Written by Bill Gluyas
Manuka UMF® honey proven in medicinal studies
UMF® Manuka honey provides outstanding success in treating infected wounds that have not responded to traditional treatment.
University of WaikatoThroughout history honey has been known to posses healing properties, and that certain plants from specific regions were more effective than others.
Since 1981, Dr Peter Molan MBE, Associate Professor in Biochemistry at The University of Waikato, New Zealand, has been researching the various healing properties of honey sourced from different plants in New Zealand.
Most forms of honey have antibacterial properties due to the glucose oxidase enzyme contained in the honey, which when it cones into contact with body tissue releases hydrogen peroxide, which in turn acts against bacteria which may be present.
When studying honey from the New Zealand Manuka shrub (Leptospermum scoparium), Dr Molan discovered that the honey from this plant contained a second antibacterial component in addition to the glucose oxidase enzyme.
This component appears to be unique to the Manuka plant and it is also strongly anti-bacterial, even against highly resistant forms of bacteria such as the H bug staphylococcus aureus and helicobacter pylori.
This second compound, present in some (but not all) Manuka honey has now been named the Unique Manuka Factor, (UMF) and the effectiveness is able to be quantified in laboratory testing.
To date no harmful bacteria have been found to be resistant to UMF® Manuka honey.
UMF® Manuka honey is resistant to heat, and has been found to be more resistant to the catalase effect of body serum which can affect the hydrogen peroxide activity of other honeys.
UMF Honey can safely be taken for stomach upsets and sore throats by stimulating the immune system and helping to prevent dehydration.
Excerpt from the University of Waikato, Honey Research Unit
The following is reprinted from the University of Waikato Website, with their permission.
Dr Peter Molan MBE, Associate Professor in Biochemistry at The University of Waikato New ZealandBy Dr. Peter Molan MBE, Associate Professor in Biochemistry at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.
For the past 19 years honey researchers at the University of Waikato have been investigating what many local New Zealanders have accepted as common wisdom: our local Manuka honey is a superior treatment for wound infections. Manuka honey is gathered in New Zealand from the Manuka bush, Leptospermum Scoparium, which grows uncultivated throughout the country. (More recently, as a result of systematic screening of Australian honeys, a honey with the same properties has been found to be produced from Leptospermum polygalifolium, which grows uncultivated in a few parts of Australia.)
After the results of this work became known through publications in scientific journals, many people contacted the Honey Research Unit to find out what is so special about active Manuka honey. The pertinent facts are:
- Honey has an antibacterial activity, due primarily to hydrogen peroxide formed in a “slow-release” manner by the enzyme glucose oxidase present in honey, which can vary widely in potency. Some honeys are no more antibacterial than sugar, while others can be diluted more than 100-fold and still halt the growth of bacteria. The difference in potency of antibacterial activity found among the different honeys is more than 100-fold.
- “Active Manuka UMF® honey” (and its Australian equivalent) is the only honey available for sale that is tested for its antibacterial activity. It contains an additional antibacterial component found only in honey produced from Leptospermum plants: what has been called the “Unique Manuka Factor” UMF®. There is evidence that the two antibacterial components may have a synergistic action.
- UMF is not affected by the catalase enzyme present in body tissue and serum. This enzyme will break down, to some degree, the hydrogen peroxide which is the major antibacterial factor found in other types of honey. If a honey without UMF were used to treat an infection, the potency of the honey’s antibacterial activity would most likely be reduced because of the action of catalase.
- The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey is destroyed when honey is exposed to heat and light. But UMF® is stable, so there is no concern about Manuka honey losing its activity in storage.
- The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey becomes active only when honey is diluted. But UMF® is active in full strength honey, which will provide a more potent antibacterial action diffusing into the depth of infected tissues.
- The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey needs oxygen to be available for the reaction, so may not work under wound dressings or in wound cavities. Honey with UMF® is active in all situations.
- The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey becomes active only when the acidity of honey is neutralised by body fluids, but then the honey is diluted.
- The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey could be destroyed by the protein-digesting enzymes that are in wound fluids.
- The UMF® antibacterial activity diffuses deeper into skin tissues than does the hydrogen peroxide from other types of honey.
- Honey with UMF® is more effective than that with hydrogen peroxide against some types of bacteria. For example, active Manuka honey with UMF® is about twice as effective as other honey against Eschericihia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, the most common causes of infected wounds.
