Heal Wounds, Treat Acne And Hydrate Skin: 7 Ways To Use Mānuka Honey
Author: Katelin Rice
DOCUMENTED BY: Aotea
As far as condiments go, you already know what to do with the bottle of honey in your pantry. But what about Mānuka honey?
While Mānuka honey might look and taste similar to its regular counterpart, it can do a lot more than sweeten your tea or stack of pancakes. From treating acne to soothing sore throats, Mānuka honey has a bunch of unique – and surprising – benefits that other forms of honey do not.
Documented By: Aotea
What exactly is Mānuka honey and what makes it different?
Just like true Champagne can only come from a certain region of France, Mānuka honey can only be produced from the nectar of the mānuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium). Also known as mānuka myrtle, this flowering, shrub-like plant is native to New Zealand and has a rich history of use by Māori people.
Many different types of honey contain an enzyme called glucose oxidase, which comes from the honey bee. When this enzyme reacts with glucose and water, it produces hydrogen peroxide, a kind of bleach. This is what makes honey an antimicrobial (a substance that kills microorganisms like bacteria) agent and why you might’ve heard it suggested to treat wounds.
Mānuka honey does even more because it contains a high amount of methylglyoxal (MGO). Methylglyoxal is a bioactive chemical compound that has even stronger antibacterial effects. The presence of MGO is determined by two individual grading systems. Unique Mānuka Factor (UMF) determines MGO levels and indicates the quality and purity of the Mānuka honey. An MGO rating is the standardised measure of methylglyoxal content, though it also indicates quality. Along with how good the honey you’re buying is, these grades will help you decide what is safe to ingest and what will be more potent for skin therapy and fighting bacterial infections.
New Zealand therapeutic skincare brand Aoteaexplains that, as a general rule, lower grades of Mānuka honey (UMF 0 to 10) are of mild strength so good on toast, in tea and to treat lower levels of bacterial infection, skin irritation or blemishes. Mid-grade (UMF 10 to 20) is more powerful and great for stronger bacterial infections and urgent care. The highest grade (UMF 20 to 25) has the strongest antimicrobial effect and is your best chance at fighting chronic infection using Mānuka honey.
This UMF to MGO calculator compares UMF and MGO and shows you what the ratings translate to:
That's (most of) the technical stuff out of the way. Let's get into the tips and tricks for putting Mānuka honey to good use in your daily routine.
Hydrogen peroxide and MGO is what gives Mānuka honey its antimicrobial and antibacterial superpowers. It can therefore be used to treat congested skin and acne because it can kill bacteria. The honey’s anti-inflammatory effect can also decrease red and inflamed skin, while keeping it hydrated and promoting regeneration. In other words, it can treat acne without leaving your face dry and irritated.
When using Mānuka honey to treat acne, Aotea recommends warming it, lathering it generously on the skin and letting it sit for 20 minutes to allow “the antibacterial warrior to destroy any harmful bacteria on the outer skin surface”. Wash off with warm water and apply the Mānuka Honey Day Cream for extra nourishment.
Soothe eczema and psoriasis
These skin conditions have similar symptoms and can cause skin to become dry, itchy and irritated. Depending on the severity of the condition, some people scratch enough that their skin bleeds, which can lead to staph and other topical infections. This is where the bacteria fighting properties of Mānuka honey can be effective. It can also be a useful preventative, acting as a moisturising shield and helping hydrate dry and flaking skin (more on that below).
As Aotea details, honey (in general) is “capable of holding an extremely high water content which means when applied to the surface of the skin it is very hydrating”. Dermatologist Claire Chang further explains that Mānuka honey is a natural humectant (a substance that attracts water) due to its sugar component, so it helps draw in and retain moisture in the skin.
Just like when it’s applied to the skin, Mānuka honey can help lock in moisture and hydrate dry hair. It can also treat dandruff (itchy and flaky skin on the scalp) with its anti-inflammatory properties, strengthen hair follicles which prevent damage and breakage, add shine and improve overall scalp health.
There are a few easy ways to incorporate Mānuka honey into your haircare routine:
Make a scalp treatment paste: Trichologist Gretchen Friese recommends mixing honey with a little water (just enough to help it become less sticky), then massaging it onto the scalp and pulling through to the ends of the hair. Leave it in for one to two minutes and then rinse and shampoo and condition as usual.
Make a DIY mask: To create your own custom mask, add two tablespoons of Mānuka Honey, three tablespoons of good quality olive oil and one ripe, soft avocado in a bowl and combine until you achieve your desired consistency. Leave it on for up to an hour and then wash hair thoroughly.
Add it to your shampoo and conditioner: Aotea recommend adding a few drops of Mānuka Oil to your shampoo or conditioner when washing your hair to help treat dandruff, relieve itchy scalp and revitalise dry and brittle hair.
Support gut health
If gut health is never far from your Google search history, you’ll be pleased to know that orally ingesting Mānuka honey can be beneficial. According to healthline, research suggests that because it is an antibacterial agent, Mānuka honey may be useful to treat gastric ulcers caused by H. pylori (a common type of bacteria responsible for the majority of gastric ulcers).
Researchers have also found that regularly consuming Mānuka honey may decrease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Common IBS symptoms include constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements (shoutout to all the hot girls with stomach issues out there). Mānuka honey can improve antioxidant status and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to attack strains of Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a type of bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea and inflammation of the bowel.
Soothe a sore throat
MGO and hydrogen peroxide are the key ingredients that make Mānuka honey a powerful antibiotic and antibacterial agent. It attacks harmful bacteria and also coats the inner lining of the throat, which has a soothing effect. No wonder singer Ariana Grande uses Mānuka honey lollipops to help protect her voice and opera singer Katherine Jenkins has been hailing its benefits in interviews for more than 12 years.
If you have a sore throat or cough, Aotea recommends letting a teaspoon of its 300+ MGO Mānuka Honey sit and melt in the back of your throat. You can also mix it into a tea to drink.
Help heal wounds and cuts with it
Mānuka honey has long been used by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, to treat wounds, burns and sores. In 2007, it was approved by the US FDA as an option for wound treatment. Its antibacterial, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties help speed up the healing process while amplifying the regeneration of skin tissue. It also maintains a moist wound environment and protective barrier, which prevents microbial infections.