Honey has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine to support gut comfort (Chinese Pharmacopoeia 2015). Scientific evidence also supports the use of manuka honey as a home remedy for soothing upper gastro-intestinal tract discomfort. This effect is derived from several mechanisms including reduction of cellular oxidative damage and modulation of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (immune signalling molecules) production (Almasaudi 2017, Medhi 2008, Prakash 2008).
Manuka honey also demonstrates ability to suppress production or activity of inflammatory enzymes in the stomach. In a laboratory study simulating Helicobacter pylori induced inflammation of the stomach lining cells, manuka honey treatment reduced the production of the inflammatory enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) (Abdel-Latif 2016). Another study showed that manuka honey consumption decreased the activity of the inflammatory enzyme myeloperoxidase (MPO) in the stomach lining (Almasaudi 2017). Components of manuka honey with demonstrated inhibitory activity against MPO include leptosperin (a glycoside unique to some Leptospermum honeys) and methyl syringate (Kato 2012). These compounds are bioavailable and can be absorbed through the gut-blood barrier (Ishisaka 2017).
Manuka honey contains a high level of oligosaccharides (5-10%) compared with some other honey types (Weston 1999). Oligosaccharides are non-digestible carbohydrates with potential prebiotic function. Prebiotics encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and thus are important for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
- Salmonella typhimurium
- Escherichia coli
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Bifidobacterium lactis
Honey has been shown to increase growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli populations in several laboratory studies (Rosendale 2008; Sanz 2005). In particular, UMF™ 20+ manuka honey improved growth of the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, while simultaneously inhibiting the pathogenic bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella typhimurium (Rosendale 2008)(Figure 12).
Figure 12: Change in growth values of various beneficial and pathogenic bacteria with increasing doses of manuka honey, modified from Rosendale 2008.
Benefits of consuming manuka honey
Note: Honey uses discussed in this section concern symptom relief of benign, self-limiting conditions and supporting general health and well-being. Medical advice should be sought for treatment of illnesses, diseases and medical disorders, we do not advise self-diagnosis or self-treatment with manuka honey in place of expert medical care. Honey should not be consumed by children under 1 year of age.