9 Minute Read
Some types of honey have huge potential in medical use. Others don’t have much at all. The differences between the types can be significant.
Research has found manuka honey to be the best for medical use, given its unique antibacterial, antioxidant, and apoptopic properties.
Medical grade honey products don’t always contain much honey, and sometimes have other ingredients too. So it’s best to investigate exactly what you need and whether there’s another way to use it.
Please note: This article should not be used in place of medical advice. Please consult a medical professional about your specific needs before using any product for medical purposes.
“Due to the presence of a plethora of bioactive compounds, as well as unique physicochemical properties, honey has been widely used as medicine throughout human history.”
- Honey-based medicinal formulations, a critical review.
If you’re thinking of buying medical grade manuka honey, there’s a few things you should know first:
- While we have the evidence that honey has potential in medicine, not all honeys are created equal. You need to look for specific types.
- The medical grade honey products on offer may not give you exactly what you’re looking for. There are other ways to use it.
- It’s key to understand what the good stuff in honey actually is, how to identify it and how to use it, for the best chance at success.
That’s what this guide is all about.
By the end, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the science behind medical grade honey, how to find the good stuff, and ways to use it at home.
In this guide to medical grade manuka honey:
- The evidence for using medical grade honey
- The best way to use medical grade manuka honey
- How to buy medical grade honey
- How to make your own medical grade honey dressing
- Where to order your medical grade honey
- Medical grade honey FAQs
The Evidence For Using Medical Grade Honey
“Evidence from Stone Age paintings shows treatment of disease with bee product such as honey originated from 8000 years ago. Ancient scrolls, tablets and books-Sumerian clay tablets (6200 BC), Egyptian papyri (1900–1250 BC), Veda (Hindu scripture) 5000 years, Holy Koran, Bible, and Hippocrates (460–357 BC) illustrated that honey had been widely used as a drug.”
- Honey and health: a review of recent clinical research, National Library of Medicine.
The potential healing properties of honey have been a hot topic for centuries.
Used traditionally for the treatment of things like asthma, throat infections, tuberculosis, fatigue, hepatitis, worms, piles, eczema, healing burns, ulcers and wounds, and as a dietary supplement, the chemical composition of honey has fascinated scientists.
As technology evolved, they could finally investigate whether there was really any substance to its enduring reputation.
Was there truly something special about honey?
What exactly is the good stuff in medical grade honey?
“Evidence indicates that honey can exert several health-beneficial effects including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antidiabetic, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous system protective effects.”
- Honey and health: a review of recent clinical research, National Library of Medicine.
It’s believed that honey contains around 200 substances, including compounds like proteins, vitamins, amino acids (all the essential ones), minerals and organic acids.
Pure honey like ours also contains flavonoid and polyphenol compounds, which are strong antioxidants.
But what does all this mean in practice?
Let’s break it down.
- Antioxidant activity: Antioxidants help our bodies protect themselves. The contents of antioxidants in honey drastically varies between the different types, with manuka honey at the upper end of the spectrum.
- Antimicrobial activity: The chemical properties of honey make it difficult for bacteria to survive on the skin. So using it on wounds helps keep them clean and clear of nasty microbes.
Manuka honey has been found to have the highest level of non-peroxide (antibacterial) activity, a unique quality originating from the manuka plant itself.
- Apoptotic activity: Apoptosis refers to the programming of cells to die when they become harmful or unhelpful to the body. A characteristic of cancer cells is issues with this, and treatments often look to boost it.
Honey has been observed to do this in cancer cells. Used in conjunction with other therapies, it has had some success in reducing tumour sizes.
- Anti-inflammatory activity: The phenolic content of honey is believed to be responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. That along with its sugar and non-sugar content helps the body take care of itself and power-up its immunity.
This impressive spread of protective and regenerative properties explains why honey is one of the oldest known medicinal therapies in human history.
But as mentioned, honeys made from different plant species can vary up to 100 times over in their levels of antibacterial activity.
Medical grade honey tends to be from the nectar of specific flowers, with very little processing between hive and home.
