Antibacterial agents play a key role in fighting infections caused by several types of bacterial strands. Their key action is to stop the spread of bacterial attacks. However, bacteria are known to develop resistance to antimicrobial drugs. A few strands have demonstrated higher levels of tolerance to resist sizeable doses of such drugs. Well-known drugs such as erythromycin, etc., have been rendered ineffective against some strands of microbes. Common reasons for bacterial tolerance or resistance are changes (mutations) occurring in the DNA of these microbes. Manuka honey is associated with its capability to arrest bacterial resistance. This property makes it as a powerful antibacterial item, which is eaten as a dietary supplement. You however need to talk to your doctor to understand the side effects of Manuka honey.

Bees in New Zealand and Australia make Manuka honey as part of pollinating a native plant. This plant is referred as tea-tree; in botanical terms, this bush is categorised under a family of plant species called as leptospermum. This honey had been in use for ages; but, it is only in the latter half of 19th century did medical sciences come to terms with its bactericidal and other antimicrobial properties. Commonly sourced honey is endowed with plentiful amounts of hydrogen peroxide. But, not all types of honey possess the same types of substances in them. Manuka honey derives its bactericidal capabilities from a substance called methylglyoxal. The reason behind a marked presence of methylglyoxal is attributed to the copious amounts of a chemical known as dihydroxyacetone – DHA; it must be noted that the Manuka flower’s nectar is a rich source of DHA.

Side effects of Manuka honey

The antimicrobial properties make the Manuka honey a powerful healing agent. It is widely used in the treatment of ulcers and to heal wounds. Its ability to fight infections chiefly serves as a catalyst to heal open wounds. As an extended use, Manuka honey is also used in the treatment of soreness of throat, ulcerative conditions of the gastrointestinal tract as well as skin conditions such as dermatitis. It is also applied topically on burns as well as bruises.

You need to understand that this honey is skilfully prepared with proper sterilization techniques. Only after such special treatments it becomes fully ready as a disinfectant. Hence, it does not form part of self-medication kits or in first-aid boxes. Always make sure to use this substance under the supervision of a qualified medical specialist.

Common side effects of Manuka honey

Manuka honey may trigger a few side effects as well as allergic reactions. Common side effects include an increase in blood sugar levels; especially if a large proportion of this honey is eaten directly. Those who are allergic to bees or products procured from the apiary are likely to develop a few allergic reactions such as hives or rashes on skin, indigestion, respiratory problems (shortness of breath, gasping or wheezing), swallowing problems and abdominal discomforts such as vomiting or nausea. Upon experiencing any of these allergic reactions it is strongly recommended to seek medical attention or consult your treating doctor immediately. Your doctor will soon perform a few tests to detect the incidence of food-triggered allergies, if any.

Manuka honey and likely risks of obesity

The marked presence of calories in Manuka honey runs the risk of making you obese. Intake of a tablespoon of this honey every day can make you add at least 5 pounds of body weight in less than 12 months. Those who are already obese or have a body mass index that borders on obesity must exercise needful caution while taking this food. Dietitians hence strongly recommend intake of Manuka honey as a substitute to conventional sugars or sweeteners. Such substitution is unlikely to lead to risks of obesity or intake of anti-obesity meds. The best way to take this honey on a daily basis is to add it along with your beverages – such as, coffee, tea, milk, juices, etc.

People living with diabetes must exercise more caution

Manuka honey is rich with sugars and is hence a high-carb food. As you know, intake of such high-sugar foods has a direct impact on your blood sugar levels. The good news however is, Manuka honey rarely builds your sugar levels immediately – say, like other high-sugar foods. Hence, when taken in very small proportions, this honey can serve as a good alternative to sugars – especially for people who are living with diabetes. Doctors treating people living with diabetes mellitus recommend a moderate inclusion of Manuka honey to their diet. On the whole, you are advised to exercise needful control on the intake of this honey. Uncontrolled intake can often lead to discomforts and other risks to diabetics.

It is a no-go for babies!

