How Manuka Honey Can Help Prevent Gum Disease


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We’ve all heard the expression “you catch more flies with honey” — but if you opt for manuka honey, you’re likely to also catch a slew of health benefits. Research shows that manuka honey contains distinct antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, meaning it may even help prevent bacteria from growing and spreading when used topically. This beneficial aid has generated lots of buzz for its potential to help relieve allergy symptoms and benefit your gut, your skin; even your teeth.

Manuka honey is produced by bees that feed on the flowers of what’s known as the manuka bush, natively found in Australia and New Zealand. The honey is monofloral in nature, meaning it’s made strictly from the nectar of one type of flower. The plant only flowers four to six weeks a year, which gives bees a short window of time to collect nectar. Manuka honey is pricier than other varieties due to its stringent harvesting process.

Unlike other types of honey, manuka honey contains a higher concentration of a compound called methylglyoxal, which gives it its antibacterial benefits. “With all the excitement about manuka honey optimizing the gut microbiome, improving skin quality, and protecting the mouth, it’s easy to get overzealous,” says naturopathic doctor BreAnna Guan, N.D. “It tastes so good. But, we don’t want to repeat the lessons learned from Winnie the Pooh.”

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Manuka honey is indeed sweet and very tasty. But eating too much consistently could have negative impacts on your blood sugar and other physical markers, Guan explains.

Here’s an overview of all the health benefits of manuka honey, plus how to eat it — and how much is too much.

Manuka honey nutrition facts

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 4.7 tablespoons (100 grams) of manuka honey contains:

  • Calories: 300
  • Carbohydrates: 80g
  • Sugars: 80g

Manuka honey health benefits

“Manuka honey can be part of a balanced, nutrient-dense and functionally robust diet,” says Monique Richard, RDN, LDN, Tennessee-based owner of Nutrition-In-Sight and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While it supports internal and external health, it’s still a form of sugar. Eating more than a teaspoon or so every day could spike your blood sugar and pack excessive caloric input into your diet.

It’s also not the “endall, be-all, or panacea of everything,” Richard adds. You always need to address any health issue with your healthcare provider and follow their treatment plan.

Here are some of the biggest health benefits of manuka honey:

The high amounts of methylglyoxal grant manuka honey antibacterial qualities, as well as anti-viral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Previously published research shows manuka honey can be effective against different strains of bacteria, like E.coli, MRSA and others, Guan adds.“Manuka honey is part of an effective and safe therapy for colds, the flu, wounds and other infections,” she adds. “I’d recommend keeping it on hand for kids, especially during cold and flu season. It’s an easy way to treat a cough or a nasty sore throat, and make kids happy at the same time!”

FAQ

Is it a good idea to eat manuka honey every day?

Manuka honey does offer quite a bit of health benefits. It’s crucial, though, to remember that it’s still considered a significant form of sugar, Richard notes. “It has a place and a purpose, but it’s not an essential must-have condiment every single day,” and consuming it in small amounts — a drizzle or up to about a teaspoon — is best.

“Active healthy and fit individuals with robust metabolic health could have more,” Guan adds. “Those with diabetes and overweight or inactive individuals would benefit from less.” Too much manuka honey could cause weight gain, elevated blood sugar, hormone imbalance, and increased inflammation, due to the high sugar levels.

In your skincare or topical oral health routines, Guan recommends the daily use of manuka honey.

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What are the best ways to use manuka honey?

There are endless ways to enjoy manuka honey and reap its health benefits, including:

Manuka honey supplements, like lozenges, lollipops or pills, can be beneficial, too. Just be sure to do your research and choose supplements carefully, Richard advises. Look for products with verification by Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), which is a strict grading system that validates manuka honey’s potency, authenticity, purity and freshness. The higher the number listed in the products’ UMF grade, the more unadulterated health benefits the honey is likely to offer.

Lozenges and cough syrups with manuka honey can be an effective cold and flu remedy, Guan says. For other conditions, a supplement could offer benefits along with traditional medications and treatments. “I don’t think taking it as a supplement every day would provide benefits over working to include it in your diet; plus, you’d miss out on the great flavor experience,” she adds.

Why is manuka honey so expensive?

Manuka honey is indeed pricier than other varieties of honey. That’s mostly because it comes from the manuka plant, which is fairly rare. Plus, the flowers are only open two to six weeks a year for bees to collect their nectar. A 250g jar of manuka honey can run anywhere from $20 to $40 or more, depending on its purity and UMF rating.

Who shouldn’t eat manuka honey?

Generally, manuka honey is safe and well-tolerated by most people, Richard says. There are a few group exceptions that experts say require utmost caution, including those with insulin resistance or diabetes; immunocompromised individuals with pre-existing conditions, those with a bee or bee pollen allergy, as well as anyone who is pregnant or nursing. It’s rare, but honey can cause botulism, an illness where toxins attack the body’s nerves. That’s why honey also isn’t recommended for children under a year old.

It’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement routines or if you’re unsure if honey is safe for you.

Headshot of Erica Sweeney

Erica Sweeney is a writer who mostly covers health, wellness and careers. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.

Headshot of Joan Salge Blake, RDN, LDN, EdD



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