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Manuka Honey – Nature’s Antibiotic Wound Healer

September 9, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

No one looks forward to the prospect of an extended hospital stay. The best case scenario is a brief visit with few or no complications. Unfortunately, one of those complications is frequently a hospital borne bacterial infection, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which greatly minimizes the chances of a speedy recovery. As indicated by its name, this menacing form of Staph infection is immune to many commonly used antibiotics. In addition, it generally strikes those who are the most vulnerable – the elderly and immune compromised patients.

In November 2009, a scientific review will be published that is entitled, “Rediscovering the Antibiotics of the Hive”. It discusses the potential of honey and other bee byproducts as anti-infectives whose effect sometimes even extend to threatening bacteria such as MRSA. The basis for this review is easily found by searching recent entries in the medical literature. What’s also becoming apparent is just how honey may pack such a potent anti-bacterial punch. (1,2,3)

A presentation given this week at the Society for General Microbiology meeting explains precisely how a special form of honey (manuka honey) inhibits protein production within MRSA cells and ultimate leads to their death. A study from June of this year appears to support these findings. That experiment utilized a similar “medical-grade honey” and determined that all of the bacteria tested could not form resistance to honey in the same way that they did to prescriptive antibiotics. A separate investigation appearing in the December 2008 edition of the journal Alternative Medicine Review found that four different varieties of honey demonstrated considerable activity when applied to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The impact of the honey was magnified when it was combined with another bee product called royal jelly. (4,5,6)

The above findings are of particular interest in the management of topical wounds. The presence of such injuries greatly increase the likelihood of hospital-borne and community-associated CA-MRSA infections. The latter term refers to infections that are found in otherwise healthy individuals who are not in a hospital setting. The fact that both forms of MRSA conditions are occurring more frequently than in the past is great cause for concern for medical professionals worldwide. (7)

A standardized, medical-grade honey (Medihoney) was recently compared to standard care in the management of wound healing. 105 patients were provided with either conventional wound dressing or the medicinal honey. On average, those treated with honey demonstrated a healing time of 100 days. Those given the conventional care required 140 days to mend. A British review from 2008 also validates the potential of this specific form of honey in the treatment of wounds. Medihoney is a form of manuka (Leptospermun) honey which is indigenous to Australia and New Zealand. It’s been approved for select topical use by Health Canada and the US FDA. (8,9,10)

Another manuka honey product (Woundcare 18+) underwent testing in an Irish trial that focused on healing outcomes in venous leg ulcers. Once again, the honey product was compared to a form of standard care (hydrogel therapy). The total length of this experiment comprised 12 weeks and involved 108 participants with leg ulcers. Both treatments were applied for 4 weeks and a follow-up assessment was provided 8 weeks afterward.

  • At the 4 week mark there was a 67% reduction in slough (dead tissue) in those using the honey compared to a 53% reduction in those receiving conventional care.
  • 4 weeks in, only 29% of the ulcerated areas were still covered in slough in the honey users compared to 43% in those using the hydrogel.
  • The wound size was also reduced by 34% vs. 13%, once again favoring the honey preparation after 4 weeks.

The 12 week results were even more impressive. 44% of the honey users were fully healed (vs. 33% in the conventional group). Only 6 of the honey patients developed infections. 12 of the hydrogel patients were diagnosed with bacterial infections. (11)

The Bioactivity of Honey

Bioactivity of Honey* Suggested Rationale*
Prevention of cross-contamination Viscosity of honey provides a protective barrier
Provides a moist wound healing environment Osmolarity draws fluid from underlying tissues
Dressing doesn’t adhere to wound surface

Tissue does not grow into dressings

The viscous nature of honey provides an interface between wound bed and dressing
Promotes drainage from wound Osmotic outflow sluices the wound bed
Removes malodor Bacterial preference for sugar instead of protein (amino acids) means lactic acid is produced in place of malodorous compounds
Promotes autolytic debridement Bioactive effect of honey
Stimulates healing Stimulation of healing has been observed together with objective measurements in animal wounds
Anti-inflammatory Number of inflammatory cells (histologically) found to be reduced in honey-treated wounds
Managing infection Antiseptic properties found to be effective against a range of microbes including multi-resistant strains
* Not necessarily research-based. Adapted from the literature.
Source: Journal of Ostomy/Wound Management – VOLUME: 53 Issue Number: 11 (link)

