Is all the hype surrounding manuka honey rightly deserved? Is this "superfood" really all that it is said to be? Or is it possible that this is just another scam… Another over-hyped superfood fad that is just going to die off in the near future?
The question of whether or not this is a superfood or snake oil comes up quite a bit. And for good reason… Many people are hesitant to believe that one of over 300 different types of honey can be so much better than the rest when it comes to being an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-viral and so on.
This honey is used for treating everything from cold sores to helping sooth inflamed joints, and is probably most popular for its antibacterial capabilities… Being used to heal wounds and such.
But just because this honey has caused so much attention in the media doesn't mean that it is the miracle worker people are saying it is. We have seen plenty of health food fads come and go over the years, riding out the big wave of popularity and then slowly dying off into the background.
That said, while manuka honey might be a tad over-hyped, the scientific findings on this stuff are quite remarkable, as I will go over shortly.
But first… What the heck is manuka honey exactly…
What the heck is Manuka honey in the first place?
As mentioned, there are over 300 different types of honeys out there, manuka just being one of many.
What makes them different?
It's all about the nectar for the most part. Manuka honey comes from bees that are pollinating and gathering nectar from the manuka plant, which has the scientific name of Leptospermum scoparium. This plant can grow 15 to 25 feet when it is fully matured and is native to New Zealand, although at this point in time it has also been introduced and grows well in parts of Australia.
A beekeeper can take a single hive of bees and produce many different honeys just by changing the flowers in which they are pollinating/gathering nectar from. So if one wants to produce manuka honey, they simply will move the hives near manuka dominant areas during the prime season.
What does science have to say about it?
Well... Let's first talk about its claim to antibacterial properties, since this seems to be what many people are using it for.
The fact of the matter is that all honeys have antibacterial properties, most of them coming from their hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) content, which is produced from glucose and oxygen. However, what may seem a bit strange, is that medical grade manuka honey doesn't seem to have any H2O2 present. According to a 2014 study, apparently this is at least in part due to the high levels of a compound called Methylglyoxal (MGO) that it contains, which has been shown to inhibit the glucose oxidase enzyme that is important in the production of H2O2.
But... Manuka honey has been proven to have great natural antibacterial properties. It has been shown to help get rid of and prevent infections, and has even proven to be effective against some antiobiotic resistance bacterias such as meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
More so… It has even found in a 2017 study to "enhance wound healing and tissue generation", besides already working as an antibacterial.
And if that isn't already enough, other studies out there show its effectiveness at fighting common fungi, like that of the candida family.
So where is it getting all this crazy germ fighting ability?
Well… It is likely due to the high amounts of Methylglyoxal (MGO) that it contains… Which is the same compound that is responsible for it being absent of hydrogen peroxide, when you have medical grade manuka honey that is.
Definitely not just hype... although we admit the hype might be a bit much
There is a long list of claimed benefits of manuka honey. If you do some looking around online you will see all sorts of crazy claims, many backed by little to no scientific evidence. Everything from it curing cancer to fighting infection and being a treatment to toenail fungus is out there on the web.
However, although some of the claims may be a bit overstated, this definitely is not just type.
Manuka honey is the most studied honey for its medicinal benefits and it seems that as time goes by, and more studies are performed, more and more of the said benefits are being proven to be true, at least to some extent.
And when it comes to the antibacterial powers of this incredible type of money, they are pretty darn well proven with scientific research.
Not all Manuka honey is the same
If you are looking to pick yourself up some manuka honey, it is important to know that not all of it is created the same.
Just as any food that is packed with nutrients, the process in which it is harvested and ends up in your kitchen needs to be carefully performed. One beekeeper might have the best grade honey in the world, but if the packaging process and shipping process is not up to par, this could seriously affect the nutrient profile of the honey.
In addition to this, it is actually impossible to get pure manuka honey from a beehive, due to the inevitability of some bees pollinating and gathering nectar from surrounding flowers that are not of the manuka plant.
But that isn't the real problem… The real problem is fraud, or false labeling. Companies falsely labeling their honey as manuka when it only has a very small fraction of actual Manuka honey in it, is indeed a problem.
There are safeguards in place to help ensure that the labeling of such honeys is truthful, but there's definitely no substitute for buying a high-quality trusted honey from a trusted source.
So don't just go out and buy the cheapest you can find. If you do that, you are more likely to get ripped off. You often get what you pay for, and when it comes to Manuka honey, this is very true.