You must be wary of using Manuka honey onto infants. Babies – especially, those aged less than 15 months – are found to be more vulnerable to bacterial infections such as botulism. This condition is triggered by a strand of bacteria called C. botulinum, whose toxins are considered to cause many adverse effects. The characteristic signs of botulism include blurring of eyesight, excessive spells of tiredness, slurring of speech, persistent state of weakness, pain or weariness of limbs or muscles, etc. In some cases, abdominal discomforts such as indigestion, inflammation of lower abdomen, vomiting or nausea have also been noticed. One of the best known treatments for botulism is administration of antitoxins; in some cases, ventilator support may be required when breathing problems persist or when normal cycles of respiration become a difficult activity to do.

Manuka honey and drugs taken to treat cancers

Medicines taken to treat autoimmune conditions – such as cancers – may interact with Manuka honey. These interactions may make chemotherapeutic meds to lose their efficacy to some extent. A few cancer drugs may also find it difficult to get fully absorbed when you are taking Manuka honey. It is a good practice to tell your treating doctor (i.e., oncologist) about the foods you consume before starting a medication plan involving chemotherapeutic drugs.

Topical application of Manuka honey and allied side effects

Antimicrobial creams – for example, those based on acyclovir, etc. – often cause side effects such as excessive spells of itchiness, discoloration of skin, irritation and other skin related discomforts. The good news here is – there are no such known side effects triggered by the topical application of Manuka honey. It is widely considered as a safe product if applied on your skin. However, if you are allergic to bees or items sourced from apiaries, you just consult your treating doctor before starting to apply this honey onto your skin.

On hair

In some one-off instances – both for cosmetic as well as therapeutic reasons, people may use Manuka honey onto their hair. It is considered as a good practice to talk to a qualified hair expert or a dermatologist before applying it on hair. Though there are no side effects when applied to hair, a go-ahead from your doctor is needed to ensure a safer application.

In simple terms, an abundant presence of methylglyoxal can make a normal food as a superfood, as it can turn into a strong antibacterial substance. Makers of Manuka honey calibrate their produce based on a rating-scale called unique Manuka factor. A rating of at least 10 is considered to possess therapeutic properties. Such a rating also signifies a marked presence of three important substances – namely, dihydroxyacetone, leptosperin and methylglyoxal. Though makers of this honey are confident of its therapeutic value, medical sciences are still looking for additional evidences to substantiate the therapeutic claims made.

Precautions needed while buying Manuka honey

You can buy Manuka honey easily; it is sold both in online stores as well in groceries or health-food outlets. Owing to the popularity of this honey, many spurious labels have started hitting store shelves. The type of Manuka honey sold widely is called as an “active” version; this only means that the product has hydrogen peroxide – a constant ingredient in most forms of honey. So how to tell if the Manuka honey you are buying is good? You are advised to look for the UMF-rating; this measures the extent of non-peroxide based bactericidal property in the pack of honey that you are buying.

Manuka honey with available in multiple UMF-ratings. Those with a ranking of 16 or more are rated as the best available variants. However, Manuka honey with ratings that range between 11 to 15 UMF is used in many wound management practices. You need to note that honey rated less than nine (9) is also available; but, these may only have very low therapeutic properties; the lesser the ratings, the lower is the presence of MGO in such honey. Highly rated Manuka honey (for instance, UMF rating of 16) has multiple uses. A few of its uses include topical applications for the health of skin, treatment of wounds suffered by minor cuts or nicks, boosting the health of your digestive organs, etc.

Another safer approach is to go with honey containing MGO. This is a unique ingredient which renders antimicrobial properties to Manuka honey. The food and drug administration (FDA) approves the use of wound-pads treated with this honey for dressings done on injuries or open wounds. When conventional antibiotics are resisted and tolerated by a few bacterial strands, Manuka honey is used as a final approach to control the spread of microbial infections.

In sum, Manuka honey is used for healing wounds; it fights infections that cause soreness of throat, ulcers in digestive tract and a few skin conditions. Some of its side effects include a rise in blood sugar if taken in large portions, rashes on skin, respiratory problems and indigestion, vomiting or nausea. If you notice these discomforts, it is strongly recommended to ask for medical help. It is not safe to administer it to babies aged less than 15 months. Before administering it to babies more than 15 months of age, you need to consult a child specialist or a qualified medical practitioner. If you notice any discomforts, quickly reach out to the treating doctor or call 911.

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