Belief in the healing power of manuka honey flourishes, but evidence is lacking

Manuka honey has a special place for those who believe in apitherapy and the medicinal powers of the sweet product of honeybees.

41VA-YmR5rLNow there’s a book about it from Cliff Van Eaton, a Canadian-turned-New Zealander beekeeper and one of the chief proponents of using manuka honey. (See the Amazon page promotional copy for the book, Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey, below.)

Van Eaton has just been interviewed by Radio New Zealand, and the interview (nearly 30 minutes) is worth listening to. The description of the interview is below.

Despite the claims, there’s still no hard evidence for the claims many people make about honey.

Here’s what, a large and well-regarded health site, has to say about manuka honey:

Hydrogen peroxide is a component of honey. It gives most honey its antibiotic quality. But some types of honey, including manuka honey, also have other components with antibacterial qualities.

The major antibacterial component in manuka honey is methylglyoxal (MG). MG is a compound found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities.

In manuka honey, MG comes from the conversion of another compound — dihydroxyacetone — that is found in high concentration in the nectar of manuka flowers.

MG is thought to give manuka honey its antibacterial power. The higher the concentration of MG, the stronger the antibiotic effect. (quoted)


The main medical use for manuka honey is on top of a wound. It is generally used for treating minor wounds and burns.

Manuka honey is also marketed for use in many other conditions. These include:

  • Preventing and treating cancer
  • Reducing high cholesterol
  • Reducing systemic inflammation
  • Treating diabetes
  • Treating eye, ear, and sinus infections
  • Treating gastrointestinal problems

But the evidence is limited on whether or not manuka honey is effective for these conditions.

The honey used to treat wounds is a medical-grade honey. It is specially sterilized and prepared as a dressing. So the jar of manuka honey in the pantry should not be considered part of a first aid kit. Wounds and infections should be seen and treated by a health care professional. (quoted)


Radio New Zealand

Manuka: the biography of an extraordinary honey

Originally aired on Nine To Noon, Monday 6 October 2014

In his new book, Cliff Eaton tells the rags-to-riches tale of manuka honey, from his perspective as a beekeeping specialist who watched it unfold from the very beginning. It’s the story of science, of the way a seemingly simple discovery caught the international media’s attention, and of the history of the relationship between humans and honey bees. Cliff Van Eaton is a well-known writer on beekeeping subjects and is co-author of two books on bee diseases used by beekeepers in New Zealand and overseas. For over 30 years he worked as a beekeeping adviser and consultant in New Zealand, and has also assisted beekeepers in countries as diverse as the Solomon Islands, Uruguay and Vietnam. Manuka: the biography of an extraordinary honey, is published by Exisle, RRP $34.99.


Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey Paperback – October 1, 2014

Not so long ago, in a small island nation in the South Pacific, beekeepers produced a most peculiar honey. It was much darker than the clover honey everyone put on their toast in the morning, and it tasted very different. In fact, the honey was a problem: it was hard to get out of the combs, and even harder for beekeepers to sell. Today that honey, manuka from New Zealand, is known around the world. It fetches high prices, and beekeepers do everything in their power to produce as much of it as possible. Wound dressings containing manuka honey are used in leading hospitals, and it has saved the lives of patients infected with disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to standard antibiotic drugs. In so doing it has forced the medical profession to rethink its position on the therapeutic properties of natural products. This book chronicles the remarkable ‘rags-to-riches’ story of manuka honey, as seen through the eyes of a New Zealand beekeeping specialist who watched it unfold from the very beginning. It’s a great tale of science, in which an inquisitive university lecturer found something totally unexpected in a product everyone had written off. It’s also an entertaining account of the way that seemingly simple discovery caught the international media’s attention, helping enterprising New Zealanders to develop manuka honey-based products and take them all around the globe. But above all else it’s a story of hope for the future, sounding a note of optimism in a world that for good reason feels saddened and sometimes even afraid about the future of the special relationship we humans have always had with those marvelous creatures, the honey bees. (quoted)


Key words: manuka honey, healing powers of honey, New Zealand, Cliff Van Eaton, Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey, books about honey, worldwide perspective on beekeeping, Radio New Zealand

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