A meta-analysis from May 2009 summarizes the results found thus far in the management of another form of injury: burn wounds. A total of 8 studies, involving 624 volunteers, were used in assessing the value of honey in burn treatment. Most of the comparative trials looked at the performance of honey vs silver suphadiazine. Honey was deemed as having a superior effect when the results were based on 15 days of treatment. In fact, every measure of healing indicated a better response when honey was employed. The authors of this review concluded that, “available evidence indicates markedly greater efficacy of honey compared with alternative dressing treatments for superficial or partial thickness burns.” However, it’s important to note that they also call for more research to support and verify their limited findings. (12)

The problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria is a relatively new phenomenon. Unfortunately, it appears that this modern medical challenge will likely become a bigger issue in the coming years. I’m not suggesting that honey is the entire solution to getting this health threat under control. But I am encouraged that we now appear to have one more natural resource with which to battle back.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink

24 Comments & Updates to “Manuka Honey – Nature’s Antibiotic Wound Healer”

  1. Nina K. Says:

    Oh JP,

    Manuka Honey! I bought Manuka Honey – the active one with UMF 25 – for years. I also use Rewarewa and Wild Flower, both are also active ones with UMF 10+. This helps always through fall and winter, tastes delicious.

    The only negative thing is: the poor bees! Because of we eat the honey, they have less for their own. Non organic honey farmers use sugared water to feed the bees, the get ill, because in sugared water is nothing with vitamins, enzymes etc. Thats a critical point we should think of when we take the honey from the bees.

    Despite that that sort of honey is a wonderful present for us and we should be grateful to the bees for their work.

    Nina K.

  2. Robin Says:

    In the UK and Europe the specialist sterilised manuka honey product Woundcare 18+ (from Comvita) is called Manukacare 18+.

    This has recently been approved (in the UK) to make a claim about its help for MRSA, and the new packaging mentioning MRSA is due out near the end of this year.

  3. JP Says:

    Thanks, Nina!

    I agree that we should try to purchase from manufacturers that practice responsible beekeeping. The careful treatment of the bees likely results in a healthier product. Better for the bees and better for us.

    The pollination source is also important. Several studies have found pesticide-residues and other potentially harmful substances in honey coming from polluted areas.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Robin. Much appreciated!

    Be well!


  5. MRSA Infection Says:

    Wow – this is a great and up to date article on Manuka honey. Thank you for writing it and sharing your expertise.

    I’m a huge proponent of using natural medicinal products (from nature’s bounty) for addressing infections, especially MRSA and Staph where many prescription antibiotics no longer work.

    The Tea Tree is where many of the bee’s harvest pollen in Australia (the Leptospermun tree as you mention above). Tea tree is very antibacterial and is also made into an essential oil, so it’s fabulous to have a honey with tea tree properties.

    Thankfully, the medical establishment is starting to recognize more of the wonderful and powerful alternatives all around us.

    PS – have you researched to find reputable sources of Manuka honey – those that do practice good bee keeping and also have “natural” unpolluted trees? Thanks.

    To your health,
    Michelle Moore
    Microbiologist, Staph Researcher and Natural Health Advocate

  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, Michelle.

    I haven’t had the time to investigate and verify the various claims (re: practices and purity) of the many different manufacturers of manuka honey.

    Some of the recent inquiries into pesticide residues in honey can be found at the bottom of the following analysis:


    If I were looking for manuka honey, I would personally seek out certified organic varieties and/or products that can provide proof (via certificates of analysis) that their products are free of such potentially harmful substances.

    Be well!


  7. Nina K. Says:

    Good Morning @all,

    i purchase active manuka honey from this brand, they offer also organic active manuka honey (thats what i buy)but here is a international homepage:


    Nina K.

  8. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nina!

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    Be well!


  9. Nina K. Says:


    i wish you a very wonderful weekend too 🙂

    Stay healthy!

    Nina K.

  10. anne h Says:

    They say all nurses have MRSA, just from exposure to infections.
    I’ve also seen honey for wound care.
    You’re a good guy, JP!

  11. JP Says:

    Thank you, Anne!

    My niece is a nurse. The whole MRSA issue is of great concern to me and my family. I know she’s very conscious about trying to take every precaution possible. I hope you’re doing the same. I’ll bet you are. 🙂

    Be well!


