Manuka Honey for Joint Pain, Arthritis, and Inflammation


11 minutes

Essential Takeaways

Arthritis affects about 20% of Americans and is the general name for a group of diseases in the joints. It is best characterised by painful swelling and inflammation which can be short-term and curable, or more chronic and severe.

Manuka honey has anti-inflammatory benefits which can help to ease arthritic pain and speed up the healing process. It has also been found to help joints retain the important cartilage between bones that reduces friction and deterioration.

The best way to take manuka honey for joint pain is raw off the spoon! But we have plenty more creative suggestions for getting your sweet fix while managing your joint pain naturally.

Almost 20% of adults in the US have been diagnosed with arthritis¹.

In fact, arthritis is the leading cause of disability², and affects more women than men¹.

Both arthritis, and joint pain more generally can seriously impact our day to day lives. But we don’t always need medication to manage it.

There are natural alternatives for preventing and managing some types of arthritis.

And with its impressive anti-inflammatory properties, manuka honey is certainly one of them.

In this guide to using honey for joint pain and arthritis:

The Causes and Treatment of Joint Pain and Arthritis

Since bones can’t bend, our joints are what give us mobility, and they’re actually quite complex things.

They are made up of³: 

  • Bones

  • Ligaments which connect the bones

  • Tendons which connect muscle to bones and control the joint movement

  • Cartilage which covers the surface of the bone at a joint to reduce friction

  • Bursae (fluid) which cushions the bones as they meet

  • Synovial membrane which produces a lubricant for the joint

There are a few different kinds of joints which are characterised by whether they move and how.

For example, hinge joints can be found in the elbow and knee and allow one motion, whereas pivot joints are found in the neck for twisting and rotating.

Regardless of the type of joint, people can get pain just about anywhere. This can be caused by things like injury, exercise, stretching, tearing (sprain), and dislocation, which can lead to inflammation³ (which we’ll discuss a bit more later).

Arthritis is a very common cause of joint pain.

In fact, the word 'arthritis' literally means 'joint pain'⁴ and is the general term used for a group of diseases and conditions².

There are over 100 types of arthritis and some even affect organs in the body as well as joints².

The classic signs of arthritis are swelling, pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. Anyone can experience arthritis, though it can get worse with age.

Here are the most common types of arthritis and what they mean for the joints.


This type of arthritis is a disease of the entire joint rather than just one element. It weakens the bones, damages cartilage, and causes painful inflammation².

There doesn’t seem to be one specific cause of osteoarthritis. Studies have suggested things like ageing, being overweight, history of injury or surgery, overuse, malformed joints, and genetics⁵.

The usual treatments prescribed for osteoarthritis include a healthy diet, exercise, pain relief medication, and in more severe cases, surgery⁵.

Autoimmune inflammatory arthritis

A healthy immune system will trigger inflammation in order to heal itself. Autoimmune inflammatory arthritis (like rheumatoid arthritis, the most common type), is when the immune system goes a little haywire².

It attacks healthy tissue and can cause widespread inflammation, unable to decipher between itself and the threat.

All we have are educated guesses on the cause of this kind of arthritis. It’s believed to be an environmental trigger like stress, a virus, or smoking². More recent research has connected the gut microbiome to autoimmune disease⁶.

It’s difficult to 'cure' this type of arthritis, so treatment is usually designed to reduce and slow symptoms. A healthy diet and regular exercise as well as plenty of sleep, less stress, pain relief medication and anti-inflammatories are the usual recommendations⁷.

Infectious arthritis

As the name suggests, infectious arthritis is triggered by a fungal, bacterial or viral infection usually elsewhere in the body that travels to the joint⁸.

This type of arthritis can hit quite quickly and cause fever, swelling, pain and inflammation. It usually goes away within a couple of weeks with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories².  

Gout (metabolic arthritis)

Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid in the joints, a waste product the body produces when it breaks down certain foods like red meat, seafood, and alcohol⁹.

The body usually gets rid of this acid, but if there’s a problem, it can cause sudden and severe pain in joints.

These bouts don’t happen very often and people usually manage them without medication. But for those that experience chronic symptoms, the recommendation is to eat mainly plant-based foods low in purine (the substance that causes acid build-up) with plenty of fruit and vegetables².

These aren’t the only types of arthritis, but they (and most other kinds) all share a key symptom in common: inflammation.

Let’s explore this in more detail and why a natural product like manuka honey could help.

