Updated: Oct 14, 2020
When it comes to natural sweeteners, my go-to option is raw, unpasteurized Manuka honey. Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand from bees that pollinate the Manuka bush. Manuka has some distinguishing factors we will address in comparison with other types of honey that makes it a step above the rest when it comes to medicinal value. Manuka honey has quite an impressive nutritional profile, including ingredients such as: organic acids, compounds like methylglyoxyl (MGO) and hydrogen peroxide, b vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, flavonoids and polyphenols, alkaloids and glycosides, etc. This type of honey has powerful bactericidal effects, especially due to the hydrogen peroxide, MGO and another compound called dihydroxyacetone.
One benefit in particular is digestive health support. This is seen in cases such as SIBO, hypochlorhydria, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, dysbiosis and candidiasis. The antimicrobial constituents of Manuka honey are able to target pathogenic strains of microorganisms and render them ineffective. Inflammation and pain are shown to decrease in the colon with ingestion of Manuka honey.
Skin health is shown to benefit greatly from Manuka honey application. In fact oftentimes would dressings have a layer of Manuka honey so that the beneficial enzymes and antioxidants are in contact with the burn, wound or skin irritation to promote healing. The anti-bacterial nature of Manuka honey is able to lessen the infection burden on the skin and therefore accelerate the healing mechanisms of the body. Skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, milia and acne seem to respond favorably to the application of Manuka honey topically.
Manuka honey helps balance out the oral microbiome and thus promotes better dental hygiene. This leads to lower incidences of cavities, gingivitis, canker sores and helps reduce halitosis.
Manuka honey provides benefits for oral health by optimizing the oral microflora.
Ingestion of this honey shows promise for optimizing immune system health and is therefore beneficial to prevent or help eradicate the common cold, seasonal allergies and generically just feeling under the weather. Manuka honey is a powerful anti-inflammatory and helps reduce infection burdens.
When it comes to potency of Manuka honey, there is a grading system called Unique Manuka Factor (UMF.) This grading scale ensures the Manuka honey is from New Zealand and describes the antibacterial strength of the honey. The minimum UMF score is 5, however medicinal benefits start at a UMF score of 10. UMF 10-15 is beneficial for accomplishing the benefits listed above, but 16+ UMF is considered superior quality.
I'd recommend ingesting about 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. per day, although I've seen reports where 1-2 tbsp. per day is recommended. This is a medicinal and powerful anti-inflammatory natural sweetener that I feel comfortable recommending to patients. It can satisfy a sweet tooth all the while providing key nutrients and antioxidants that the body needs.
Dr. Seamus Allen
CFMP, DACBN, DC