Research has found that manuka honey has higher levels of antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties than other types of honey. And that this is down to the presence of methylglyoxal, a compound derived from the nectar of manuka flowers.
This has made manuka honey the favourite for medical use.
The Best Way To Use Medical Grade Manuka Honey
“Medical-grade honey refers to honey that has been sterilised by gamma radiation, provides an indicator of the level of the honey’s antibacterial activity, is registered for medical purposes and meets national requirements for medical product labelling.
Medical-grade honey can be used as an ointment or gel, or impregnated into wound dressings.”
- Wound management: medical grade honey. Wounds Australia Journal.
There’s plenty of evidence that medical grade honey products work for various medical conditions.
But they aren’t pure manuka honey. Things have been added to them. And the honey has been processed in a few different ways.
So if you want a natural solution to your medical problem, these may not be the best fit.
Here are some examples of medical grade honey products on the market, and the types of additives you’ll find in them:
- Honey-based gels: These tend to mix manuka honey with emollients like myristyl myristate, plantacare, lanolin, propylene glycol, PEG-400, hydrocolloids, and/or plant waxes.
- Honey dressings: Manuka honey is often mixed with polymers, sodium alginate, purified water, lanolin, and other natural agents.
- Honey-based ointments: Can contain less than 50% manuka honey, often topped up with lanolin, sunflower oil, cod liver oil, and zinc oxide.
- Honey-based creams: Some Medihoney creams contain only 30% manuka honey. Other brands can be 25% or less.
Commercial medical grade honey products can contain as little as 13% manuka honey.
So why not buy a jar of manuka honey and make them yourself?
That’s the best way to get 100% of the good stuff and no added extras.
How To Buy Medical Grade Manuka Honey
So we know that manuka honey is the best for medical purposes.
But what else do you need to look for when buying the best honey for medical use?
1: The highest UMF™ and MGO grading
As a scarce and coveted product, New Zealand manuka honey has its own grading system. This protects you from the many fakes on the market.
The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) created this grading system to identify genuine manuka honey.
The UMF™ and MGO (methylglyoxal) grade refers to the concentration of compounds found only in manuka honey and works on a spectrum. The higher the concentration, the higher the grade.
Look for: Any grade from UMF™10+ upwards is suitable. For the best results, stick to UMF™ 24+ or UMF™ 26+.
2: Raw honey
The naturally-occurring enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in manuka honey are what have been associated with its medical uses.
So when honeys are processed and heated, these can be compromised.
Opting for raw honey ensures you get all the goodness as nature intended.
3: Monofloral honey
Honeys can be made using the nectar of numerous plants (multifloral) or just one (monofloral).
For the greatest concentration of good stuff, you want monofloral manuka honey.
4: Glyphosate free
This agricultural pesticide can leach into honey, and it’s not something you want to ingest.
Bees can travel up to 5km from their hive so it’s difficult to control the crops within their reach, so look for companies that are certified glyphosate free (like us!)
5: Evidence of production and packaging in New Zealand
If you want the real deal, nothing but authentic NZ honey, then you need to check its origins.
Has anything been added? Where was it certified and packaged? Is there any room for fraud?
It shouldn’t be difficult to verify the claims and certifications of an honest company. For example, we list all of ours and our independent testing partners here.
Feels like a long list of requirements, doesn’t it?
Well luckily, you can get all those boxes checked with our range, right here.
How To Make Your Own Medical Grade Honey Dressing
Remember to always check with a doctor before treating any medical condition.
Steps to make your own medical dressing using honey:
1. Wash your hands, wound, and supplies
Always start with sterile hands, a clean wound, and sterile applicators like cotton buds or gauze.
2.(For surface-level wounds) Apply honey to the dressing first
To keep the mess to a minimum, apply your high-grade manuka honey to the dressing you’re going to use. You can apply this to your skin.
3. For deeper wounds) Pack the honey into the wound directly
For deeper wounds, you want to get the honey into the skin. So carefully pack the wound with the honey directly.
4. Use a clean and dry dressing over the honey
Once your honey is in place, you’ll need to cover it with a bandage or dressing to keep it in place. An occlusive dressing (air and water-tight) is the best because it provides a total seal.
