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Manuka honey is a form of monofloral honey that is produced by bees that feed on the flowers of the manuka plant, better known as the tea tree in some regions of the world. A similar honey is made in Australia with bees which feed on the jellybush. According to studies that have been conducted on this honey, it has a few interesting properties.
The tea tree is known to be antibacterial and antifungal, and it has been used for decades as a source of things like mouth washes and disinfectants. Manuka honey is thought to harness the properties of the tea tree, combining them with the already naturally antibacterial properties of honey. In addition to tasting good, this honey can also be used in wound dressing to prevent infection or fungal colonization, and some people believe that consuming it is also beneficial.
Although people may find the idea of putting honey on wounds a bit strange, it has actually been used in wound dressings for thousands of years. Honey is a natural antiseptic, speeding healing while it protects wounds from the outside world. It also has the added benefit of acting as a lubricant, preventing bandages from sticking, and it was widely used in medical treatment through the First World War. Interest in manuka honey has revived the practice of using honey as an antibacterial, and it has even been packaged in a self-contained wound dressing that can be carried in a first aid kit.
The color of this honey is quite dark, and it is very rich with an intense flavor that is reminiscent of the flavor of other tea-tree derived products. It can be used just like regular honey as a sweetener and is a very popular table honey in New Zealand, the home of the tea tree. It is also possible to create honey products from this variety, such as whipped honey and honey salves and creams.
Consumers may see manuka honey labeled as “UMF honey,” in a reference to the “Unique Manuka Factor,” a concept coined by Peter Molan, a researcher in New Zealand. He has established a UMF scale, comparing this honey with standard disinfectants. Molan's research has also suggested that manuka honey appears to be effective against some strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing issue in hospitals all over the world.
Still, consumers should take advertisements and testimonials about this variety of honey with a grain of salt. Although it is considered to be tasty and potentially beneficial in the treatment of some conditions, it is not a panacea or a wonder-drug. It should be used medically in moderation and under the supervision of a medical professional.