Is Manuka Honey Antiviral? (And Can It Cure COVID?)


10 minutes, 30 seconds

Essential Takeaways

Manuka honey is antiviral, antibacterial and antimicrobial. This means it can fight different kinds of infections and offers an exciting natural alternative to traditional medications.

The research into using honey for COVID-19 is still very new and evolving. There is no definitive answer yet, but we know that manuka honey performs well against viruses that behave similarly to COVID-19. Unless you’re allergic to bees, there’s no downside in trying manuka honey for COVID.

It’s crucial when buying antiviral manuka honey to opt for premium and certified brands. This will ensure you get a genuine product and not something contaminated or diluted. Our honeys are UMF™ graded to ensure authenticity, purity, and freshness.

People have been using manuka honey as a medicine long before we knew whether it actually worked.

There’s a reason why honey has been associated with wellness for thousands of years¹. It turns out that manuka honey really can heal.  

Research has shown that manuka honey is antibacterial - but is it antiviral?

Are they essentially the same thing? Can manuka honey cure viruses like COVID? What’s the best manuka honey to use against viruses? And how do you use it?

Get all that and more, right here.

In this guide to antiviral manuka honey:

What Makes Manuka Honey Antiviral (and Antibiotic)

First up, let’s get clear on the difference between “antibacterial” and “antiviral”, as these terms are often used interchangeably.

We know that manuka honey has antibacterial properties², so does this mean it’s also antiviral?

Bacteria are single cells that can survive alone, inside or outside the body³. Antibiotics are medications that help the immune system fight these cells⁴.

Most bacteria are harmless and some even help our bodies to function properly⁵.

Viruses infect us by entering our cells and multiplying³. They can’t survive without a host (us) and usually cause disease⁵. Antibiotics won’t work on viral infections, and since viruses are much smaller than bacteria and reproduce inside cells, they have historically been much harder to treat⁵.

Both bacteria and viruses are microbes⁵. Since research has found that manuka honey is antimicrobial⁶, this suggests that it can be used against both types of invaders.

This is of particular interest to scientists and the general public in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic given the likelihood that we’ll face more viral pandemics in the future. To add to that, antimicrobial resistance is also a huge concern.

“The threat of antimicrobial resistance to human health has prompted interest in complex, natural products with antimicrobial activity. Honey has been an effective topical wound treatment throughout history, predominantly due to its broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity.

Manuka honey has broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, and unlike traditional antibiotics, resistance to its killing effects has not been reported.”

Scientists have tried to isolate the chemical components in manuka honey that give it this antimicrobial effect.

They’ve found that it’s the unique combination of multiple compounds which gives manuka honey its impressive healing potential, including:

  • Leptosperin: From the mānuka plant, it is associated with immune system health⁷.

  • Methyl syringate: A powerful antioxidant⁸.

  • Myeloperoxidase: Associated with easing inflammation⁹ and triggering the production of hypohalous acids which destroy pathogens¹⁰.

  • Methylglyoxal (MGO): Famously associated with manuka honey, MGO is the main marker of its antimicrobial potency¹¹. You’ll often see MGO numbers on manuka honey jars to indicate how potent it is.

Fighting viruses like colds and flu is probably one of the most common reasons why people buy manuka honey.

But colds aren’t the only kinds of virus that manuka honey can help with, which we’ll explore next.

Can manuka honey boost your immune system?

Yes, manuka honey can help boost your immune system. Research has shown that it activates an immune response to infection, protects cells against damage, induces the production of antibodies, and helps kickstart the tissue repair process⁸.  

Does honey fight infection?

Yes, honey has been found to fight different types of infections like sinus and fungal infections. Manuka honey is particularly effective at destroying microbes, repairing cells, keeping inflamed areas moist and clean, and helping the immune system to function optimally¹².

Is honey good for the flu virus?

Yes, manuka honey is particularly effective when fighting colds, flu, sore throats, and even strep throat. Using natural alternatives approved by your doctor can help your body heal itself without medical intervention.

Which Viruses Is Manuka Honey Effective Against?

At the time of writing, research has found promising results testing honey, and specifically manuka honey, against the following viruses.

Influenza viruses

Manuka honey has been found to limit the replication and spread of influenza virus cells, which could help save thousands of lives every year¹³.

“Our results showed that honey, in general, and particularly manuka honey, has potent inhibitory activity against the influenza virus, demonstrating a potential medicinal value.”

