The benefits of honey are partly connected to the nutrients that it contains, which is why choosing the right honey is important. In particular, there are significant raw manuka honey benefits that make this variety of honey especially appealing.
Indeed, manuka honey is widely regarded as having therapeutic value and some companies specifically produce manuka honey with this in mind. But, what exactly are the raw manuka honey benefits and do these make the honey worth buying?
An Introduction to Manuka Honey
The different varieties of honey are based on the flowers that the pollen comes from. Manuka is considered a monofloral honey because the honey is produced from just one species of plant.
As the name suggests, that species is manuka, which has the scientific name Leptospermum scorparium. The species is native to Australia and New Zealand and is also more correctly written as Mānuka.
Manuka honey has a strong and distinctive flavor that is richer than many other types of honey. Some people find the taste appealing, while others struggle with it. However, if you’re using honey primarily as a sweetener, then the taste may not be a big deal.
With this post, we’re also focusing on raw manuka honey.
In relation to honey, raw means that is not pasteurized of filtered during processing. As a result, it will tend to include some pieces of wax and pollen. Because raw honey has more of the natural components, it’s likely to offer more benefits as well.
Research into this area has been mixed, with some studies suggesting that raw honey is healthier and others failing to find that outcome (1,2,3). Overall, there has been relatively little research into the area and most studies haven’t focused on manuka honey itself.
In some ways, choosing raw honey is a little like picking an organic product. In particular, there may not always be proof that the food is healthier but it does make sense.
Thankfully, much of the manuka honey on the market tends to be raw, simply because companies promote it as being healthy.
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Raw Manuka Honey Benefits
So, what’s special about manuka honey?
For one thing, the honey has antibacterial properties and is effective against multiple types of bacteria(4,5). This is connected to the compound methylglyoxal (6) and also to other components of the honey (7).
This function offers significant raw manuka honey benefits. For example, one study indicated that the use of manuka honey could reduce the bacteria in the mouth (8).
Nevertheless, the results of research are mixed and many of the studies have used fairly small sample sizes.
Beyond this, the raw manuka honey benefits do include the health benefits that you find with other types of honey.
For example, honey does contain some nutrients, particularly compounds from plants and antioxidants (12,13). The nutrient content is relatively low compared to food but you’re still getting more benefits from honey than you would from sugar.
Indeed, the antioxidant content of honey is often significant, especially in darker honey and high quality honey (14,15). This is especially relevant to manuka honey, as it is relatively dark compared to other varieties and often ends up being high quality.
In most cases, these benefits come from replacing some of the sugar that you consume with honey, rather than from simply adding honey into your diet.
Nevertheless, honey should never be given to a child that is less than 1 year old.
Beyond all of this, manuka honey is valuable simply because of the emphasis placed on quality.
Manuka honey tends to be expensive and is often directly sold as a health aid. As a result, companies put a lot of time and effort into getting the honey perfect and maximizing potential benefits.
That same pattern often doesn’t happen with other types of honey.
The specific raw manuka honey benefits are connected to the antioxidant and antibacterial activity of the honey. Manuka honey also has the same benefits as regular honey
Getting the Best Manuka Honey
Because of its therapeutic value, there are various measures in place for comparing manuka honey. In many cases, these involve an estimate of the antioxidant or the antibacterial activity of the product.
One example is the MGO scale, which considers the amount of methylglyoxal present (29).
For example, this is the type of measure used in honey from Manuka Health, which is also one of the most popular examples of manuka honey.
This measure can be useful but it’s also limited.
For one thing, raw manuka honey benefits don’t just come from methylglyoxal. Indeed, manuka honey still has antibacterial properties even after this compound is disabled (30).
Another scale is the UMF, which is an abbreviation for ‘unique manuka factor’. In this case, the measure compares antibacterial activity to a phenol standard.
As such, a UMF of 10+ would be equivalent to a solution with 10% phenol.
If you’re after health benefits, then a UMF of 12 to 15 is normally the way to go.
Nevertheless, this scale does still emphasize antibacterial activity and there are other beneficial aspects of manuka honey as well. The end result is a higher UMF rating wouldn’t necessarily mean the honey itself is healthier.
This scale can be seen with the honey from Comvita Manuka Honey. The brand is another popular and powerful option for manuka honey, although it doesn't see the same popularity as the Manuka Health brand above.
Like many health products, there are also scam versions on the market.
This can include products that contain some manuka honey, along with other varieties as well. Looking for either the MGO or UMF scale can help you pick a good brand. Additionally, looking for one produced in New Zealand is often a good idea.
The pattern of scam products is an especially significant problem in cases where quality matters along with the source of the item or how it was made. For example, there is also an ongoing issue with olive oil and there are many counterfeit versions on the market. That isn't good if you're trying to get some of the health benefits of olive oil.
Still, if you shop around and pay close attention to brands, you should be able to get good quality manuka honey.
In many ways, manuka honey is probably the healthiest option if you’re going to include honey in your diet. Doing so is also great for your health and a perfect option if you want to include more whole and natural foods in your diet.
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