With its potent antibacterial properties, Manuka honey offers some sweet benefits such as wound healing, cough relief, protection against ulcers, improved digestion, and even better oral health.

Manuka honey is a honey native to New Zealand (1).

It’s produced by bees that pollinate the flower Leptospermum scoparium (L.scoparium), commonly known as the Manuka bush.

Manuka honey’s antibacterial properties are what set it apart from traditional honey. It contains methylglyoxal as an active ingredient, likely responsible for these antibacterial effects (2).

Additionally, Manuka honey has antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits (3).

It has traditionally been used for wound healing, soothing sore throats, preventing tooth decay, and improving digestive issues.

Here are seven science-based health benefits of Manuka honey.

1. Aids wound healing

Since ancient times, honey has been used to treat wounds, burns, sores, and boils .

In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Manuka honey as an option for wound treatment .

Honey offers antibacterial and antioxidant properties, all while maintaining a moist wound environment and protective barrier, which prevents microbial infections in the wound .

Multiple studies have shown that Manuka honey can enhance wound healing, amplify the regeneration of tissue, and even decrease pain in people with burns.

For example, one study investigated the effects of applying Manuka honey dressing or standard wound care to pressure wounds in 99 children in the pediatric intensive care (ICU) unit. Wounds treated with Manuka honey healed faster — an average of seven days versus nine days — than wounds treated with standard care .

What’s more, Manuka honey may help heal diabetic ulcers.

A Saudi Arabian study found that Manuka honey wound dressings when combined with conventional wound treatment, healed diabetic ulcers more effectively than conventional treatment alone .

Additionally, a Greek study showed that Manuka honey wound dressings reduced healing time and disinfected wounds in people with diabetic foot ulcers.

Another study observed the effectiveness of Manuka honey in healing eyelid wounds after surgery. They found all eyelid wounds healed well, regardless of whether the incisions were treated with Manuka honey or Vaseline.

However, patients reported that scarring treated with Manuka honey was less stiff and significantly less painful compared to scarring treated with Vaseline.

Lastly, Manuka honey effectively treats wound infections caused by antibiotic-resistant strains, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Hence, the regular topical application of Manuka honey on wounds and infections may help prevent MRSA.

2. May promote oral health

According to the CDC, almost 50% of Americans have a form of periodontal disease.

To avoid tooth decay and keep your gums healthy, it is important to minimize bad oral bacteria that can cause plaque formation.

It’s also important not to wipe out the good oral bacteria responsible for keeping your mouth healthy.

Studies have shown Manuka honey attacks harmful oral bacteria associated with plaque formation, gum inflammation, and tooth decay.

Specifically, research has shown that Manuka honey, with its high antibacterial activity, is effective at inhibiting the growth of harmful oral bacteria like Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (A. actinomycetemcomitans) .

One study examined the effects of a Manuka honey mouthwash and two other types of mouthwash on plaque and gingival scores of 135 children between the ages of 12 to 15 years old. Participants swished with either the Manuka honey, raw honey, or chlorhexidine mouthwash for 30 seconds twice daily for 21 days.

The study found that the Manuka honey mouthwash significantly reduced the formation of plaque and gingivitis.

The idea of consuming honey for good oral health may seem counterintuitive, as you have probably been told that consuming too many sweets can lead to cavities.

However, unlike candy and refined sugar, Manuka honey’s potent antibacterial effects make it unlikely to contribute to cavities or tooth decay.

3. May help calm a cough

Manuka honey may provide relief from coughs due to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).

URTIs are common infections caused by bacteria or viruses. They include the common cold, acute bronchitis, influenza, and respiratory distress syndromes.

Symptoms of URTIs include cough, sore throat, runny nose, and nasal congestion. Since most URTIs are caused by viruses, antibiotics are ineffective as a treatment and can have harmful side effects.

A number of studies suggest honey may be a safe, effective treatment for cough due to URTIs. Studies suggest honey may be more effective than commonly used medications for relieving URTI symptoms, especially cough frequency, and severity.

Honey may also be a useful adjunct treatment for persistent post-infection cough. Persistent post-infection cough is a cough that lasts for longer than three weeks following a URTI.

One study looked at the effects of honey and coffee on 97 adults with persistent post-infection cough. Participants took a mixture of honey and coffee, the steroid prednisolone, or a common over-the-counter cough suppressant every 8 hours for one week.

The study found the combination of honey and coffee was significantly more effective than both the steroid and the cough suppressant at reducing cough frequency.

Although Manuka honey wasn’t used in these studies, it’s likely to be just as effective at suppressing coughs.

