If you have been reading some of my other posts, you may already have noticed that I am a huge fan of honey. Not only do I include honey in my diet, but I also use it as part of my skin care regimen. In fact, I even recently wrote and posted an article that was all about honey and how it can be used for treating different skin problems. Even if you don’t have any skin problems, honey can help to bring out and/or restore your skin’s natural glow. It may also help to slow down and/or reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Anyway, in this post I am mostly going to be discussing manuka honey and why you need to find the best manuka honey for your health and skin care needs.
What Is Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey is honey which is produced by bees that forage among the flowers of manuka trees (Leptospermum scoparium ). The bees that produce manuka honey are essentially European honey bees. However, a bee that only forages among manuka trees is very often referred to as a Munuka bee. Manuka trees grow wild and uncultivated throughout New Zealand and most of southeastern Australia.
The biggest visual difference between manuka honey and other types of honey are the viscosity of manuka honey, along with its darker color which can vary from dark cream to dark brown.
In New Zealand, any and all manuka honey that is destined for export has to be independently tested in a laboratory to ensure that it passes a Manuka Honey Science Definition test as required by the country’s Ministry of Primary Industries. This test actually tests for 5 different attributes, and the honey has to pass all 5 tests before it can be labeled and sold as manuka honey.
Australia is not quite as strict as New Zealand is. The Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) has however put a set of standards in place, and any honey which is going to be sold as Natural Manuka Honey needs to meet these standards in order to get the AMHA Mark of Authenticity.
Because of New Zealand’s somewhat stricter quality control procedures for exported manuka honey, many people quite rightly believe that New Zealand produces the best manuka honey.
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Plagued by Counterfeits
As one might expect, pure manuka is quite expensive, and its premium price has inevitably resulted in a lot of counterfeits. Some of these products may contain no manuka honey at all, while others are simply a manuka honey blend that is then sold as manuka honey. According to a Wikipedia article, New Zealand produces roughly 1,700 tons of pure manuka honey annually. This represents almost the entire global supply. However, there are roughly 10,000 tons of what is supposedly manuka honey being sold around the world every year.
So, we have 1,700 tons of manuka honey being produced annually, and we have 10,000+ tons of manuka honey being sold annually. In 2012/13, 73 manuka honey samples that were collected in the United Kingdom, Singapore and China were tested, and 43 tests came back negative. In other words, 43 of those samples contained no manuka honey at all. The same test was carried out on 56 samples collected in Hong Kong. On this occasion, the tests revealed that 14 of the samples contained a mixture of manuka honey and syrup.
Taking the above into consideration, I think it is pretty obvious that if you really want the best manuka honey, you need to be very careful about who or where you order it from. Personally, I would recommend going online and then ordering your own manuka honey from a reputed supplier in New Zealand.
Fraudulent Skin Care Products
If profit seekers can somehow turn 1,700 tons of manuka honey into more than 10,000 tons, then I think it is safe to assume that the skin care industry also has its fingers in the pie. These days there are a vast amount of skin care products that contain or supposedly contain manuka honey. I wonder just how many of them actually do.
If manufacturers and suppliers in the food and beverages industry can get away with cheating consumers, then the skin care and cosmetics industry should find it even easier because this is an industry which is more or less left to govern itself.
To make matters worse, skin care manufacturers only need to add a tiny amount of a particular substance in order to legally mention that substance on their labels. For example, let us say a manufacturer produces a 500ml tub of moisturizing body cream. This manufacturer is well aware of the demand for skin care products that contain manuka honey, so they add a teaspoon of pure manuka honey to their tubs of cream. Now they can legally call their moisturizing cream Manuka Honey Cream, or Manuka Honey Moisturizing Cream.
Considering the premium price paid for manuka honey, manufacturers have a good reason to skimp. Oh, and by the way, don’t for a minute think that the big brand names are all innocent. I think you will find that they are often the worst offenders. Also, even those manufacturers that do add real manuka honey to their products, there isn’t really any way for us to tell if they are using the best manuka honey they can find, or whether they are just using the cheapest manuka honey they can find.
Manuka Honey vs. Regular Honey
As I mentioned earlier, the color and viscosity of manuka honey are the most obvious visual markers. Regular honey looks similar to syrup and also has a similar consistency. It is also mostly very transparent, although raw honey is often opaque and/or cloudy. Manuka honey, on the other hand, is much darker, with a consistency similar to that of caramel.
The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties also set manuka honey apart from other types of honey. If you purchase pure manuka honey from New Zealand, you should notice a UMF rating on the packaging. This stands for “Unique Manuka Factor” and it is a very stringent rating system that was developed by the UMF Honey Association in New Zealand. UMF licenses are only granted to manuka honey producers/manufacturers that are able to meet the extremely rigorous standards set by the UMF Honey Association.