Many medical professionals are using active Manuka honey – and getting good results in patients with wounds that have not responded to standard treatment.
For example, a successful trial of active Manuka honey on unresponsive skin ulcers was recently published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
In addition, staff at a large hospital in Brisbane, Australia, recently used active Manuka honey as a wound dressing on a patient for whom honey without UMF had failed. In other hospitals clinicians have likewise noted improvement in healing rates when changing from other honey to a Manuka honey with a good level of UMF.
None of the results being obtained clinically should be considered evidence that active Manuka honey is more effective than other honey – a comparative clinical trial will be needed to establish that. Nevertheless, there are good theoretical reasons for choosing to use active Manuka honey with a good level of UMF for management of wound infections.
To rate the potency of antibacterial activity of honey, I devised the testing method and the UMF number. The UMF numbers come from a standard laboratory test of antibacterial activity, with honey being compared with a standard antiseptic (phenol, also known as carbolic) for potency. For example, a honey with a UMF rating of 4 would be equivalent to the antiseptic potency of 4% solution of phenol, as used as carbolic disinfectant; a honey with a rating of 10 would have a potency equivalent to a 10% solution of phenol.
Medical professionals in New Zealand use active Manuka honey with a rating of UMF 10 or higher. Although good results may be obtained with lower levels of activity, there is a chance that the lower activity will not be enough to fully clear an infection.
In addition, honey with a lower level of activity will not allow as much of the antibacterial elements to diffuse into infected tissue, which could mean that effective control of infection may not be achieved in deeper tissue.
To alleviate any concern over the possible risk of introducing infection by the use of an unprocessed natural product on wounds, honey can be sterilised by gamma irradiation without loss of any of its antibacterial activity. Active Manuka honey and the Australian Leptospermum honey are commercially available sterilised in this way.
The way honey is used as a wound dressing (practical information)
Note: The information provided in this web-site does not constitute medical advice. It is important that wounds that are not healing are seen by a registered medical practitioner – failure to heal may be the result of malignancy (cancer) or defective blood circulation. Varicose leg ulcers usually require professionally applied pressure bandaging over the dressing to heal successfully.
The following points have come from clinical experience of many people using honey as a wound dressing:
- The amount of honey required on the wound depends on the amount of fluid exuding from the wound. The various beneficial effects of honey on wound tissues will be reduced or lost if small amounts of honey become diluted by large amounts of fluid. Likewise the frequency of dressing changes required will depend on how rapidly the honey is being diluted by fluid.
- Daily dressing changes are usual, but up to three times daily may be needed.
If the dressing sticks to the wound this indicates that more frequent changes of dressing are needed.
- Exudation of fluid should be reduced by the anti-inflammatory action of honey, so less frequent dressing changes may be needed later – a few days between changes.
- More honey is required on deeper infections, to obtain an effective level of antibacterial activity diffusing deep into the wound tissues.
Typically, 20 ml of honey (25 – 30 g, 1 ounce) is used on a 10 cm X 10 cm (4 inch X 4 inch) dressing.
- Occlusive (waterproof) or absorbent secondary dressings are needed to prevent honey oozing out from the wound dressing. (Occlusive dressings are better as they keep more of the honey in contact with the wound – absorbent dressings soak the honey away from the wound.) Adhesive tape or bandages can be used to hold the dressings in place if an adhesive occlusive dressing is not used.
- Pressure bandaging is used over the honey dressing for varicose ulcers.
- Dressing pads pre-impregnated with honey are the most convenient way of applying honey to surface wounds. (Dressing pads pre-impregnated with active Manuka honey are available commercially.)
- If pre-impregnated dressings are not available, it is best to spread the honey on the dressing rather than on the wound.
- Abscesses, cavities and depressions in the wound bed are filled with honey before applying the honey dressing pad, so that there is honey in contact with the wound bed. The honey dressings are cut to a size that extends beyond the edges of the wound and any surrounding inflamed area.
Copyright: The research material above has been copied from the Waikato Honey Research Unit Website, with their permission. The compilation of all content on this page relating to research undertaken by the Waikato University Honey Research Unit is the exclusive property of The University of Waikato Honey Research Unit and protected by international copyright laws. No part of the text or images may be reproduced without the express permission of Dr Peter Molan MBE, Associate Professor in Biochemistry at The University of Waikato New Zealand.