  12. anne h Says:

    Then again, anyone who has ever pushed a cart around at walmart has a ton of creepy things as bad or worse than MRSA!
    But don’t put honey on the carts – they don’t like it!

  13. JP Says:

    Now you tell me! 😉

    Be well!


  14. James Says:

    Thanks for a very helpful article. Have very heard of these manuka honey products before and never knew anything about what they can do. Thank you for the info

  15. andrew Says:


    I love manuka honey. I consume it daily. One thing which I always do with manuka honey, besides putting it on bread, is put it into a cup of hot tea. However, recently i have begun to wonder whether the hot water in tea ruins some of the health benefits of manuka honey. I mean, you often hear that heat destroys nutrients. I wonder is this the case also with manuka honey. Hopefully you can advise.

    Hope to hear from you soon,

  16. JP Says:


    There hasn’t been any scientific study of this topic – as far as I can tell. So the best I can offer is an educated guess. I suspect that the naturally occurring enzymes in raw manuka honey would not survive in hot tea. On the other hand, I doubt that the antioxidants and other healing properties would be significantly altered. The best analogy I can think of is boiling vegetables. Boiling leads to a dramatic decline in the phytochemical content of vegetables. However, this is largely due to the fact that most people don’t drink the water that the vegetables are boiled in. In the case of tea, you obviously drink the liquid.

    The best advice I can think of would be to add the honey at the last possible moment before drinking. Lesser exposure to high temperatures may result in a greater preservation of the therapeutic properties.

    Be well!


  17. Sandy K. Says:

    Please tell me where I can find Manuka Honey to purchase for my young Grandson?

    I have saved this article for a couple of years now but can’t find where it says that it is available for purchase.

    Thank you

    Sandy K.

  18. JP Says:

    Hi Sandy,

    Manuka honey should be available at some of your local health food stores. Otherwise, it’s easily accessible online in most parts of the world. Feel free to email me with your general location and I’d be happy to help you locate a source. Or, if you’d feel more comfortable, you might check out some of the larger online stores which carry Manuka honey products. Here are several options:




    Be well!


  19. JP Says:

    Update 05/27/15:


    Glob J Health Sci. 2014 Oct 29;7(3):40015.

    The topical effect of grape seed extract 2% cream on surgery wound healing.

    BACKGROUND: Reducing the wound healing time is crucial in wound as it lowers the chance of infection and decreases complications and cost. Grape seed extract has the ability to release endothelial growth factor and its topical application results in contraction and closure of the skin wound. Furthermore, it possesses antioxidant and antibacterial properties. In several studies it has been proved effective in animals. Therefore, due to low side effects and recognition of herbal medicine, we decided to evaluate the effect of grape seed extract 2% herbal cream on human skin lesions.

    MATERIALS: This study is a double blind clinical trial conducted on two groups of treatment and placebo. Surgery was performed on skin lesions such as skin tags and moles which were found on the neck, trunk and limbs (except for face). After enrollment and obtaining informed consent from participants, they were randomized into two groups of treatment and placebo. Excision of the lesions was done by surgical scissors. The lesions got restored by secondary intention method. After the first day of treatment, the patients were visited on the 3rd, 7th, 10th, 14th, and 21st day. Grape seed extract cream 2% was produced and coded by the Faculty of Pharmacy, Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences. In order to compare the two groups, T-test was used. For time assessing, analysis of variance with repeated measures was employed.

    RESULTS: The results showed complete repair of wounds averagely on day 8 for the treatment group and on day 14 for the placebo group, which was clearly significant in terms of statistical difference (p=0.00).

    CONCLUSION: Proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract trigger the release of vascular endothelial growth factor and its topical application causes wound contraction and closure. Curing skin lesions with grape seed extract caused proliferation areas with protected boundaries in epithelium, increased cell density and increased deposition of connective tissue at the wound site which in general improves cellular structure in wound. In addition, its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties are effective in wound healing.

    Be well!


  20. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:


    J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2015 Apr 29;14:38.

    The effect of topical olive oil on the healing of foot ulcer in patients with type 2 diabetes: a double-blind randomized clinical trial study in Iran.

