvest pollen and nectar to make honey, the resulting product retains many of the antibacterial properties of tea tree oil with an added ability to stop the production of bacterial films on the skin. Manuka honey stops bacteria from "clumping" into a continuous layer over the skin, magnifying their toxic effects on the skin.

And while manuka honey can be used straight from the jar for treating skin infections and for stimulating the healing of broken skin, some of the most powerful applications of manuka are found when it is combined with conventional skin medications:

  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, which is usually transmitted in locker rooms and showers or in hospitals, is extremely difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics. Manuka honey makes MRSA more susceptible to the antibiotic oxacillin. In one trial, oxacillin only killed MRSA when the skin was pretreated with manuka honey.
  • Most kinds of honey contain small amounts of an antibacterial compound called methylglyoxal, but manuka honey contains 2 to 3 times as much. In one clinical trial, small amounts of manuka honey applied to the gums killed gingivitis bacteria, while much larger amounts of other kinds of honey were required for a similar effect.
  • Deep burns (which you should always have treated by a doctor) tend to get larger several days after the burn, due to the spreading of inflammation from the burn site as the immune system clears out dead and damaged cells. In a clinical trial in Japan, manuka honey reduced the enlargement of deep burns when applied as part of the initial dressing of the wound.
  • At least in laboratory tests, manuka honey controls the multiplication of the varicella zoster virus, the virus that causes shingles. Manuka honey is a potential treatment for shingles.
Manuka honey is a natural product that can help clear up acne.

It can be the key to getting good results in treating MRSA with antibiotics. You can dab manuka honey on your gums to help clear up gingivitis, and this honey can be used to stimulate the healing of burns, cuts, scrapes, and scratches, and to relieve the pain of shingles.

Other kinds of honey, however, don't heal like manuka honey. You shouldn't necessarily expect these results in skin care if you aren't using certified, real manuka honey from New Zealand.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Nakajima Y, Mukai K, Nasruddin, Komatsu E, Iuchi T, Kitayama Y, Sugama J, Nakatani T. Evaluation of the effects of honey on acute-phase deep burn wounds. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013. 2013:784959. doi: 10.1155/2013/784959. Epub 2013 Nov 17. PMID: 24348720.
  • Tomblin V, Ferguson LR, Han DY, Murray P, Schlothauer R. Potential pathway of anti-inflammatory effect by New Zealand honeys. Int J Gen Med. 2014 Mar 5, 7:149-58. doi: .10.2147/IJGM.S45839. eCollection 2014. PMID: 24623989.
  • Photo courtesy of Andy Murray by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/89396233@N00/12622731023
  • Photo courtesy of Sage Ross by Wikimedia Commons : commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Manuka_honey_in_a_bowl.jpg

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