What do we mean by 'Active' Manuka Honey?
When honey is diluted, a special enzyme the bees have added produces hydrogen peroxide, a well-known antibiotic. Manuka Honey has been found to have an antibacterial activity in addition to hydrogen peroxide.
Dr Molan is the associate Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Waikato.
Dr Molan has been investigating the antibacterial properties of honey for more than 15 years and has been awarded an MBE for his work. During this time he has made some amazing scientific discoveries and has uncovered some of natures and the bee’s best kept secrets. Since his initial discoveries, Dr Molan has gone on to scientifically prove the special health benefits of honey and in particular New Zealand’s unique Manuka Honey. As well as his ongoing commitments to further investigative work and his university commitments, Dr Molan now travels the world lecturing the health professionals on the unique health benefits of these special honeys.
Dr Molan has said:
"For over 10 years I have scientifically investigated what many local New Zealanders have accepted as common wisdom: our Manuka Honey is a superior treatment for wounds and infections. After the results of my work became known through scientific journals, many people have contacted me wanting to know what is so special about Active Manuka Honey. A thorough and scientific response is available in articles listed on my Website (http://honey.bio.waikato.ac.nz), but I have compiled the facts here:
There are approximately 50 reports in medical journals that honey in general is a very effective dressing for wounds and an effective therapy for eye infections and for diarrhoea.
It is well established that honey has an antibacterial activity, but this can vary widely in potency: some honeys are no more antibacterial than sugar, whereas others can be diluted more that 100-fold and still completely stop the growth of bacteria. The difference in potency of antibacterial activity found between different honeys is more than 100-fold.
Manuka Honey is gathered exclusively in New Zealand from the Manuka bush, Leptospermum scoparium, which grows throughout our country.
The honey being sold as ‘Active Manuka Honey’ is the only honey available that is being tested for its antibacterial activity and selected for sale based in its level of activity.
In the future, other honeys may be tested and selected for their antibacterial activity, but Manuka Honey contains an additional antibacterial component that is unique to honey produced from Leptospermum plants.
This activity is not affected by the catalase enzyme that is present in the tissues and serum of the body. The catalase enzyme breaks down hydrogen peroxide – the major antibacterial factor in other types of honey. The potency of the antibacterial activity of other types of honey would most probably be reduced when used on an infection because of the action of the catalase.
The hydrogen peroxide in honey is produced by an enzyme in the honey. This enzyme is destroyed by the exposure of the honey to heat and light. Active Manuka is very stable, so there is no need to worry about whether the Manuka Honey you are using has lost its activity in storage.
Manuka Honey has this unique activity in addition to the usual hydrogen peroxide antibacterial activity, making it doubly potent. There is also evidence that the two antibacterial components together may have a synergist action, i.e. the combined effect is greater than the sum of its parts.
Active honey is more effective than honey with just hydrogen peroxide against some types of bacteria. Against Staphylococcus aureus, the most common cause of infected wounds, active Manuka Honey is twice as effective as other honeys. Against Helicobacter pylori, the cause of peptic ulcers, Manuka Honey is more than eight times as effective as other honeys. In research work that we are currently doing, Manuka Honey is significantly more effective against Streptococcus pyogenes which causes sore throats.
Many medical professionals are choosing to use Active Manuka Honey and are getting good results with the treatment of wounds which have not responded to standard treatment (A trial of Active Manuka Honey on unresponsive skin ulcers was successfully carried out at Waikato Hospital in New Zealand: the results have been published in the New Zealand Medical Journal). More recently, reports have been published in nursing journals of cases treated in Salisbury Hospital in England.
I have learned the outcome of a trial of Active Manuka Honey used on a case at a large Brisbane, Australia hospital where Active honey had been previously used as a wound dressing. The medical professionals there found much more rapid healing with Active Manuka Honey, in particular on a patient for whom the usual honey was not working. District Nurses in New Zealand have made similar observations.
Although none of the results being obtained can be considered as clinical evidence (a comparative clinical trial being carried out now is need for that to be established), I am nevertheless of the opinion that Active Manuka Honey would be the best to treat infections. I am also of the opinion that Manuka Honey with a good level of antibacterial activity would be best to use. Like all other types of honey, there is a large variation from sample to sample in the level of antibacterial activity.
It was for this reason that I devised the testing method and the Activity number as a way for honey producers to inform purchases of the potency of the honey for sale. The Activity number comes from a standard laboratory test for antibacterial activity, with the honey being compared with a standard reference antiseptic (phenol) for potency. So, for example, a honey with an Activity rating of 4 would be equivalent in antiseptic potency to a 4 percent solution of phenol (carbolic disinfectant), and a honey with an Activity rating of 10 would be equivalent in antiseptic potency to a 10 percent solution of phenol.
I recommend that honey with a rating of 10 or higher be used, which is the level of activity for honey used by medical professionals in New Zealand. Although good results may be obtained with lower levels of activity, there is a chance that activity may not be high enough to fully clear an infection. Honey with a lower level of activity will not allow as much of the antibacterial elements to diffuse into infected tissues, and this could mean that effective control of infection may not be achieved in deeper tissues".
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