Feb 17, 2021

Manuka Honey: What’s the Science Behind Nature’s Wonderfood?

Manuka Honey has been used for centuries for its healing properties, and is becoming increasingly popular in the daily routines of registered dietitians, dermatologists, professional athletes and wellness enthusiasts around the world. Unlike other trendy wellness products, Comvita UMF™ Certified Manuka Honey is a time-tested, 100% natural whole food, single-ingredient gift from nature, used for both internal and topical use. Through a magic collaboration between the Manuka flower and the bees, our expert team of beekeepers, researchers, and scientists bring the highest quality Manuka to your home.

We sat down with Comvita Chief Science Officer, Dr. Jackie Evans, PhD to dive deeper into the extraordinary science behind this rare wonderfood:

What does science say are the benefits of Manuka Honey? Are there studies you are excited about?

Thousands of scientific papers have been published in the scientific literature about the health benefits and natural bioactive compounds found only in Manuka Honey.

The potent unique non-peroxide antibacterial and wound healing properties of medical grade Mānuka Honey are well known, and have been clinically proven in multiple Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. Scientific research has also demonstrated that Manuka Honey, and unique natural compounds found only in Manuka Honey, exhibit other important properties including anti-inflammatory, immune-modulatory and antioxidant bioactivities. These bioactivities work together to give Manuka Honey its therapeutic effects. In addition to wound healing, scientific research has also confirmed the benefits of Manuka Honey for treating inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. I’m particularly excited about emerging research supporting the use of Manuka Honey for its immunity and digestive health benefits. Comvita scientists, alongside other international scientists and collaborators, pioneered the discovery and application of compounds unique to Manuka Honey for its authentication and health benefits, dedicating more investment towards research than any other Mānuka Honey company. This results in Comvita providing you the highest quality Manuka Honey you can buy, worldwide.

Manuka Honey Hive Close up image

How much of what makes Manuka Honey special is the Manuka flowers, and how much of it is the bees?

The bioactive properties of Manuka Honey are derived from natural compounds found in the nectar of the New Zealand Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) tree. However, without the bees collecting this nectar and making it into Manuka Honey we would not be able to benefit from these properties. The bees also add enzymes and other substances during the honey making process that enhances some of the bioactive properties of the final honey. The Manuka tree also needs the bees and other insects to pollinate its flowers. So it’s truly a symbiotic relationship, without both the bees and the trees we would not have the special qualities of Manuka Honey.

Manuaka Flowers image

Manuka Honey is said to have properties that are antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory - can you give us some context as to how the honey has those properties and what they mean for people who use Manuka Honey every day?

The therapeutic properties of honey are derived from the combination of its physical and chemical composition. Manuka Honey contains over 2,000 different plant compounds, which is over 20 times the amount in pasture-type honeys such as clover. It is the abundance and properties of these compounds, in particular its high levels of phenolic and polyphenolic compounds, that gives Manuka Honey its special qualities including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune modulatory bioactivities. These work together with the physico-chemical properties of Manuka Honey and help to explain its range of therapeutic uses from wound healing and calming dry and itchy skin, to soothing coughs and sore throats, and supporting immunity and digestive health.

Celeste Honey image

What is the known history of use around Manuka - both ingested, and for external skincare?

Mānuka honey is harvested by bees from flowers of the Mānuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium) that is native to New Zealand. Manuka trees only flower for around 2-6 weeks a year so Manuka is a rare and special honey. The unique makeup and health benefits of Manuka Honey are derived from the abundance of plant compounds found in the nectar of Manuka flowers, and interestingly, also in the bark and the leaves of the Manuka tree. The native Maori people of New Zealand have long revered the Manuka tree for its medicinal and other uses, referring to it as a taonga or ‘treasure’. They treated fever, stomach and urinary problems with infusions made with its leaves and used its gum to soothe cough and as a moisturizer for burns. Extracts from the bark were used as a sedative, mouthwash and to treat diarrhea and fever.

Manuaka honey lemon drink image

How do you use Manuka Honey in your own daily routine?

I use a variety of Comvita Manuka Honey products in my daily routine. I love to use UMF™ 5+ Manuka honey on toast or in cooking. I take a teaspoon of UMF™ 10+ or 15+ Manuka Honey every morning on an empty stomach to help my digestive system and if I have a cough or a scratchy throat I’ll make a warm drink with UMF™ 15+ and a squeeze of fresh lemon. If my kids have a cough or are feeling a bit run down, I give them Comvita Kids Day Time and Night Time syrups made with UMF™ 10+ Manuka honey to help them (and me!) get a good night's sleep. One of my favourite and relaxing ways to use Manuka honey is as a face scrub, I make my own with UMF™ 5+ Manuka honey and freshly ground coffee and use it every morning in the shower. It smells amazing, wakes me right up, and leaves my skin feeling alive and moisturized.

About Dr. Jackie Evans:

Dr. Jackie Evans Pic

Dr. Jackie Evans, PhD is Chief Science Officer for Comvita. Prior to joining Comvita in 2017, she worked in global clinical development roles in the Pharmaceutical Industry in the United Kingdom, and in national pharmaceutical funding roles with the New Zealand government. She has a First Class honours degree in Microbiology from the University of Reading and a PhD in Virology from University College London, where she studied HIV immunology. At Comvita, she applies her science and clinical research background and skills to advance the science of Comvita’s products, working with the best researchers to deliver the highest quality products backed by science. She is a mom to two girls and lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand.