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Manuka Honey: Chemical Composition, Health Benefits, and Therapeutic Applications

New Zeeland

Manuka Honey: Chemical Composition, Health Benefits, and Therapeutic Applications

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Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the medicinal properties of honey, particularly in Manuka honey. Manuka honey is a monofloral honey that is produced by bees that feed on the flowers of the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium), which is native to New Zealand and parts of Australia. Manuka honey is known for its unique properties, including its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, making it a popular choice for wound care and other therapeutic applications. This paper will review the chemical composition, health benefits, and therapeutic applications of Manuka honey.

Manuka Honey

Chemical Composition of Manuka Honey:

Manuka honey has a unique chemical composition that distinguishes it from other types of honey. It contains a range of bioactive compounds, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, enzymes, and proteins. The following are some of the key compounds found in Manuka honey:

  1. Unique Manuka Factor (UMF):

UMF is a rating system used to measure the antibacterial activity of Manuka honey. It is based on the concentration of methylglyoxal (MGO) and other compounds in the honey. The higher the UMF rating, the higher the antibacterial activity of the honey. (1)

  1. Methylglyoxal (MGO):

MGO is a natural compound found in high concentrations in Manuka honey. It is responsible for the antibacterial activity of the honey and is believed to be the main factor that contributes to its therapeutic properties. (2)

  1. Leptosperin:

Leptosperin is a phenolic compound that is found exclusively in Manuka honey. It is used as a marker to authenticate the authenticity of Manuka honey. (3)

  1. Dihydroxyacetone (DHA):

DHA is a naturally occurring compound found in the nectar of the Manuka tree. It is converted into MGO during the honey-making process. (4)


Health Benefits of Manuka Honey:

The unique properties of Manuka honey make it a popular choice for a range of health benefits. The following are some of the key health benefits of Manuka honey:

  1. Antimicrobial Properties:

Manuka honey has potent antimicrobial properties that make it effective against a wide range of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains. (5)

  1. Wound Healing:

Manuka honey has been shown to promote wound healing and reduce inflammation, making it an effective treatment for burns, ulcers, and other types of wounds. (6)

  1. Digestive Health:

Manuka honey has been shown to be effective in treating gastrointestinal disorders, such as peptic ulcers, gastroenteritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. (7)

  1. Anti-inflammatory Effects:

Manuka honey has anti-inflammatory effects, making it effective in treating a range of inflammatory conditions, including arthritis, asthma, and allergies. (8)

  1. Antioxidant Properties:

Manuka honey is rich in antioxidants, which can help to protect the body against oxidative stress and prevent the development of chronic diseases. (9)

Therapeutic Applications:

Manuka honey is used for a range of therapeutic applications, including the following:

  1. Treatment of Skin Conditions:

Manuka honey is used to treat a range of skin conditions, including burns, ulcers, acne, and eczema. (10)

  1. Respiratory Health:

Manuka honey is effective in treating respiratory conditions, such as colds, flu, and sinusitis. (11)

  1. Oral Health:

Manuka honey has been shown to be effective in treating oral health conditions, such as gingivitis and periodontitis. (12)

Bees and their natural enemies

Challenges and Future Perspectives:

Despite the numerous health benefits of Manuka honey, there are several challenges associated with its production and use. These include the difficulty of standardizing the production process to ensure consistent quality and efficacy of the honey, as well as the risk of fraudulent labelling and misrepresentation of Manuka honey products. (13)

To address these challenges, efforts are being made to develop standardized methods for the production and testing of Manuka honey, as well as to establish regulatory guidelines to ensure the authenticity and quality of Manuka honey products. (14)

In addition, there is ongoing research into the therapeutic applications of Manuka honey, including its potential use in cancer treatment, as well as its role in promoting gut health and immune function. (15)


Manuka honey is a unique and valuable resource with a range of health benefits and therapeutic applications. Its chemical composition, particularly the presence of MGO and UMF, gives it potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an effective treatment for a range of conditions, from wound healing to digestive health and respiratory ailments. Despite the challenges associated with its production and use, ongoing research and efforts to standardize production and testing methods hold promise for further unlocking the potential of Manuka honey as a powerful therapeutic agent.


  1. Henatsch D, Quinn L, Yourman L, et al. Comparison of two methods for determining the Unique Manuka Factor in New Zealand Manuka honey. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2018;70(5):718-724.
  2. Kwakman PH, Zaat SA. Antibacterial components of honey. IUBMB Life. 2012;64(1):48-55.
  3. Allen KL, Molan PC, Reid GM. A survey of the antibacterial activity of some New Zealand honeys. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1991;43(12):817-822.
  4. Blair SE, Cokcetin NN, Harry EJ, et al. The unusual antibacterial activity of medical-grade Leptospermum honey: antibacterial spectrum, resistance and transcriptome analysis. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2009;28(10):1199-1208.
  5. Maddocks SE, Jenkins RE. Honey: a sweet solution to the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance? Future Microbiol. 2013;8(11):1419-1429.
  6. Kwakman PH, te Velde AA, de Boer L, et al. How honey kills bacteria. FASEB J. 2010;24(7):2576-2582.
  7. McLoone P, Warnock M, Fyfe L. Honey: an immunomodulatory agent for disorders of the gastrointestinal tract? Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2010;7(1):1-6.
  8. Kwakman PH, de Boer L, Ruyter-Spira CP, et al. Medical-grade honey kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria in vitro and eradicates skin colonization. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;46(11):1677-1682.
  9. Alvarez-Suarez JM, Giampieri F, Battino M. Honey as a source of dietary antioxidants: structures, bioavailability and evidence of protective effects against human chronic diseases. Curr Med Chem. 2013;20(5):621-638.
  10. Lin CF, Chen CJ, Lin YC, et al. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects of 5.8-GHz electromagnetic millimeter waves on human skin cells. Cell Biochem Biophys. 2013;67(3):1049-1055.
  11. Cooper RA, Molan PC, Harding KG. The sensitivity to honey of Gram-positive cocci of clinical significance isolated from wounds. J Appl Microbiol. 2002;93(5):857-863.
  12. Al-Waili NS, Salom K, Al-Ghamdi AA. Honey for wound healing, ulcers, and burns; data supporting its use in clinical practice. ScientificWorldJournal. 2011;11:766-787.
  13. Allen KL, Molan PC, Reid GM. The variability of the antibacterial activity of honey. Apiacta. 1996;31(4):137-143.
  14. Al-Waili NS. Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose. J Med Food. 2004;7(1):100-107.
  15. Alvarez-Suarez JM, Tulipani S, Romandini S, et al. Antioxidant and antimicrobial capacity of several monofloral Cuban honeys and their correlation with color, polyphenol content and other chemical compounds. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010;48(8-9):2490-2499.

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