Honey has been prized for centuries for its antibacterial and other medicinal properties, and in recent years, Manuka honey from New Zealand has become extremely popular due to its particularly impressive nutritional and health-boosting qualities.
New research has indicated that Manuka honey may be even more beneficial than previously thought, and may eventually play a big role in fighting infections, as antibiotics become less and less effective against so-called superbugs.
One study conducted in 2012, found Manuka honey to be effective against chronic wound infections. This earlier research paved the way for a recent study which explored the possibility of using Manuka honey to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) typically associated with long-term catheter use.
Manuka honey kills bacteria associated with infections caused by catheters
The new study, which was conducted by Bashir Lwaleed and colleagues at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, tested various concentrations of Manuka honey on two types of bacteria, Escherichia coli and Proteus mirabilis, both of which commonly cause UTIs in catheterized patients.
The researchers found that:
"Even low dilutions of Manuka honey can curb the activity and growth of bacterial biofilms – the thin but resilient layer of microbes that build up on, and stick to, any surface including plastic. ...
"The results showed that Manuka honey strongly inhibited the 'stickiness' of the bacteria, and therefore the development of a biofilm.
"Even at the lowest dilution of 3.3 per cent, it curbed stickiness by 35 per cent after 48 hours compared with the plain medium and artificial honey.
"But the greatest effect was seen after three days and at a dilution of 16.7 per cent, when stickiness had been reduced by 77 per cent. All the dilutions suppressed this by around 70 per cent after three days."
Although the researchers say it's too early to draw any firm conclusions regarding the infection-fighting role Manuka honey might one day play in mainstream medicine, it's encouraging to see the medical establishment acknowledging the potential of natural antibacterial treatments.
High price of Manuka honey creates black market
Manuka honey's nearly magical health-boosting properties have made it a hot commodity, with demand outstripping supply and driving the price so high that most can only afford to use it for topical applications, and not as a food.
In fact, there is now a black market for Manuka honey – with prices as high as $80 per jar, thieves have begun stealing and selling Manuka honey in Australia and New Zealand.
With its reputation as the "most beneficial form of honey in the world," it's perhaps no surprise that Manuka honey is fetching such astronomical prices in the retail (and black) market.
Manuka honey provides more than four times the nutritional value of normal honey, said Dr. Josh Axe, a nutrition and natural health expert.
Loaded with beneficial vitamins and nutrients, Manuka honey bolsters the immune system, and can be used in treating bacterial infections, acne, eczema, colds, sore throats, staph infections, burns and ulcers.
Are there cheaper alternatives to Manuka honey?
Although Manuka honey is scarce and prohibitively expensive for many, the average person can still enjoy the health benefits of honey.
But it's important to realize that there is a lot of garbage disguised as honey sitting on grocery store shelves, so there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, you should never buy honey labeled as "ultra-filtrated," since ultra-filtration removes all the pollen, making it impossible to tell where the honey actually came from. Much of the ultra-filtrated honey sold in the United States comes from China, and is often contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins, and adulterated with corn syrup or other non-honey ingredients.
Buying local honey directly from the farm is your safest bet if you can't afford pricey Manuka honey. Honey from a local source that has never been heated will provide the most benefits. Don't waste money on store-bought honey with a questionable provenance.
Article sources: NaturalBlaze.com; MedicalNewsToday.com; Southampton.ac.uk; News.com.au; HoneyFanatic.com