Saturday, 1 March 2014

Mānuka Honey

What is Manuka Honey?  I have read that it has special properties, but what is Mānuka? Is it a place, a type of bee, and how does it differ from the honey produced by the bees that forage on my heather?
Mānuka is actually a plant that grows in New Zealand, related to the Australian 'tea tree' (melaleuca) a type of myrtle of which there are many species.
 Leptospermum squarrosum
Early Australian settlers soaked the leaves of several of the species in boiling water to make a drink rich in Vitamin C. It is said that Captain Cook brewed tea from the Leptospermum to prevent scurvy amongst his crew.
Mānuka - Leptospermum scoparium
The New Zealand Leptospermum scoparium is the only plant of the species that actually results in Mānuka honey. The plant has been successfully growing on the Tregothnan estate in Cornwall since the 1880s, but due to our very strange mild winter it is now already in flower when normally it would be June. Originally grown at Tregothnan for cut flowers, they are now producing their own Mānuka honey and have been doing so for the past 5 years.
Mānuka honey has been demonstrated to have antibacterial properties but there is no conclusive evidence that spreading the honey on your toast will give any medicinal benefitsHowever, following medical sterilisation i.e. medical grade honey, it has proven to be beneficial in healing wounds. 
In laboratory conditions when the honey is added to a dish of MRSA (bacterium staphylococcus aureusis) the Mānuka honey appears to be able to fight the super bug. As we know MRSA is an increasingly problematic hospital bug, being resistant to many of our antibiotics. 
Future research may increase the clinical use of medical mānuka honey, as doctors continue to be faced with the threat of diminishing effectiveness of antibiotic options.

62 comments:

  1. Using Manuka honey for medical purposes is a great idea, I have read of it's success before. Thank you for the background information too, good old the tree to the rescue again. Their flowers are beautiful too aren't they.

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    1. Time and time again we find that trees and plants may have the answer to many of our medical problems - we should be more protective of them. Where I live there are many yew trees and their clippings are collected once a year to make a treatment for cancer.

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  2. Dearest Rosemary,
    Manuka Honey , has played a very big part in healing processes in my family.
    I was going to write a post about it, and its healing properties.
    My B.I.L has Hodgkins.. He is at the moment in remission. He was told to take Manuka honey every day. He now swears by it.
    Prince charles spoke about it sometime ago on an interview..about its healing qualities.
    I did not want to write in depth as to what happened here, while I had D.I.L Sasha beautiful dog.. but alas.. for some reason she attacked my blind rescue dog.
    She had to have a major operation, and was in hospital vet clinic for over 4 days.
    I was able to bring her home. While at the vet I watched her change the bandages.. Bonita my dog had been torn from left to right on the belly.. My vet Dr. Anna.. after cleaning the would.. spread this greasy substance over the large wound. I asked her what it was, just out of interest. "Oh , she replied" its Manuka honey.
    I was so so taken aback. Manuka is now used in treatment of animals.
    And for sure, its helped my brother in Law, in his recovery or remission of his cancer. He said it has done wonders for him.
    We have all researched and read up about this incredible plant.
    I have to go to Beja to buy mine. I have not yet done that. I will buy 4 bottles in..then I dont need to go out so far to buy it.
    I was so excited to read this post Rosemary.
    Thank you so much.
    My rescue dog Bonita.. is perfect.. you would not know she had had a scar.. and if you told most people that it was honey that cured it.. they probably would think i was fibbing.
    great post and information.
    val

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    1. Dear Val - I do hope that I did not pre-empt you by doing a post on Mānuka honey. I decided to do a little bit of research into it as I was curious having heard a little about it but not really knowing the facts.
      I do understand that you do have to be careful about the source of the honey when putting it on open wounds. As I mentioned it should be medically sterile and have no contaminations in it.
      Apparently all honeys, even my heather honey, contain some antimicrobial properties which they get from the hydrogen peroxide that they contain, but Mānuka honey is thought to benefit from other factors too including an as yet poorly understood phytochemical property.
      Thanks for your visit and comment Val.