Varicella-zoster virus (chicken pox and shingles)

Researchers have suggested that manuka honey is an affordable treatment to ease the symptoms of chicken pox and shingles:

“Our results showed that honey has significant in vitro anti-VZV [varicella-zoster virus] activity. As honey is convenient for skin application, is readily available and inexpensive, honey may be an excellent remedy to treat zoster rash…”

This is particularly useful in developing countries with limited access to healthcare¹⁴.


Adenoviruses can affect the eyes, lungs, intestines, urinary tract, and nervous system; causing cold-like symptoms¹⁵.

In a study that looked at other honey types as well as manuka, this special honey was still found to come out on top.

“Manuka honey… at a concentration of 10% was effective in preventing the development of viral cytopathic effect of each of virus [the structural changes a virus causes when it attacks].

It is concluded from the findings in this study that honey is likely to be an effective antiviral treatment for the therapy of localised viral infections.”

Herpes simplex virus

Commonly referred to as “herpes”, this virus causes unpleasant sores and blisters - often on the mouth - but also sometimes elsewhere on the body.

There’s no cure for herpes, but the condition can be managed to reduce these swellings¹⁶.

Whilst scientists have found honey to stop or limit the spread of this virus, manuka honey has been shown to actually destroy it¹⁷.

Studies have also found medical-grade honey to reduce pain and itchiness in sores, heal them faster, and be the preferred treatment of patients who are used to more traditional medications¹⁸.

Respiratory syncytial virus

In healthy adults, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes mild cold-like symptoms.

But for babies, children, older people, or those with weaker immune systems, RSV can be life-threatening¹⁹.

Fortunately, high-grade manuka honey may be able to ease the symptoms.

“Respiratory syncytial virus is the most frequent cause of hospitalization for viral respiratory infections in infants and young children worldwide.

It is concluded from the findings in this study that honey may possibly be an effective antiviral treatment for the therapy of respiratory viral infections, and provides justification for future in vitro studies and clinical trials.”

Rubella virus

Rubella, also known as German measles, causes rashes and swollen lymph nodes - mostly in children²⁰. It can be a dangerous virus for babies if mothers are infected during pregnancy.

Honey has been found to limit the spread of the virus and even kill the cells²¹.

Rubella vaccines are considered safe²² and are widely available in the Western world. But for areas with less access to healthcare, alternatives are in high demand.

Manuka Honey and COVID-19

Naturally, with all the buzz about the antiviral properties of manuka honey, research has begun into its potential use against COVID-19.

So, what have they found so far?

The short answer is that scientists believe there to be potential²³.

But since both COVID-19 and specific studies with honey are so new and still evolving, there’s no definitive evidence that manuka honey can cure COVID (at the time of writing).

“It is already proved that honey plays a potential role against several enveloped viruses. Honey may be beneficial for patients with COVID-19 which is caused by an enveloped virus SARS-CoV-2 by boosting the host immune system, improving comorbid conditions, and antiviral activities.

Therefore, we can say that honey may have a protective/beneficial effect on COVID-19.”

Whilst we can’t yet definitively say that manuka honey cures or eases COVID-19 symptoms, we do have plenty of evidence that it helps the body fight viruses and infections that behave in similar ways. We discussed some in the previous section.

“Honey has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) as a first-line treatment for cough due to upper respiratory tract infection, which is the main well-identified COVID-19 symptom.

We recommend honey as a potential compatible antiseptic prophylaxis to help protect against the virus.

Honey might safely disinfect the throat and trap virus particles, beside a major advantage that it has no side effects and [is] of great nutritional value.”

There’s no real downside to taking manuka honey for COVID-19 symptoms, and you just might get rid of that nasty cough faster.

Disclaimer: It’s always best to get a doctor’s advice before using anything for medical purposes, even something all-natural like raw manuka honey.

Which Antiviral Manuka Honey is Right for You?

In one word? UMF™.

The unique health and wellness properties of manuka honey have led to colossal global demand and unfortunately, plenty of fakes on the market.

To protect the integrity of genuine manuka honey and to help consumers verify what they’re buying, the official Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) developed a grading system.

A batch of manuka honey is independently tested against four chemical markers before it is awarded a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF™) grade.

When you buy a jar of manuka honey with a UMF™ grade, you know you’re getting:

  • A genuine monofloral manuka honey (no other floral source).

