It’s Manuka, Honey!
Manuka Honey May Be a Great New Superfood for Reflux Sufferers
Manuka honey may be the next great food for reflux sufferers. Manuka is a mono-flower honey that comes primarily from New Zealand. Because the bees feed solely on the uncultivated Manuka bush, Leptospermum scoparium,1 also called the “tea tree,” the honey has a unique taste. Indeed, the popular name, “tea tree,” reportedly came about because Captain Cook used the leaves to make “tea.”1 We find that less than a teaspoon of the honey in a cup of hot water makes an absolutely delicious drink, loaded with exceptional flavor, which tastes rather like sweet tea.
These days, there is a lot of internet buzz about Manuka honey suggesting that it has real medicinal properties, that is, that it can cure many medical conditions and ailments. The benefits of Manuka are just beginning to be understood by modern science. But what is being discovered is good news for refluxers. Many New Zealanders have believed for centuries that Manuka is good for dyspepsia (indigestion from acid reflux) and for other digestive problems as well.
Here are the purported benefits of Manuka honey: It is an effective treatment for skin infections, burns, throat infections, gastrointestinal infections, and acid reflux.1-4 As Professor Peter Molan of University of Waikato’s Honey Research Unit has reported, Manuka honey is superior or equal to conventional treatments in managing burn wounds, skin ulcers, and Fournier’s gangrene.3 In addition, Manuka honey has been shown to eradicate H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for most stomach ulcers.2,4
One website that sells Manuka honey claims that it is good for many disorders of the aero-digestive tract, including, “sore throat, cough, sinus infection, the flu, canker sores, fever blisters, acid reflux, esophagitis, GERD, heartburn, upset stomach, peptic ulcer, gastritis, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
What Makes Manuka Honey Special?
All honeys have some antibacterial activity due to the hydrogen peroxide formed by breaking down the enzyme glucose oxidase, but the potency of this antibacterial activity can fluctuate up to 100-fold and varies upon the honey’s floral source.2,4 Researchers at the University of Waikato believe that what makes Manuka honey special is the presence of a stable, non-peroxide type of antibacterial activity.4 Whereas the enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in all honey is unstable (it is destroyed when the honey is exposed to heat and light), the non-peroxide antibacterial activity of Manuka honey is unaffected by heat, light, and storage.3 What this means is that Manuka honey’s healing qualities can be bottled, preserved, and shipped around the world when other honeys would lose this antibacterial strength.
In addition, University of Waikato’s Honey Research Unit reports that the enzyme in most honeys that produces hydrogen peroxide is inactive in the acidity of the stomach while the non-peroxide antibacterial agent in Manuka Honey remains active.1,3 For this reason, Manuka honey is suspected to be affective at inhibiting the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.1
To ensure product quality, we recommend to purchasing only Certified Organic Active Manuka Honey. There is honey being sold as Manuka honey without a measurable amount of non-peroxide antibacterial activity. This is likely because it is produced from non-Manuka nectar sources.3 We purchase Premium Organic Manuka Honey from The Wild Bee. While at first blush, this looks very expensive ($35/bottle), the bottle contains 500 grams of honey or about 225 servings for honey tea — at a cost of about 16 cents per cup.
Manuka Honey for Acid Reflux
We believe that Manuka may be great for reflux sufferers. It may also potentially help heal Barrett’s esophagus. Some of our patients have reported improved stomach and reflux symptoms after eating the honey or drinking it in hot water as tea. For our patients who can afford it, we presently recommend a — half-teaspoon of Manuka honey — cup of the “honey tea” after the evening meal. In the future, especially for reflux patients with Barrett’s, we may recommend Manuka after each meal. Based upon what is now known, it is possible that this honey as an adjunctive reflux treatment might make a big difference.
1. Leptospermum scoparium. Wikipedia.
2. Al Somai N, Coley K E, Molan P C, Hancock BM. Susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to the Antibacterial Activity of Manuka Honey. J. Royal Soc. Med. 87: 9-12, 1994.
3. Molan, PC. Manuka Honey as a Medicine. Global Bioactives Summit. Hamilton, New Zealand. July 2001.
4. “What’s Special about Manuka honey?” Waikato Honey Research Unit. Department of Biological Sciences University of Waikato. Published: 9-3-2009. Retrieved: 4-11-11