Manuka Honey for Arthritis

We’ve seen that inflammation is a key symptom of arthritis. So before we look at honey specifically, let’s get clear on exactly what happens when something is inflamed.

What is inflammation, exactly?

Inflammation is a critical part of the body’s natural healing system. When we hurt ourselves, blood cells and proteins rush to the damaged area to start the repair¹⁰.

These cells clear the area from debris and form new tissue. This increase in blood and repair cells can cause pain and swelling, and even pus in some cases.

As the healing takes effect, the inflammation and swelling calms down, and in most cases all signs of the problem disappear - magic!

Of course, inflammation can sometimes be a problem. If the immune system isn’t working properly, it can trigger the inflammatory response where it’s not needed. This can be consistent and uncomfortable, and often a long-term problem.

Psoriasis and eczema are examples of skin inflammation conditions. Arthritis, as we’re discussing here, is an inflammatory condition in the joints.

Can honey help? Let’s see.

Manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory benefits

Studies have shown that honey has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.

And none more so than manuka honey.

Manuka honey contains polyphenols and flavonoids that behave like antioxidants, regulating inflammation¹¹, cleaning and clearing damaged tissues, boosting repair, and helping the immune system do its job.

It’s the unique combination of naturally-occurring compounds found in manuka honey that is associated with its impressive benefits:

  • Leptosperin: This comes from the mānuka plant specifically, and is associated with boosting immune system health¹².

  • Methyl syringate: A powerful antioxidant which helps reduce the risk of disease and the impact of harmful cells on the body¹³.

  • Myeloperoxidase: A compound associated with reducing inflammation and boosting hypohalous acid production to destroy pathogens¹⁴.

  • Methylglyoxal (MGO): Possibly the most famous of the compounds and found on manuka honey jars, MGO is the main marker used to show the antibacterial potency of a batch¹⁵.

Studies have found that manuka honey can have a positive impact on our immune system by giving our bodies the compounds they need to fight off invaders, manage inflammation, and repair itself¹².

It makes sense that scientists might be interested in using manuka honey for arthritis. So, have there been any specific studies?

Yes, there have been.  

“We know that the bioactive compounds of honey exert chondroprotective activity by counteracting the homeostatic dysregulation of the joint. Therefore, its use as a therapeutic tool in the management of OA [osteoarthritis] is widely supported, as it can shift major OA-related signalling pathways.”

Wondering what this means, exactly?

'Chondroprotective activity' refers to the prevention of cartilage breaking down. The cartilage between our bones is important for reducing friction and keeping joints strong.

Cartilage breakdown is a classic symptom of some types of arthritis.

So this study has found that honey can help joints retain this cartilage and prevent deterioration. And this can have wide-ranging impacts on people’s lives:

“This adjuvant non-pharmacological strategy might relieve pain, regulate joint homeostasis and repair AC [articular cartilage], slowing down the OA [osteoarthritis] progression; thus, reducing physical limitations, disabilities, mental stress and the socioeconomic burden commonly seen in individuals with this chronic disease.”

In other words, manuka honey can help patients manage their arthritis medically and improve their lives more generally as a result.

High-grade manuka honey can work wonders for both internal¹⁷ and external conditions.

(Just ask Rik who used it on an infected ankle).

“It's the best! It helps with my wounds, gastritis, and digestion! I just feel better when I take it!”

Here’s why that matters when treating arthritis and joint pain.

Traditional Treatment vs Honey for Joint Pain and Arthritis

In the cases where patients don’t need surgery or strong medications, a natural option like manuka honey:

  • Is more readily available over the counter, as no prescription is needed.

  • Is all-natural (depending on the kind you buy) with no nasty side effects.

  • Is a promising alternative to antibiotics which are having a limited impact in the face of the resistance crisis¹⁸.

Studies have also found that manuka honey helps you sleep¹⁹, regulates hunger, prepares your body for exercise, helps it to recover afterwards, and balances hormones. These are all part of the healthy lifestyle that doctors recommend to arthritis patients.

Using manuka honey is a great way to reduce inflammation in the joints whilst also dosing your body with a boost of natural goodness too.

“I take 2 tsps a day and have had great results with my inflammatory issues. Can’t recommend it enough!”

“I use this for medicinal purposes. And boy it works. Have managed to stay away from antibiotics.”

See more reviews.

5 Ways to Take Manuka Honey for Arthritis and Joint Pain

The best and simplest way to get all the health benefits of manuka honey is to eat it straight off the spoon!

