Manuka honey has been touted as a cure for everything from acne to stomach ulcers. But what is it exactly, and does it really have health benefits?
Manuka honey is a type of honey made by bees that pollinate the manuka bush in New Zealand. (All honey is classified by what plant(s) the bees pollinate—wildflower honey, clover honey, etc.) Manuka honey, which has a strong, slightly bitter flavor, was used medicinally in New Zealand for many years before being exported and marketed to the rest of the world.
Health Benefits of Manuka Honey
All honey has antibacterial properties because it contains hydrogen peroxide. Most honey also contains another antibacterial compound called methylglyoxal—manuka has been found to contain this compound in unusually high concentrations. That means that it may be more effective than other types of honey as an antiseptic wound dressing.
However, there is little research showing that manuka honey can cure cancer, lower cholesterol, or purify skin—so the health claims about manuka are certainly overblown.
Why You Might Not Want to Buy Manuka Honey
Honey can be nutritious, and it can be an antibacterial wound or burn treatment—and manuka might be one of the healthiest and most effective honeys. But its price tag—which can reach $75 for 8 ounces—is hard to justify.
Also, you can’t really be sure that all manuka honey is really manuka honey. New Zealand produces 1,700 tons of the stuff every year, while about 10,000 tons are sold around the world, meaning that a very large chunk of what is sold as manuka isn't legitimate.
The bottom line? You’re better off buying honey from your local farmer’s market—it packs the same health benefits, but for a much lower price.