Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The Ancient Egyptians and Greeks treated sores with it and soldiers in the Second World War wrapped bands in it to heal their wounds. Today honey can be found in wound dressings, creams and lozenges, tablets and in a jar.
Manuka honey, made from the flowers of the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) found only in New Zealand, contains ingredients that scientists believe boost its antibacterial properties. It has been licensed for use in the United Kingdoms National Health Service hospitals after Christie's Hospital in Manchester trialled the use of honey under dressings of post operative wounds, to fight the MRSA superbug in mouth and throat cancer patients in 2004.
All honey contains hydrogen peroxide, a disinfectant once used to clean wounds in hospitals. It is produced from the glucose oxidase enzyme that bees add to nectar. But a unique active chemical compound, methylglyoxal, gives manuka more antibacterial activity than other honeys. The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) indicates antibacterial activity. The UMF rating can range from UMF 5. Equal to 5% solution in water of the standard anticeptic carbolic or phenol. to UMF 30- 305 solution.
UMF 10 to UMF 15 can be used to ease heartburn and diarrhoea. In tests, UMF was found to inhibit the growth of the bacterium H. pylori, believed to cause stomach ulcers. As well as taking it internally, sterile munaka honey can be applied topically, either neat or in cream form to soothe eczema. dermatitis, acne and sunburn. Studies show manuka's antibacterial properties fight the S. pyogenes bacteria, which causes sore throats. A teaspoon kept in the mouth until it dissolves, three times a day is an effective cure for sore throats.
A study published in the European Journal of Medical Research in 2003 claimed manuka honey used under dressings on post operative wounds had an 85% success rate in clearing up infections compared with 50% for normal antibiotic creams. It was also found that the wounds of MRSA victims treated with dressings impregnated with manuka honey cleared up quickly.