Natural First Aid with Manuka Honey
If you’ve ever walked past the honey section in the health food store (or supermarket) and wondered about all the hype surrounding Manuka honey, and why it is so special, then wonder no more. Since ancient times, honey has been used as a natural treatment for wounds, burns, and sore throats, due to its antimicrobial properties, and it’s undergoing something of a renaissance with more and more interest from mainstream health practitioners and the general public on the therapeutic uses of honey (1). As bacterial resistance to antibiotics rises, and as scientific studies on the benefits of honey in treating wounds solidify honey as a credible natural treatment, interest in honey as a first aid option has increased.
So why is Manuka honey so good? As honey is obtained from nectar from many different types of flowers, honey can differ in it’s ability to help heal wounds, depending on the flower from which the nectar has been obtained. Manuka honey is produced by bees who have obtained pollen from the Leptospermum scoparium (Manuka plant), native to New Zealand and Australia, so it’s quite rare. It’s also very valuable as a medicinal source, to assist in the healing of wounds, blisters, and the like. According to Dr Nural Cokcetin, Manuka honey has unusually high levels of antibacterial activity that isn’t seen in other types of honey. “Honey in general has several antibacterial properties, which includes, a), A high concentration of sugars which can dehydrate or dry out the bacteria, b) A low pH level which creates an acidic environment that most bacteria can’t tolerate, and c) The production of hydrogen peroxide which is toxic to bacteria. The additional antibacterial activity of Manuka honey comes from a particular naturally occurring chemical that is derived from the floral source. This chemical is called methylglyoxal or MGO and the activity that stems from this chemical is often called non-peroxide activity. The presence of this MGO or non-peroxide activity is special to Manuka, we don’t see it arise in other types of honey”.
This makes Manuka honey a valuable first aid option to help treat wounds, burns, blisters, and the like. Dr Cokcetin says “Wound healing is a complex process, and although we don’t fully understand the process yet we do know that there are certain things that help to promote wound healing and Manuka honey can help. We know that maintaining a moist wound environment helps to promote the regrowth of new skin (epithelialisation) while simultaneously preventing the growth of infection causing microbes are ideal. Using Manuka honey is beneficial in this situation because of its ability to maintain the moist conditions while providing a protective barrier to reduce the risk of infections at the same time due to its antibacterial activity. Manuka honey also has a debriding action which can remove the ‘dirt’ or ‘gunk’ from the wound, and it helps to reduce wound odour”.
So, if you suffer from recurring wounds, cuts that won’t heal, blisters, or burns, it could be worthwhile considering the benefits of Manuka honey, and whether it can help, especially if you are after a natural first aid product. If you are thinking of using Manuka honey as a first aid option, we recommend discussing the use with your first aid practitioner before use, to make sure it is suitable for the ailment you are treating, and to ensure it is suitable for your health concern(s).
About Dr Nural Cokcetin
Dr Nural Cokcetin is research scientist specialising in the field of microbiology at the ithree institute, University of Technology Sydney. Nural’s current research focuses on understanding the antimicrobial properties of honey, with a drive to use this knowledge to develop new treatments for infections caused by multi-drug resistant superbugs. Nural’s PhD focused on investigating the use of honey as a prebiotic to improve human gut health and she was one of the first researchers to show a positive impact of eating honey on the beneficial gut populations.