  • A pure product (no other ingredients added).

  • A raw product (no harmful processing that strips its beneficial properties).

  • A manuka honey produced and packaged in New Zealand.

UMF™-graded manuka honey is the most regulated honey in the world. And since honey is the third most-faked food, if you’re after the good stuff, it’s important to stick to these certified labels.

This way, you know you’re giving your body the same premium manuka honey that scientists have associated with high antimicrobial activity.

1 ingredient, 2000 natural compounds.

The higher the UMF™ grade, the more potent the antimicrobial properties.

We generally recommend at least UMF™ 15+ for medical use. For more acute viral infections, it’s best to get the most potent honey that you can.

If you need a little more help, check out our dedicated guide on how much UMF™ is enough.

Or find some inspiration in our customer testimonials. You can read about how customers have used different grades for different medical complaints and how they compare.


4 Ways to Use Antiviral Manuka Honey

The best way to get the most out of your antiviral manuka honey is to lick it straight off the spoon! 

But if you’re feeling a bit more creative than that, you can take manuka honey in many different ways.

(In fact, we’ve come up with over 170 ways you can use manuka honey).

Here are just a few that are perfect for seasonal viruses.

  1. Add it to your morning cuppa

Adding manuka honey to a drink is a fantastic way to enjoy its flavour and health benefits.

You can simply add a tablespoon to your morning coffee or tea. Just be sure to let it cool to room temperature first to retain all the key health benefits.

  1. Make an immunity-boosting drink

Why not go all-out and make a stronger immunity-boosting drink? In this simple recipe, we unite all the usual wellness heroes into one delicious brew:

Get the recipe here.

  1. Take your winter warmers up a notch

Love a good hot drink but keen to try something new? Here are some of our favourite warming drinks for when it’s a little chilly outside:

  • Matcha latte with manuka honey

  • Turmeric latte with manuka honey

  • Soy vanilla chai with manuka honey

  • Caramel pumpkin spice latte with manuka honey

Check out the recipes here.

  1. Pack in the nutrients with a smoothie

Smoothies are such a quick and easy way to get a nutrient-packed, fresh hit of fruity goodness.

And the best part?

There are so many flavour combinations waiting for you to discover them.

Here are just a few ideas.

Happy making!

Get Better, Faster With Premium Manuka Honey from New Zealand Honey Co.

Make sure you get the best antiviral manuka honey for the quickest relief by shopping for premium UMF™-graded manuka honey from New Zealand Honey Co.

Here’s what our customers think.

“Best honey money can buy. Top quality NZ Honey Co honey is tasty and good for health.”

“I am extremely pleased with the benefits of Manuka Honey. Also New Zealand Honey Co. is an excellent, efficient company to work with.”

“I love your honey! It helps with my digestion, and gastritis. It helps with wound healing! So many things!!”

See our accreditations.

Shop the range here.


¹ Honey: its medicine properties, Science Direct.

² Antibacterial activity of manuka honey, National Library of Medicine.

³ Bacterial vs viral infection, Health Direct.

How antivirals and antibiotics differ, Baptisjax.

Bacterial and viral infections, WebMD.

Characterising the mechanism of an ancient microbial, manuka honey…, American Society for Microbiology.

Immunochemical authentication of manuka honey, ACS Publications.

Honey and health: a review, National Library of Medicine.

Role of myeloperoxidase in inflammation…, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁰ Role of hypohalous acids…, National Library of Medicine.

¹¹ Effect of methylglyoxal on multi-drug resistant [pathogens], Frontiers in Microbiology.

¹² Manuka honey uses and benefits, Healthline.

¹³ Anti-influenza viral effect of honey in vitro, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁴ In vitro antiviral activity of honey against varicella zoster virus, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁵ What is adenovirus, Cedars-Sinai.

¹⁶ Herpes fact sheet, Yale Medicine.

¹⁷ The sensitivity of adenovirus and herpes simplex to honey, The University of Waikato.

¹⁸ Medical-grade honey and cold sores, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁹ RSV, CDC.

²⁰ Rubella symptoms and causes, Mayo Clinic.

²¹ Traditional and modern uses of natural honey, National Library of Medicine.

²² Safety information for measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, CDC.

²³ Prospects of honey in fighting against COVID-19, National Library of Medicine.

Your wellness journey starts with a spoonful a day.


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