The healing properties of manuka honey have been known for thousands of years. The Incans, Greeks, and even Napeoleon, who’s royal crest was a honeybee, understood the incredible power of this natural substance. In more recent history, the Amish have found honey to be critical in a herbal salve for burns. But what about using honey for yeast infections? Is it safe and more importantly, can it help?
All honeys share similar medicinal properties but manuka honey, which is made by honeybees using the nectar from the Leptospermum scoparium tree found only in New Zealand, has been found to contain the compound methylglyoxal. Methylglyoxal may explain why manuka honey may be more effective than other types of honey for medicinal use. Manuka honey in particular is graded using two systems, UMF (unique manuka factor) and MGO (methylglyoxal). UMF looks at the non-peroxide activity of the honey, which was believed to explain it’s anti-bacterial effect. It ranges from 5+ to 30+ so a manuka honey with a UMF 22+ would be considered to be very high quality versus a manuka honey that is labeled UMF 5+. However, more recent research suggests that there is more than just this non-peroxide activity to explain the healing effects of honey. The other rating system, MGO, looks at the level of methylglyoxal in manuka honey, which is believed to be the active ingredient and responsible for the healing properites of manuka honey. Ratings on the MGO system range from MGO 100 to MGO 500 so like the UMF rating system, the lower the number, the lower the quality of the honey.
As for medical grade manuka honey, which to is sterilized and filtered to remove impurities, it has been used for wounds, burns, and diabetic ulcers that won’t heal. In fact, according to studies by Efem, Phuapradit, and Cavanagh, honey has been found to decrease healing time of wounds, reduce scarring, and even sterilize the wound site. In addition, Vardi found in clinical trials, honey was even more effective than conventional wound care for the treatment of infected or poorly healing wounds. It is interesting to note, that in some of these studies, the honey used was non-sterile commercial honey, so it calls into question the reliability of the UMF and MGO rating systems at predicting quality.
While it is generally thought of for bacterial infections, there are several creams that contain manuka honey, which can be effective for skin yeast infections, such as Manuka Therapy Cream. In addition to topical uses, according to a study by Darvishi, a honey and yogurt cream was found to be as effective as the anti-fungal drug, Clotrimazole, in treating vaginal yeast infections and the participants experienced less negative side effects with the honey and yogurt mixture.
And while there is no research to directly support honey eradicating gastrointestinal yeast infections, it is known to have anti-fungal activity and has been demonstrated to be possibly probiotic in nature, which is critical for many chronic gut conditions. There is very little research that demonstrates that honey exacerbates or causes yeast infections.
In general, honey does not have many side effects and is relatively safe and benign. However, honey may contain small amounts of the bacteria that causes botulism so it is not recommended for consumption in children under 1 year of age. Also, because honey is composed of mostly glucose and fructose sugars, those with diabetes should consult their doctor before taking honey internally as part of a daily health regimen since it may negatively affect their blood sugar levels.
As for using manuka honey medicinally, a little goes a long way. For external wounds or yeast infections, applying a teaspoon or two and covering the area twice a day has been found to be effective for healing. In treating vaginal yeast infections, apply a teaspoon of a honey and yogurt mixture internally using an applicator every night for a week. For internal probiotic support, consuming as little as 50 grams a day has been shown to have a positive benefit.
In summary, while the research demonstrating how manuka honey promotes healing is still in its infancy, thousands of years of use for wounds and burns demonstrate how effective it is for wound care. And while honey should not be your first choice for gastrointestinal yeast infections, it may prove to provide supportive care in the form of a natural probiotic, and is definitely useful for vaginal as well as skin yeast infections. Additional information about manuka honey can be found on the National Beekeepers Association of New Zealand website, http://www.nba.org.nz.