The best manuka honey will have the highest UMF rating, and manuka honey has long been known for its high UMF ratings. UMF ratings are also related to the antibacterial properties of the honey. In that regard, a UMF rating is to manuka honey what SPF is to sunscreen lotions. Although the debate is ongoing, it is widely accepted that manuka honey is superior to other honey in terms of antibacterial and antimicrobial activity.
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4 Known Health Benefits of Manuka Honey
People have been using honey for treating various ailments for centuries already. These days, you should be able to find and buy manuka honey in just about every country on the planet, but in the past, people just had to make do with locally produced honey, and they still benefited from it. This makes one wonder if it is really so important to insist on using manuka honey rather than locally produced honey which is easier to obtain and also cheaper.
To be honest, it is difficult to find any solid evidence showing that manuka honey is superior to other types of honey. However, when one considers just how much demand there is for manuka honey despite its higher cost, it is easy to see why so many people are in favor of manuka honey. Personally, I think manuka honey is superior to most other types of regular honey. At the end of the day, it really is a matter of personal choice, but here are four known benefits associated with manuka honey:
MANUKA HONEY FOR COLDS
All pure honey is well-known for its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and especially manuka honey with its high UMF rating. The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of honey make it very effective for treating wounds. People have been using honey for treating wounds for thousands of years already. In times gone by, people did not really know how or why honey helped to heal wounds, but they knew it worked, and so they used it.
Today, we have a clear understanding of why honey is such a good dressing for wounds. There are a number of different biological factors that make honey effective. There are also two types of antibacterial activity. With most types of honey the antibacterial activity is due to hydrogen peroxide.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of this hydrogen peroxide becomes inactivated when it comes into contact with an enzyme known as catalase which is present in blood, serum, and wound tissues. Unlike with regular honey, the antibacterial activity in manuka honey is due to methylglyoxal (MGO). The catalase enzyme which deactivates hydrogen peroxide cannot deactivate the MGO present in manuka honey.
According to an article published on the US National Library of Medicine website, there is also evidence showing that when manuka honey is applied to wounds, it stimulates an immune response. By the way, the use of manuka honey for treating wounds has in fact been approved by the USDA.
The potent wound healing properties of manuka honey also make it a good natural treatment for mouth ulcers and stomach ulcers. While some stomach ulcers can be caused by certain medications, most are actually caused by an infection. Manuka honey is capable of killing the bacteria that cause and are present in these ulcers. In fact, studies have shown that manuka honey can also destroy several types of bacteria that are resistant to conventional treatments.
There is an excellent article about this published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine which you can read on the US PubMed.gov website.
Honey, and particularly manuka honey, has long been known for its impressive anti-inflammatory properties. This is why many people use it for treating mouth ulcers, swollen and/or infected gums and sore throats. When it comes to wounds, the use of honey as a dressing is mostly associated with its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, but in addition to this, manuka honey is also a good anti-inflammatory.
Studies have shown that two indigenous New Zealand honeys (rewarewa honey and manuka honey) demonstrated clinically relevant anti-inflammatory activity, although the researchers were unable to say which compound/s was responsible for this. If you would like to read more about this, you can do so on the PubMed.gov website.
In some of the studies mentioned, the authors have stated that medical grade honey was used. I would assume that this also means the honey was pasteurized. However, most websites which I have visited and checked out have made a point of emphasizing the importance of using raw unpasteurized honey, but again, it all boils down to personal choice. Whichever you choose, I do however think that it is important that you only use the best manuka honey you can find in order to get the best possible results.
People have been using honey for treating colds and coughs for centuries already. In the past, people never understood why or how honey was able to offer them relief; they just knew that it worked. These days, even the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has advised doctors across the country to recommend honey for colds, coughs, and upper respiratory infection before they prescribe things like antibacterial and/or antiviral drugs. You can see a full list of the recommendations on the NHS website. Once again, if you want to treat a cold or cough with honey, I really think you should only use the best manuka honey you can find.
In this post, I have only really discussed honey’s potential for treating a range of ailments, but there is so much evidence out there that shows how regular consumption of honey can benefit our health in so many different ways. Also, as I briefly touched upon at the beginning of this post, when used topically, raw honey can do wonders for your skin.
Used correctly, honey cleans, hydrates, moisturizes and nourishes your skin all at the same time. You can even use it to bring dry and lifeless hair back to life.
I have experienced and enjoyed wonderful results from using honey as part of my skin care regimen. Admittedly, I don’t always use manuka honey. If I am going to use honey as part of my skin care regimen, I want to use the best honey I can find, and unfortunately, the best manuka honey is a bit too expensive for me to use all the time.
Anyway, that brings me to the end of this post. I hope you have enjoyed reading, and I really hope that I have inspired you enough to give honey a chance in your life.