Manuka honey is a sticky golden indulgence that doesn't just taste delicious on your toast, it can also boost your health. Originally produced in New Zealand, Britain's first Mauka maker, Tregothnan, based in Cornwall, is now offering pots of its honey for £55 a jar. Manufactured in special beehives costing £5000 each, the Manuka commands a high price because it possesses proven medicinal qualities – as well as being a treat for those with a sweet tooth.
What exactly is manuka honey?
Manuka is a mono-floral honey, so-called because the bees that make that it only gather pollen from the Manuka bush (Leptospermum Scoparium). The plant is indigenous to New Zealand but Britain and the USA are both beginning to grow it as well. Not all Manuka honey has healing properties – the type to keep in the medicine cupboard is that which has an "active" quality, meaning that its enzymes create chemical reactions within the honey. This quality is detected through laboratory testing in order to gain the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) rating which adorns jars of medical-grade honey.
Professor Peter Molan of the Honey Research Unit of the University of Waikato, New Zealand, says "Manuka has a very broad spectrum of action. It works on bacteria, fungi and protozoa. We haven't found anything it doesn't work on among infectious organisms."
Why is it so potent?
One of the most radical uses of Manuka is as a preventative for MRSA in open wounds. The sugars present in the honey create the effect of osmosis; whereby sugars in the honey attract all the water particles in the wound, depriving infectious bacteria of their vital source for growth. This reduces the likeliness of the infection spreading. Hydrogen Peroxide has also been found within the honey and acts as a anti-bacterial substance. The bees release an enzyme which in water converts sugar and oxygen to glucoronic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Manuka honey has a pH of 3.2 – 4.5 which is low enough to reduce the development of many pathogens. Manuka was licensed for use by the NHS to fight MRSA in cancer patients in 2004 after trials in Manchester's Christie Hospital.