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  3. Hello Rosemary:

    This is all entirely new to us and although we do know of Leptospermum, we have never heard of Manuka honey nor of its beneficial medical properties. Most interesting. Seeing your comment above, we used to have our yew clippings collected for the treatment of cancer. Strange world indeed.

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    1. Hello Jane and Lance - I discovered that an equine surgeon and his colleagues at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow have been conducting trials on the use of medical grade Mānuka honey following surgery and found it beneficial. They have also discovered that heather honey from the Inverness area was shown to be particularly effective too - killing MRSA microbes and three other types of bacteria at concentrations of 2%.
      Clearly, there is room for a lot more research on the benefits of honey.

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  4. We are great believers in the curative and preventative power of honey, Rosemary, and have various varieties that are local to this area in Andalucia - including a lovely saffron one, eucalyptus (now everywhere here) and of course, ROSEMARY, my favourite!
    We can't easily get Manuka honey and I didn't know it now grew in Cornwall - how wonderful! As always, your photos are stunning and your post informative.
    Axxx

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    1. I think that they have been growing the Mānuka honey plant at Tregothnan for about five years and producing honey. You may have heard of the Tregothnan estate previously as they also have the first tea producing plantation in the UK.

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  5. How pleased you must be having this plant growing in Cornwall Rosemary. I believe in the healing power of the honey. My son was born with asthma and as soon he was able to eat bread I gave him honey from the local beekeeper. It worked out so well for him. No medication was necessary anymore. The flowers of this plant are so gorgeous.
    Have a wonderful weekend Rosemary.

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    1. That is really interesting to learn Marijke, and so pleased that your son was able to get over his asthma. The estate in Cornwall is now very well established and producing its own honey.

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  6. I know of the Tea tree varieties but didn't know about the honey. However, honey does wonders.

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    1. Yes, the Tea tree has antiseptic qualities I believe - I know there is some in my daily shower gel.

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  7. Hello Rosemary, In Taiwan you see a lot of longyan (longan) honey, which has supposed health benefits in addition to the usual characteristics of honey. What does manuka the honey taste like? I'm glad that some people are reaping benefits, but from your photos, the blossoms are reason enough to grow this plant.

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    1. Hello Jim - I have never tasted it myself, but I should imagine it is not dissimilar in taste to any other honey. However, apparently they do charge an arm and a leg for the Mānuka Honey.

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  8. What a coincidence! My husband was a great believer in Manuka honey and its amazing healing powers. It actually worked wonders on his leg ulcers, that he suffered from as a result of his DVT's. When he first started using it is was very difficult to obtain other than by mail order.

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    1. Leg ulcers must be very painful. I remember when I worked at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary years ago seeing the old ladies come in each day to have their leg ulcers dressed. I know that they also use leeches, which looks very unpleasant but apparently they clean the wounds beautifully.

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    2. Yes they are indeed very painful and he was very young, in his fifties, to be suffering with them, which is why the honey treatment was such a blessing to him. Yes heard about the leeches but he never wanted to try that!

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    3. How awful for him - he must have suffered.

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  9. This was the first time I even heard of Manuka honey. Thank you for this informative post, Rosemary. Happy weekend!

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    1. I have only learnt about it during the last few months myself Satu but wasn't too sure what properties the Mānuka Honey had. After a little investigation this is what I discovered.

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  10. Beautiful flowers and fascinating information!

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    1. It would be a great break through if the Mānuka Honey proved to be useful in hospital conditions at beating the superbug, MRSA.

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  11. Nice how you put the artificial bees in the picture.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. Delighted that you enjoyed the bees Filip.

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  12. I have been looking at Manuka honey and wondering if it has healing properties or just tastes wonderful! I shall bear it in mind as it sounds genuinely useful. I did once cure Mr N's migraine with fresh feverfew leaves (early on in our acquaintance - he was convinced I was a witch!) - this works but can cause mouth ulcers so he sticks to pharmaceutical remedies these days.

