Graham Butler, BSc, CNPA, RH
Honey from the nectar of New Zealand's manuka plant is in the news. Not for its sweet and irresistible flavour but rather because it may hold the key for those suffering from stomach ulcers and related complications.
Honey from the nectar of New Zealand’s manuka plant is in the news. Not for its sweet and irresistible flavour but rather because it may hold the key for those suffering from stomach ulcers and related complications.
The medicinal use of honey is nothing new. The Russians used it in World War I to prevent wound infection and to accelerate wound healing. The Germans combined cod liver oil and honey to treat leg ulcers and burns.
What gives manuka honey its extra punch is its lethal effects on Helicobacter pylori bacteria (H. pylori), a persistent and common infection of the stomach that is linked to gastric cancer, duodenal ulcer, and gastrointestinal reflux disease.
Studies over the last 20 years indicate that honey is an effective treatment for many external and internal bacterial infections. There are several mechanisms believed to be at work. The high sugar content of honey creates an environment that draws moisture from bacteria. This, combined with its mild acidity, inhibits bacterial growth.
Honey often contains significant quantities of glucose oxidase, an enzyme that promotes the production of hydrogen peroxide as honey ages. Hydrogen peroxide preserves and sterilizes honey over time and acts as an effective and safe antiseptic that kills many types of bacteria.
Lastly, honey derived from plants such as the manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), native to New Zealand, as well as related species in Australia, exhibit an added benefit: antibacterial activity that is the result of the presence of nonperoxides such as flavonoids, benzylalcohol, and terpenes.
The use of honey, including manuka, as a wound disinfectant has been corroborated by research. In addition, honey has been found to significantly speed healing of wounds compared to conventional antiseptics.
Honey also shows promise as a treatment for eye and fungal infections. One study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (2004), involved 102 patients with eye infections resistant to conventional treatment. Using honey as an ointment, 85 percent of patients saw improvement, with no disease progression in the remaining 15 percent.
Common intestinal infections with symptoms such as diarrhea also respond well to honey.
Why Choose Manuka?
Manuka honey attacks bacteria on more fronts than other types of honey, but it has a special ability that makes it an all-star. Research indicates that manuka honey kills H. pylori.
A 5-percent solution of manuka honey has been found to completely inhibit H. pylori growth over a 72-hour period. Given that a third of the US population ma be infected at any one time, this is of more than just passing interest.
In recent years several brands of manuka honey have come onto the market; the best place to find them is your local health food store. Rely on your provider for the best advice on selection.