What's Special about Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey is the medicinal honey from New Zealand. This special kind of honey is a potent antibacterial product because bees produce it from the manuka bush.
What's a Manuka Bush?
The manuka bush is a low-growing shrub that colonizes cleared land on the drier, eastern coast of the North Island and South Island of New Zealand. It's also found in southeastern Australia. The manuka bush is also known as the tea tree, but it is not the same plant that is harvested in Australia to make tea tree oil.
What's Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey is made by bees that feed exclusively on the nectar and pollen of the manuka bush. Manuka flowers are a potent source of methylglyoxal, which gives the honey its germ-fighting properties that are effective whether you use the honey in you or on you. You can eat manuka honey, or you can use it as a skin treatment or even as a nose spray.
This honey has an unusual consistency; it is an unusual category known as thixotropic liquids. If you shake manuka honey, it gets thinner. If you let it sit in the jar, it thickens up, regardless of temperature. This makes manuka honey an excellent skin treatment, because the more you move, the more the honey is distributed across your skin. It doesn't dissolve in sweat and it tends to stay in bandages.
So Do You Eat Manuka Honey Or Do You Wear It?
Eating a spoon or two of manuka honey a day is a great way to get extra antioxidants along with tasty natural sugars. Using specially manufactured manuka honey dressings (with any potential bacterial contamination neutralized) will help wounds heal. Manuka nose sprays are used to treat persistent cases of sinusitis that don't respond to other treatments.
Is There a Best Brand of Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey is in such demand that it is sometimes counterfeited. Real manuka honey only comes from New Zealand or southeastern Australia.
The medicinal strength of Manuka honey is measured in units called UMF. If the honey has a UMF below 10, it may taste great and help you with allergies, but it's not really good for fighting infections. On the other hand, if the UMF is above 20, you really have a product that is more suitable for making surgical dressings. You will very seldom find Manuka honey with a UMF over 20, but it happens from time to time. It's OK for personal use, but you should not pay a premium price for additional UMF.
Some brands of Manuka honey are branded on the basis of "total activity" rather than "UMF." They will also work for fighting infection, but the higher "UMF" brands are stable over time, or actually increase in infection-fighting power.
Most providers of real Manuka honey are registered with the Active Manuka Foundation, and use the Active Manuka Foundation trademark.