5. Wash your hands
Wash your hands and supplies thoroughly after use.
6. Replace the dressing regularly
Keep an eye on the dressing and repeat this process to change it when needed. This should become less regular as your wound heals.
Remember to keep a close eye on the wound as it heals and if you see anything that doesn’t look right, stop what you’re doing and contact your doctor.
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Medical Grade Honey FAQs
Quick answers to your burning medical grade honey questions.
What is medical grade honey?
Medical grade honey is honey that has been deemed suitable for medical use based on its chemical composition. Typically this is manuka honey, graded at least UMF™10+.
What is the best medical grade honey?
Manuka honey is considered to have the greatest health benefits with its unique antibacterial and antioxidant properties. The highest UMF™ grades of manuka honey are therefore regarded as the best medical grade honeys (UMF™ 24+ and UMF™ 26+).
Can you use store bought honey on wounds?
Some store-bought honeys won’t have the same health benefits that others do. The best honeys to use on wounds are the highest UMF™ grade NZ manuka honeys.
What’s the difference between honey and Medihoney?
Medihoney is a brand of medical grade honey products. These are made for specific medical uses and usually contain some honey along with other ingredients.
Where can you buy medical grade honey?
You can buy medical grade honeys in stores or online. Our range of raw, pure manuka honey is ideal for medical purposes. Look for UMF™10+ and above (the higher the better).
What’s the difference between medical grade vs. regular honey?
Medical grade honey contains more antibacterial and antioxidant properties than other honeys. The chemical composition of honey varies between the types, so some are better suited to medical use than others.
What is the best medical grade honey for wounds?
Technically, UMF™10+ manuka honey is suitable for wounds. But for the best results, look for the highest grades: UMF™ 24+ and UMF™ 26+. These have greater concentrations of the good stuff that helps to heal wounds.
Sources referenced in the text:
Honey-based medicinal formulations, a critical review. Applied Sciences, MDPI.
Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases, a review. National Library of Medicine.
Health & honey, a review. National Library of Medicine.
Is manuka honey good for eczema? New Zealand Honey Co.
Manuka honey for treating burns. New Zealand Honey Co.
Manuka honey wound care: will it help you recover? New Zealand Honey Co.
Manuka honey and diabetes: what you need to know. New Zealand Honey Co.
Amino acids. National Library of Medicine.
What’s the deal with organic honey? New Zealand Honey Co.
Flavonoids, an overview. National Library of Medicine.
Health benefits of polyphenols, a concise review. National Library of Medicine.
Understanding antioxidants. Harvard Medical School.
Antioxidant activity as biomarker of honey variety. National Library of Medicine.
Antioxidant properties and antimicrobial activity of manuka honey versus Polish honeys. National Library of Medicine.
Oxidoreductases, an overview. Science Direct.
Hydrogen peroxide. PubChem, National Library of Medicine.
UMF™ vs. MGO vs. K-Factor vs. Bio-active vs. MGS vs. NPA: confused about manuka honey? New Zealand Honey Co.
Non-peroxide antibacterial activity in some New Zealand honeys. Journal of Apicultural Research.
Mitochondria. National Library of Medicine.
Oral administration of aloe vera and honey reduces Walker tumour growth by decreasing cell proliferation and increating apoptosis in tumour tissue. National Library of Medicine.
Evidence summary: wound management with medical grade honey. Wounds Australia Journal.
Why is manuka honey more expensive? New Zealand Honey Co.
Research on honey. Dr Peter Molan.
The origin of methylglyoxal in New Zealand manuka honey. National Library of Medicine.
UMF™ honey and the UMFHA. New Zealand Honey Co.
Fake manuka honey: what you need to know. New Zealand Honey Co.
How much UMF™ is enough? New Zealand Honey Co.
Monofloral vs. Multifloral manuka honey: why does it matter? New Zealand Honey Co.
Our honey is glyphosate free. New Zealand Honey Co.
Glyphosate food testing report. FDN.
176 Ways to use manuka honey. New Zealand Honey Co.