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Benefits of Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is said to have powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. What's the science to support these claims? Nutrition Diva tracks down the facts.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
September 4, 2013
Episode #250

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Nutrition Diva listener Eithne asked if I would look into the benefits of manuka honey.

I have to admit that, before I got her email, I had never heard of manuka honey. But it took Google only 0.20 seconds to find 2,940,000 webpages on the stuff. According to its proponents, manuka honey has powerful healing properties. It's said to be a natural antibiotic that's anti-inflammatory, good for your digestion, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! 

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Similar claims are made for other types of honey, as well. But advocates claim that manuka honey (which is honey produced from the pollen of the manuka, or tea, tree) has something that other types of honey don't.  Specifically, manuka honey is high in a chemical called methylglyoxol, which appears to be responsible for most of its anti-microbial activity. But wait, there's more! 

Apparently, the methylglyoxol concentration in manuka honey can vary quite a bit. In order to help you identify the good stuff, they've developed a rating system known as the Unique Manuka Factor (or UMF). The higher the UMF, the higher the concentration of methylglyoxal. In order to be considered "active manuka honey," the product must have a UMF of 10 or greater. 

And that, ladies and gentleman, is what marketers call a USP, or Unique Selling Point. The best way to increase sales in a marketplace full of similar products is to identify and promote something about your product that sets it apart from all the rest. Distributors of manuka honey have done a masterful job of identifying and promoting methylglyoxal as their USP--which is why you can expect to pay 4 - 10 times more for manuka honey than you would for ordinary honey.

Now that we've read what people who sell manuka honey want us to know about it,  let's see what the scientific literature has to say.....

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