4. May help prevent gastric ulcers

Stomach ulcers are one of the most common conditions affecting humans.

These sores form on the lining of the stomach, causing stomach pain, nausea, and bloating.

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)is a common type of bacteria that’s responsible for the majority of gastric ulcers.

Research suggests Manuka honey may help treat gastric ulcers caused by H. pylori.

A review of studies looked at raw honey’s effects on the growth of H. pylori in vitro. It found that the antibacterial properties of several types of raw honey, including Manuka honey, inhibit the growth of H. pylori infection.

One test-tube study found Manuka honey helps slow the growth of H. pylori by inhibiting the activation of proteins that affect cell growth and gene expression.

Another study examined whether dietary factors influenced the presence and spread of H. pylori in 294 individuals between 18 and 69 years old. It found that people who consumed honey more than five days a week had a significantly lower risk of H. pylori infection than those who did not consume honey regularly.

Moreover, those who consumed honey regularly were significantly less likely to have infections associated with specific strains of H. pylori that increase the incidence of diseases like peptic ulcers and gastric cancer.

However, more human studies are needed to know whether Manuka honey can help treat gastric ulcers caused by H. pylori.

Gastric ulcers can also be caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Yet, a study in rats showed that Manuka honey helped prevent alcohol-induced gastric ulcers.

5. May improve digestive symptoms

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract.

There are two main types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both types of IBD can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Researchers have discovered that regularly consuming Manuka honey may help decrease these symptoms.

Manuka honey has been shown to improve antioxidant status and reduce inflammation in rats with ulcerative colitis (31).

It has also been shown to attack strains of Clostridioides difficile (C. diff).

C. diff is a type of bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea and inflammation of the bowel.

C. diff is commonly treated with antibiotics. However, a recent study observed the effectiveness of Manuka honey on C. diff strains.

Manuka honey killed C. diff cells, suggesting it may be an effective treatment.

It is important to note that the above studies observed Manuka honey’s influence on bacterial infections in rats and in vitro.

Further research is needed to fully understand Manuka honey’s influence on bacterial infections of the bowel.

6. May help treat symptoms of cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that damages the lungs and can also affect the digestive system and other organs.

It affects the cells that produce mucus, causing mucus to be abnormally thick and sticky. This thick mucus clogs airways and ducts, making it difficult to breathe.

Upper respiratory infections are quite common in people with cystic fibrosis.

Manuka honey has been shown to fight bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) and Burkholderia cepacia complex (B. cepacia) are two common bacteria that can cause serious upper respiratory infections, especially in vulnerable populations.

One test-tube study found that Manuka honey inhibited the growth of these bacteria when combined with antibiotics (36).

Therefore, researchers concluded that Manuka honey might play an important role in treating upper respiratory infections, especially in those with cystic fibrosis.

7. May help treat acne

Acne is caused by many factors, including hormonal changes, poor diet, stress, and bacteria.

The antimicrobial activity of Manuka honey, when used in combination with a low-pH product, is often marketed to fight acne.

Manuka honey could help reduce bacteria on your skin, which could help prevent acne.

Also, given its anti-inflammatory properties, Manuka honey may decrease inflammation associated with acne.

Yet, there is very limited research on Manuka honey’s ability to treat acne.

However, one study investigated the effects of kanuka honey, which has antibacterial properties similar to those of Manuka honey. It found that kanuka honey was as effective as antibacterial soap at improving acne.

Further research is needed to declare Manuka honey a useful home remedy for acne.

Is manuka honey safe?

For most people, Manuka honey is safe to consume.

However, some people should consult a doctor before using it, including:

  • People with diabetes: All types of honey are high in natural sugar. Therefore, consuming Manuka honey may
    affect blood sugar levels.
  • Those allergic to honey or bees: Those allergic to other types of honey or bees may have an allergic reaction after ingesting or applying Manuka honey.
  • Infants: The CDC advises against giving honey to children younger than 12 months old due to the risk of botulism, a type of foodborne illness (39Trusted Source).

The bottom line

Manuka honey’s unique antibacterial properties make it a valuable topical treatment for wounds. It speeds wound healing and helps prevent and fight infections, including those caused by antibiotic-resistant strains.

Manuka honey may also help prevent or treat numerous ailments, including inflammatory bowel disease, gastric ulcers, periodontal disease, and coughs due to upper respiratory infections.

More research, especially in humans, is needed to fully understand Manuka honey’s beneficial properties. But Manuka honey is a generally safe treatment strategy that may speed healing when used along with more conventional therapies.