How Manuka Honey Is Used
The main medical use for manuka honey is on top of a wound. It is generally used for treating minor wounds and burns.
Manuka honey is also marketed for use in many other conditions. These include:
- Preventing and treating cancer
- Reducing high cholesterol
- Reducing systemic inflammation
- Treating diabetes
- Treating eye, ear, and sinus infections
- Treating gastrointestinal problems
But the evidence is limited on whether or not manuka honey is effective for these conditions.
The honey used to treat wounds is a medical-grade honey. It is specially sterilized and prepared as a dressing. So the jar of manuka honey in the pantry should not be considered part of a first aid kit. Wounds and infections should be seen and treated by a health care professional.
What the Science Says About Manuka Honey
Several recent studies show manuka honey is effective when used on top of wounds and leg ulcers. Studies also show it's effective in fighting infection and promoting healing.
But not all studies show that it helps to heal ulcers. And there is concern that manuka honey may actually delay healing in people who have ulcers related to diabetes.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database lists honey as being "possibly effective" to treat burns and wounds. The Cochrane Review notes that honey may shorten healing times in mild burns compared with traditional dressings. However, honey dressings do not increase leg ulcer healing at 12 weeks even when used with compression wraps.
Another recent study suggests that manuka honey may be effective in preventing gingivitis and other periodontal disease by reducing the buildup of plaque. And in 2010, the scientific steering committee of the National Cancer Institute approved a proposal for the use of manuka honey for the reduction of inflammation of the esophagus associated with chemotherapy.
Another possible benefit of honey is that, unlike antibiotics, it has not been reported to cause development of resistant bacteria. These so-called "superbugs" develop after repeated exposure to common antibiotics. They require special antibiotics to treat them.
So far, studies have not shown manuka honey to be effective for treating high cholesterol or balancing the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
Also, no major studies have looked at the effect of manuka honey on cancer, diabetes, or fungal infections.