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    1. There are so many interesting properties in plants and their products that we have probably only just scratched the surface of what is available to us.
      I understand that pure Mānuka Honey is incredibly expensive - the stuff they sell in Cornwall is something like £55 a small pot i.e £5 per teaspoon!!!

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  13. A fascinating post, Rosemary! I seem to remember reading that the ancient Egyptians used honey to heal wounds, so perhaps they had a strain that was like Leptospermum Scoparium. Incidentally, as soon as I saw the flower's neat center, my mind raced to a couple of my favorite Victorian buttons!

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    1. Yes, I read that too Mark.
      There is an 8000 year old cave painting in Spain of someone collecting honey, and I know that remote jungle tribes are passionate about climbing high up into the tree canopy to raid bees nests for the honey.

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  14. It is great to hear that our manuka is now grown in Cornwall, although not so good for New Zealand exports!!!

    I generally use Manuka honey - not sure about health benefits when using it in a culinary way but I like the taste.

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    1. The benefits of the Mānuka Honey come from when it has been medically treated to get rid of other impurities. Mānuka Honey straight from the shop shelves should not be administered to wounds.

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  15. We use Manuka honey each winter, it's an acquired taste but we like it as it's not as sweet as regular honey. We also use Manuka essential oil on an aromatherapy burner when we have bug ridden visitors. I didn't know that it was made locally, will have to get some now.

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    1. That is interesting as I imagined that it tasted the same as any other honey. Do you get many bug ridden visitors?

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  16. I never hurt about this Honey, verry interesting....hihi...how lovely the little bees by the first photo.
    But...my little secret...I never eat honey, because I don't like it.
    Have a nice Sunday Rosemary.

    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Actually I am the same Inge - honey is really too sweet for me.
      I am pleased that you enjoyed the little bees in the first photo - thank you.

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  17. love what you did with the small bees on the photo dear Rosemary

    art school doesnt leave me much time to follow and read you
    but I am here from time to time
    enjoying your blog


    lots of love form Norway - demie

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    1. It is such a pleasure to hear from you Demie, it has made my day. I am often thinking about you and wondering how you are.
      I do hope that you are enjoying your time at Art School, you have lots of talent.
      Dear Demie thank you for visiting and letting me know how you are♡
      p.s glad that you liked the little bees.

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  18. We sometimes buy Manuka honey, to eat, not put on wounds. However, I have bought products made from the honey such as lip ointment, and it works well. For a long time I have been aware of the antiseptic properties of ti-tree and sometimes buy products made from that too, in preference to chemical compounds. A very popular ointment in Queensland is made from Paw Paw (Papaya), and it has amazing healing properties - I used it after our car accident. When I was growing up my favourite of my mother's garden shrubs was the Leptospermum bush: such pretty flowers!

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    1. Dear Patricia - apparently it not recommended to put the shop bought Mānuka Honey on open wounds, only the medically approved honey, which has had all the impurities removed, and is I think, not available to the general public.
      The shower gel that I use has tea tree in it.
      I too had a Leptospermum bush with pretty white flowers and a deep pink centre to them, but sadly I appear to have lost it.

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  19. I am certain we will have to revert back to 'the old ways' to combat many modern day problems, honey, leeches, and maggots are all being used to great effect in the healing process of wounds in hospitals today.

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    1. I think that we also destroy trees a plants in the wild, especially those in the Amazon, at our peril. Who knows what remarkable substances they may contain to combat different diseases and ailments.

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  20. Never heard of this honey, but I definitely love what I hear :-) Wouldn't it be great if we could cure ourselves using what is free to us from nature ?

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    1. I am sure that there are plenty of natural substances out in our woods and countryside that could help if only we knew more about them.

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  21. I knew something about manuka, but I never tried the honey. Interesting post, Rosemary. Thank you !

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    1. Dear Dani - I knew nothing about it myself but kept hearing people talking about it and that is way I decided to find out more. Glad that you found it interesting.