    BACKGROUND: Diabetic Foot Ulcer (DFU) is the most costly and devastating complication of diabetes mellitus which can lead to infection, gangrene, amputation, and even death if the necessary care is not provided. Nowadays, some herbal products have shown therapeutic effects on healing of DFU. So, this study aimed to assess the effects of topical olive oil on the healing of DFU.

    METHODS: This double-blind randomized clinical trial study was conducted in Diabetes Clinic of Ahvaz Golestan hospital, Iran, in 2014. Thirty-four patients with DFU of Wagner’s ulcer grade 1 or 2 were enrolled in this study. Patients who were randomly assigned to intervention group (n = 17) received topical olive oil in addition to routine cares, whereas patients in control group (n = 17) just received routine cares. Intervention was done once a day for 4 weeks in both groups, and in the end of each week; the ulcers were assessed and scored. Data was collected by demographic and clinical characteristics checklists as well as diabetic foot ulcer healing checklist, and was analyzed by SPSS version 19 software using descriptive (mean and standard deviation) and analytic (student’s sample t-test, chi-square and repeated-measures analysis of variance) statistics.

    RESULTS: At the end of 4(th) week, there was a significant differences between two groups regarding to 3 parameters of ulcer including degree (P = 0.03), color (P = 0.04) and surrounding tissues (P < 0.001) as well as total status of ulcer (P = 0.001), while related to ulcer drainages no significant difference was seen between the two groups (P = 0.072). At the end of the follow up, olive oil significantly decreased ulcer area (P = 0.01) and depth (P = 0.02) compared with control group. Complete ulcer healing in the intervention group was significantly greater than control group (73.3% vs. 13.3%, P = 0.003) at the end of follow up. Also, there were no adverse effects to report during the study in intervention group. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicated that olive oil in combination with routine cares is more effective than routine cares alone, and is without any side effect. However, further studies are required in the future to confirm these results. Be well! JP

  21. JP Says:

    Update 07/10/15:


    MJ Open. 2015 Jun 24;5(6):e007651.

    Randomised controlled trial of topical kanuka honey for the treatment of rosacea.

    OBJECTIVE: To investigate the efficacy of topical 90% medical-grade kanuka honey and 10% glycerine (Honevo) as a treatment for rosacea.

    DESIGN: Randomised controlled trial with blinded assessment of primary outcome variable.

    SETTING: Outpatient primary healthcare population from 5 New Zealand sites.

    PARTICIPANTS: 138 adults aged ≥16, with a diagnosis of rosacea, and a baseline blinded Investigator Global Assessment of Rosacea Severity Score (IGA-RSS) of ≥2. 69 participants were randomised to each treatment arm. 1 participant was excluded from the Honevo group, and 7 and 15 participants withdrew from the Honevo and control groups, respectively.

    INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomly allocated 1:1 to Honevo or control cream (Cetomacrogol), applied twice daily for 8 weeks.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was the proportion of participants who had a ≥2 improvement in the 7-point IGA-RSS at week 8 compared to baseline. Secondary outcomes included change in IGA-RSS and subject-rated visual analogue score of change in severity (VAS-CS) on a 100 mm scale (0 mm ‘much worse’, 100 mm ‘much improved’) at weeks 2 and 8.

    RESULTS: 24/68 (34.3%) in the Honevo group and 12/69 (17.4%) in the control group had a ≥2 improvement in IGA-RSS at week 8 compared to baseline (relative risk 2.03; 95% CI 1.11 to 3.72, p=0.020). The change in IGA-RSS for Honevo compared to control at week 2 minus baseline was -1 (Hodges-Lehman estimate, 95% CI -1 to 0, p=0.03), and at week 8 minus baseline was -1 (Hodges-Lehman estimate, 95% CI -1 to 0, p=0.005). The VAS-CS at week 2 was 9.1 (95% CI 3.5 to 14.7), p=0.002, and at week 8 was 12.3 (95% CI 5.7 to 18.9)¸ p<0.001 for Honevo compared to control.

    CONCLUSIONS: Honevo is an effective treatment for rosacea.

    Be well!


  22. JP Says:

    Updated 05/27/16:


    Gynecol Endocrinol. 2016 May 26:1-5.

    Greek-origin royal jelly improves the lipid profile of postmenopausal women.

