Despite being composed mostly of sugar, natural honey has properties that make it a better sweetener than table sugar. Moreover, research indicates a particular type of honey called manuka -- derived from a New Zealand tree called the manuka bush -- possesses unique anti-microbial properties that set it apart from other honeys, including raw honey.
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Honey Benefits and Uses
Besides its sweetness, honey contains beneficial plant compounds called flavonoids as well as other constituents that benefit health. It's used in place of traditional sweeteners to sweeten food and for purported medicinal purposes like wound healing, bacterial infections, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems. The flavonoid compounds in manuka honey exert anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and cancer-fighting properties in test tube studies, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Anti-microbial Activity of Honey
Both raw and processed honey exhibit anti-microbial activity, according to a study published in the 2011 issue of the journal "Biotechnology Research International." The authors tested the anti-bacterial effectiveness of raw and processed honey to determine if one was more effective than the other. Both types of honey are effective against various bacteria that cause digestive infections and skin infections. The anti-bacterial activity is similar to that of traditional antibiotics, according to the study authors.
Manuka Honey Anti-microbial Activity
Manuka honey possesses significantly stronger anti-microbial activity than other types of commercial honey, according to a study published in the April 2008 issue of the journal "Molecular Nutrition and Food Research." Researchers determined the enzyme methylglyoxal is responsible for manuka honey's unique anti-microbial profile. Manuka honey contains up to 100 times more methylglyoxal than conventional honeys, according to the authors.
If you're looking to cut back on traditional sweeteners like table sugar in favor of honey, there are many high-quality honeys to choose from. Because raw honey is never subjected to high temperatures during manufacturing, it retains more nutrients than processed honey. Manuka honey is also unprocessed and thus provides a good option. Keep in mind that manuka honey generally costs more than raw honey.