This healing honey could be the cold and flu defense you've been looking for.

By Melanie Fincher

A spoonful of honey is a popular home remedy for fighting off infection, from cold and flu season to allergy season and beyond. Honey has been used for centuries as both a food and medicinal product. But a specific type of honey — Manuka honey — has gained a following for its purported antibacterial properties, and science is backing up these claims. This luxe honey hails from New Zealand and boasts many healing properties. But does it really have the health benefits it promises? Learn what Manuka honey is, and why it might be worth adding to your diet.

What Is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey is a type of honey that is made by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush in New Zealand. This rare honey is produced for just a few weeks every year when the Manuka is in flower, making it an extremely limited resource.

When bees pollinate from the Manuka bush, they produce honey that is more potent than standard honey bee honey due to the higher concentration of methylglyoxal (MGO). MGO is a substance found in the nectar of some Manuka plants, and it gives the nectar its antiviral and antibacterial properties. While most honey contains this compound, Manuka has been found to contain it in unusually high concentrations. Manuka honey has a strong, slightly bitter taste that is typical of darker honeys.

What Is Manuka Honey Good For?

Unlike many other alternative treatments, the health benefits of Manuka honey are supported by scientific evidence. Clinical studies have shown that Manuka Honey is effective against a wide variety of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains.

For centuries many types of honey have been used as natural antibiotics. Honey's ability to kill germs comes from the hydrogen peroxide produced by the bee enzyme. However, Manuka honey is able to further attack germs because of its high concentration of MGO. The FDA has even approved wound dressing with Manuka honey due to its antibacterial properties.

Manuka honey also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat numerous ailments, making it perfect for fighting off viruses and bacteria during cold and flu season. Kim Bulder, resident Naturopath at Manuka Health says, "To help maintain first line [defenses] during, winter I like to take Manuka honey straight from the spoon or mixed into herbal tea. The natural power of Manuka honey goes to work straight away in the mouth and throat to soothe and protect."

Ways to Eat Manuka Honey

Incorporating Manuka honey into your diet can help boost immunity and increase energy. While it's a great alternative to refined sugar, it's important to remember that honey is still a sugar and should be used in moderation. Bulder says, "In contrast to refined sugar, Manuka honey also contains vital trace nutrients and antioxidants to replenish the body and aid natural blood sugar balance." Here are some simple ways to incorporate this natural pick-me-up into your diet:

  1. Drizzle a little Manuka honey on top of your smoothies, toast, yogurt, whole grain pancakes, or morning oatmeal for an immune boost.
  2. Combine Manuka honey with other anti-inflammatory ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, or matcha to reduce inflammation.
  3. Dilute a spoonful of Manuka honey in water as a natural energy boost or post-workout refuel.

Where and How to Buy Manuka Honey

Because of its limited supply, Manuka honey comes with a hefty price tag. So before you go out and grab a jar, you need to make sure the stuff is legitimate. Fortunately, there's a whole rating system for that.

Manuka honey is graded based on the amount of MGO it contains. On the Manuka Health label, you'll see both MGO and UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) ratings. The higher the numbers the more potent the honey. For example, one might use the MGO 115 for their morning tea, but a spoonful of MGO 573 when fighting off a sore throat.

You can purchase UMF Honey Association-certified honey from Manuka Health on Amazon. Manuka Health is unique because they own their own 20,000+ beehives, which allows the honey to be traceable back to each jar's origin, batch, and beekeeper.

The bottom line: Raw honey of all types is associated with health benefits, but Manuka honey is set apart for the active ingredient MGO. This unique antibacterial compound is found in high concentrations in Manuka honey.

Related: Can Pho Really Cure a Cold?

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