    AIM: Menopause transition is associated with chronic conditions such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Concerns about the long-term safety of menopausal hormone therapy make alternative natural methods an appealing approach to management. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of royal jelly (RJ) on cardiovascular and bone turnover markers in clinically healthy postmenopausal women.

    METHODS: A total of 36 postmenopausal healthy women were studied in a prospective follow-up study. Participants received 150 mg of RJ daily for three months. Circulating cardiovascular risk markers [lipid profile, antithrombin-III (ATIII), Protein C, Protein S, Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor-1 (PAI-1)] and bone turnover parameters [Total calcium, phosphate (P), parathormone (PTH), total type-1 Procollagen N-terminal (P1NP), Osteocalcin and serum collagen type 1 cross-linked C-telopeptide (CTX)] were compared between the baseline and the three-month visit.

    RESULTS: The RJ used in this study was particularly rich in medium chain fatty acids, compounds with hypolipidemic properties, which comprised 63% of the dry weight fatty content. RJ treatment resulted in a significant increase in high density lipoprotein – cholesterol (HDL-C 60.2 mg/dL ± 12.3 versus 64.7 mg/dL ± 13.9, 7.7% increase, p = 0.0003), as well as in a significant decrease in low density lipoprotein – cholesterol (LDL-C, 143.9 ± 37.5 versus 136.2 ± 32, 4.1% decrease, p = 0.011) and in total cholesterol (224.4 ± 38.6 to 216.1 ± 36.5, 3.09% decrease, p = 0.018). No statistical significant changes were found in the remaining cardiovascular or the bone turnover parameters.

    CONCLUSIONS: The intake of RJ 150 mg for three months is associated with significant improvements of the lipid profile of postmenopausal women. RJ supplementation may offer an alternative method of controlling the menopause – associated dyslipidemia.

    Be well!


  23. JP Says:

    Updated 10/02/16:


    Cytokine. 2016 Sep 24;88:222-231.

    A randomized controlled trial examining the effects of 16 weeks of moderate-to-intensive cycling and honey supplementation on lymphocyte oxidative DNA damage and cytokine changes in male road cyclists.

    The aim of this study was to investigate whether honey supplementation (70g, ninety minutes before each training session) attenuates changes in lymphocyte counts, DNA damage, cytokines, antioxidative and peroxidative biomarkers following moderate-to-intensive exercise training in male road cyclists. Healthy nonprofessional cyclists (n=24, aged 17-26years) were randomly assigned to exercise+supplement (EX+S, n=12) and exercise (EX, n=12) groups for an experimental period of 16weeks. Moderate-to-intensive exercise training increased lymphocytes DNA damage, cytokines and peroxidative biomarkers as well as decreased antioxidative biomarkers in the EX group. These changes were significantly attenuated in the EX+S group. Furthermore, for both groups the observed changes in peroxidative and antioxidative biomarkers could be correlated positively and negatively, respectively, with lymphocyte DNA damage and cytokines. Findings suggest that honey attenuates oxidative stress and lymphocyte DNA damage after exercise, activities that are most likely attributable to its high antioxidant capacity.

    Be well!


  24. JP Says:

    Updated 02/28/17:


    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:5294890.

    A Pilot Randomized, Controlled Study of Nanocrystalline Silver, Manuka Honey, and Conventional Dressing in Healing Diabetic Foot Ulcer.

    Nanocrystalline silver (nAg) and Manuka honey (MH) dressing have increasing popularity for treating diabetic foot ulcer (DFU). This study was an open-label randomized controlled trial with three parallel groups’ design in examining the preliminary effectiveness of nAg against MH and conventional dressing in healing DFU in terms of ulcer healing, ulcer infection, and inflammation. 31 participants (11 in the nAg group, 10 in the MH group, and 10 in the convention group) diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were enrolled. Wound cleaning, debridement, and topical dressing application were performed according to the group allocation in each visit at weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12. The results found that the proportions of complete ulcer healing were 81.8%, 50%, and 40% in the nAg, MH, and conventional groups, respectively. The ulcer size reduction rate was potentially higher in the nAg group (97.45%) than the MH group (86.21%) and the conventional group (75.17%). In bacteriology, nAg showed a greater rate of microorganism reduction although it was not significant. To conclude, nAg alginate was potentially superior to MH and conventional dressing in healing diabetic foot ulcer in terms of ulcer size reduction rate.

    Be well!


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