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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.
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.
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.