But if you want some more creative ideas, we’re here for it. Just ensure you don’t opt for these foods (or too many of them) which can exacerbate arthritis symptoms²⁰:

  • Processed and red meats. These can increase inflammation.

  • Beer and alcohol. These can cause a build-up in uric acid and lead to gout.

  • Seafood like mussels and scallops, for the same reason.

  • 'Bad' fats like butter, cheese, and fried foods.

With all the can’ts out the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

Some sources recommend using manuka honey on the affected area topically, as a massage balm. There isn’t much evidence for this working yet, and since manuka honey can benefit the body in all sorts of other ways, we think eating it is best.

It also helps that it tastes delicious…

  1. Oatmeal with manuka honey and cinnamon

Like honey, cinnamon has been used for healing for centuries and has antioxidant properties²¹.

In fact, studies have found it to have the highest antioxidant activity out of 26 different spices surveyed. It’s also believed to contain anti-inflammatory flavonoid compounds, too.

Wait for your oatmeal to cool and then scoop some manuka honey on top. Sprinkle your cinnamon to finish and you have a delicious, filling, and healing breakfast.

For some bonus anti-arthritis kicks, add nuts and seeds on top like almonds, walnuts, and flaxseed.

  1. Salmon with a manuka honey marinade

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and trout are believed to contain beneficial nutrients for managing arthritis²⁰.

Wait for your salmon to cool before dolloping manuka honey on top to serve. Olive oil is also good for joint pain, as is garlic, so if you can incorporate these into your meal, extra points!

  1. Fruit salad with manuka honey

Berries are packed full of antioxidants and are a healthy way of getting a little sweet treat that also helps arthritis²⁰.

Mix a handful of strawberries, blueberries and cherries in a bowl, and top with a scoop of manuka honey.

This should give your sweet tooth a nice hit and keep you full between meals.

  1. Leafy green salad with manuka honey

It’ll be no surprise to hear that leafy greens are excellent for relieving pain and giving your body the vitamins it needs to heal properly.

Try our manuka honey salad dressing recipe with your favourite leafy greens on the side of your meal or with some lean meat or fish to pack in the joint-loving nutrients.

  1. Ginger, turmeric and honey health shot

Ginger and turmeric are superfoods and are often recommended in smoothies and wellness shots. So it makes sense that they are good for arthritis, too²².

Premium manuka honey is thick, so you may need to mix it in cold water first. Add your ginger and turmeric and bottoms up!

There are so many delicious and creative ways to use manuka honey.

Here are almost 200 ideas!

Treat Joint Pain and Arthritis Naturally with Premium Manuka Honey

When buying manuka honey for medical purposes like arthritis, make sure you opt for a high UMF™ grade (we recommend at least UMF™ 15+ or higher).

The UMF™ grading system is a rigorous independent system that verifies a batch of manuka honey is pure, raw, and fresh. Unfortunately, with so many fakes on the shelves, this wondrous superfood needed its own accreditation.

All our manuka honeys are UMF™ graded and fully traceable. They’re also non-GMO, glyphosate free, and come in sustainable packaging.

Shop your manuka honey for joint pain.

Unsure which grade is right for you?

Take the quiz!


¹ Arthritis in adults aged 18 and over, CDC Gov.

² What is arthritis?

³ Health lesson: learning about joints, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

What is arthritis and what causes it? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Osteoarthritis, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The gut microbiota and autoimmune diseases, National Library of Medicine.

What is autoimmune arthritis? Medical News Today.

Infectious arthritis,


¹⁰ What is inflammation? National Library of Medicine.

¹¹ Honey and its nutritional and anti-inflammatory value, National Library of Medicine.

¹² Immunochemical authentication of manuka honey, ACS Publications.

¹³ Honey and health: a review, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁴ Role of myeloperoxidase in inflammation, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁵ Effects of methylglyoxal, Frontiers in Microbiology.

¹⁶ Therapeutic potential of bioactive compounds in honey, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁷ Manuka honey for gastric reflux, acid reflux and GERD, New Zealand Honey Co.

¹⁸ Antibiotic resistance crisis, Cleveland Clinic.

¹⁹ Honey, propolis, and royal jelly, National Library of Medicine.

²⁰ 5 worst foods to eat for arthritis, Arthritis Care.

²¹ Benefits of honey and cinnamon for arthritis, Very Well Health.

²² Foods for arthritis, Healthline.

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