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  22. Interesting! Thankyou for sharing (I don't actually like the taste of honey but I love bees!) x

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    1. Honey is too sweet for me too, but the new research is interesting as you mention.

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  23. Just this morning I listened to an hour long programme on the radio regarding our over use of antibiotics and the resulting antibiotic resistant superbugs. Part of the problem is antibacterial household cleaners. There is absolutely no need for them. Plain soap and water is just as effective. I'm a bee fan big time. I'm planting swathes of pollinator friendly, pesticide free, native plants this year.

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    1. H and I have always assumed that were protected having only used antibiotics a couple of times in our lives, but of course that is not the case it is the suberbug that has grown resistant because of the over use by others.
      I too have lots of plants suitable for the bees including my many heathers. I also have my little bee homes ready for them which I will place in the garden at the beginning of April.

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    2. I'll follow up on the little homes-I probably need to do it if I want bees in my garden.

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    3. I have a little bee chalet but it is for the solitary bees not the honey bees who require a hive and lots of attention.
      If you are interested you can see what I have got here:-
      http://wherefivevalleysmeet.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/santas-little-gift.html

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  24. A fascinating post, Rosemary. The story of Manuka is such an interesting one. I've heard different cases where honey has been used as an antiseptic - I do think it is a wonder product! But they must be confident in Tregothnan that the bees are foraging on Manuka and nothing else to sell Manuka honey there.

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    1. Dear Wendy - They have a large area which is covered exclusively in Mānuka plants. Apparently the bees love the Mānuka plant but the positioning of the hives is very important. They need to be placed right beside the plants and then the bees automatically feed from them. They do not go further afield when a good source of nectar is readily on hand. This is what they say on the Tregothnan Estate website.
      It seems using the honey at Tregothnan is fairly recent - last 4 or 5 years although they have been growing the plant there for its cut flowers since 1880.

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  25. Dear Rosemary,I did'nt know about this Honey, very interesting indeed!I I really enjoyed the story!!Wish you a happy new week!
    Dimi...

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    1. Pleased that you enjoyed learning about the Mānuka honey Dimi - I kept hearing about it and wanted to know more, and this is what I found out.

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  26. My husband as had manuka honey in the past too. It was lovely to see the plant and to learn that the honey is now produced in Cornwall. There are still so many plants that could help with ailments and it is such a shame that some of these may never be discovered when we are continually destroying the habitat that they grow in. Sarah x

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    1. I agree Sarah - that is why it is such a huge problem that many trees and plants are being destroyed in the Amazon, who knows what resources are being lost.

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  27. As a newcomer to Australia I see manuka honey everywhere, but didn't know its background until today. :-) I'm so glad I found your blog (via Linda's) today. :-)

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    1. I am glad that you found the post of interest. Please do come again.

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  28. Dear Rosemary,
    It's so wonderful to visit again and binge read your blog! This post is especially prescient: bees are so important to us in so many ways... I've just heard that with our brutal winter this year, Michigan has lost 9 out of 10 beehives... So sad! My husband and I have been toying with the idea of beekeeping, and now feel it's even more important to get started. I doubt mānuka will grow here, but any honey at all would be welcome and medicinal in it's own way...!
    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    1. Dear Erika - the weather here has been very mild, but I am sure that you have seen that we have had lots of rain. It arrived here on the tail end of the freezing cold weather in the US apparently.
      I have a little bee chalet which has holes for 24 solitary bees which I shall be putting in the garden at the end of March. Honey bee hives are a completely different proposition requiring more expert knowledge.
      With more research they are discovering that other types of honey also have special properties. Scottish heather honey, particularly from the Inverness area has been shown to be particularly effective too in killing MRSA microbes and three other types of bacteria at concentrations of 2%. Clearly this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

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  29. I have heard of Manuka honey which is harvested in one particular area in New Zealand. Interesting to read that it is being produced in Cornwall as well.
    Your circular garden beds are charming.

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    1. Thanks Betty - it is interesting that the honey may prove to be of use in hospitals.

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