For a long time, honey has been used not only as a sweetener but also as a powerful natural medicine. It is only recently that people have started to pay attention to the health benefits that come with the use of honey. It is now a major ingredient in a lot of mainstream health, medical and skin care products. Bees collect nectar from plant flowers to convert it into the delicious food, which can be consumed by humans that is honey. However, a particular type of honey that stands out from the rest is the Manuka honey that is rare, expensive and is touted to have numerous health benefits.
So where does Manuka Honey come from? Manuka Honey is natural honey that comes from the bees that collect nectar from the Manuka, Leptospermum scoparium, plant. This bush predominantly grows natively in New Zealand and also in some parts of Australia. Other species of this bush grow all over the world, but do not produce the flowers that bees need in order to produce Manuka honey.
Did you know: Manuka, is actually, is a Maori word.
It does not come cheap though. A simple jar of this apparent miracle-worker can cost you a couple of hundreds of dollars. And no, the jar is not made of gold. You can consider is as the Champagne of the honey world only that it comes from the other side of the world.
One of the reasons why this honey is so expensive and rare is the fact that the plant itself is very rare. Moreover, the Manuka flowers open for only 12 days a year. This means that very limited amount of this kind of honey is produced. Additionally, the honey collection process is quite a challenge since the hives are mainly in the wild. It has been reported that in some instances, helicopters are used to support the logistics of collecting the honey. However, this is not the only aspect that makes this honey special.
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What is so special about Manuka honey?
Manuka honey stands out from the rest honey because it has some interesting bioactive properties that are linked to health and general well-being benefits. This is all because the honey is created from the Manuka plant that is believed to have exceptional health-giving properties.
What is the difference between Manuka honey and regular honey?
Regular honey also referred to as commercial honey comes from any other plant other than Manuka plant. It is pasteurized i.e. heated to high temperatures to kill yeast in order to prevent fermentation and then filtered to make it smooth a uniform in color. So which honey is better, Munuka or the regular honey? This depends on what you need the honey for and how much you are willing to spend.
Manuka Honey comes with more health benefits which include antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Regular honey too has great health benefits. The only challenge with regular honey is that most of the products are not as regulated as the Manuka is. Given that the honey is harvested from the pollen of different plants, there is no guarantee that these plants have healing properties. On the other hand, the quality, the ingredients and the healing qualities of the Manuka are guaranteed since it is just that it highly regulated and tested.
Despite being superior to most of the other types of honey, remember it is still honey and thus should be eaten in moderation. This means that it has high levels of sugar. Moreover, you can also achieve similar health benefits by eating whole foods such as herbs, vegetables, spices, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut.
History of Manuka as a medicinal plant
The native Maoris in New Zealand used parts of the Manuka bush for centuries as herbal medicine to treat conditions like dandruff and fevers. The honey has traditionally been used to treat wounds and other ailments.
However, when the European settlers arrived in New Zealand in the 19th century, they introduced the European honey bee. This led to the use of honey by both the settlers and the Maori to treat skin and stomach problems. Before it’s healing properties were identified, it was mainly used as an animal feed.
What does medicine say about Manuka honey?
Every type of honey has some level of antibiotic properties. This is because it contains natural hydrogen peroxide chemical and the fact that it is slightly acidic. Manuka Honey is quite different from the rest of the honey because its antimicrobial properties do not come from a peroxide activity. Instead, its antibiotic properties are caused by methylglyoxal (MGO) a natural compound that develops within the honey.
So how is MGO formed in the honey? It is derived from a natural element present in the nectar of the Manuka plant called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). The DHA undergoes a Maillard reaction within the hive to form MGO, thanks to the elevated temperatures in beehives. MGO is actually an antibacterial agent that is touted to have numerous health benefits.
The higher the level of MGO in the honey, the more powerful its antibiotic properties. The strength of the Manuka Honey is therefore measured by the MGO grading system that ranges from 30 MGO to 840 MGO. As such, when it comes to labeling, the MGO number represents the amount of methylglyoxal/kg.
What health benefits does Manuka Honey have?
We had earlier established that all types of honey have some level of health benefits because they have hydrogen peroxide that has antibacterial properties. Manuka honey, on the other hand, can be termed as the superhero version of honey thanks to its high levels of phenolic acids (antioxidants) and MGO which is known to fight both the bacterial and viral infections. Bacterial infections are effectively eliminated because they cannot exist in the waterless environment of Manuka honey.
Clinical studies indicate that Manuka Honey has a positive impact on the gut health, oral health, and also supports the immune system. Further laboratory-based trials have established that it eliminates stomach bugs such as Salmonella and Enterobacter and also kills the Campylobacter bacteria which causes severe diarrhoea. Other research established that taking Manuka Honey on a daily basis has similar benefits to that of a chemical mouthwash to your oral health. It helps prevent gum disease gingivitis and reduces dental plaque.
It is also established to kill:
• Shingles virus Varicella zoster and chicken pox
• Antibiotic-resistant bugs like MRSA
• Bacteria causing infections such as staphylococcus and E.coli
This type of honey is also widely used in the cosmetic industry nowadays. From pimple removal medicine to facemasks, Manuka honey has become a go-to ingredient for the modern beauticians. The positive health benefits brought about by the honey are undisputable, however, more research is needed to be carried to confirm its these benefits. It is also a great food that boosts energy levels with regular use.
Does Manuka honey taste different?
Having talked about its numerous benefits, it is easy to think this honey as medicine rather than food. Most healthy foods are not that tasty; is this the case with Manuka honey? Apart from being sweet and utterly delicious just like any other honey, it has a unique taste. It is richer, earthier, and more viscous than other types of honey, and has a slightly sharp bitter taste. This sharp taste is due to the high levels of phenolic acids which are antioxidants.
Which Manuka Money is best?
There are two classifications of Manuka Honey under New Zealand law.
This is made by bees that have sucked the nectar of Manuka plant as well as those of other plants. However, to be classified and Multifloral Manuka, the honey needs to mainly come from Manuka nectar.
It also has to have an MGO of between 30 and 70.
This is made by bees that purely suck the nectar only from the Manuka bush. To be certified as Monofloral honey, it must exceedingly meet the pollen test and the four naturally occurring markers.
Some forms of pure Manuka honey especially the ones collected in the remote areas in New Zealand can have MGO ratings of up to 840.
Is Manuka honey worth the money?
Just like all expensive and rare products, this honey is also subject to counterfeits and passing off. Some unscrupulous traders dilute the Manuka Honey with cheaper honey to make it more affordable. What this watering down does is that it reduces its antibacterial properties.
So, you are better off spending a little more money to get the genuine product. It is also important to check the labeling; it should have gold Tested Certified Manuka symbol. It is recommended to buy trusted brands only. The MGO rating will guide you into knowing how strong the product is. Those with MGO ratings of between 30 to 70 are perfect for daily use, while 100 and 240 are great when you have a cold or flu for some extra boost. Anything above 340 MGO is suited for instances when you are seriously sick, to help you get back to your feet fast.
It depends on what you are looking for. If you are just looking for a sweetener, it is definitely not. However, for those looking to enjoy its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, it is definitely worth every penny.