October 16, 2020

Manuka Honey for Cold, Flu, & COVID-19 Season

With seasonal temperatures starting to dip and the uncertainty of how COVID-19 will continue to affect us all, it’s time to prepare for cold and flu season.   There are lots of things you can do to help prevent colds and flus, including keeping your body warm (bundle up!), taking Vitamin C, and eating your fruits and veg to keep yourself in overall good health.  But when that cough or cold seems to make its way into life anyhow, turn to Nature to help you nip it in the bud.  A growing body of research strives to understand how Manuka honey works to kill bacteria, viruses, and support overall wellness. 

Properties & Benefits

Manuka honey, produced in New Zealand from the flowering native Manuka tree, is becoming a healing and wellness staple for consumers around the world.  The scientific interest and consumer attraction is rooted in the unique  properties of Manuka honey that set it apart from all other honeys the world over.  Manuka honey was first recognized for its antibacterial properties, and these properties have been the most extensively researched.(1)  Part superfood, part medicine, Manuka honey has been embraced by mainstream medicine for topical use as a wound care treatment.(2) There have been numerous success stories that I have personally heard of or witnessed with regard to healing of cuts, skin ailments, burns, and infected wounds.  A growing body of scientific research coupled with anecdotal evidence supports a number of potential benefits for Manuka honey when used not only topically, but also as part of a nasal irrigation solution, and when eaten for internal benefits..

Lab technician putting honey on a petri dish on microscope

In clinical settings, Manuka honey has been credited with saving limbs (3) and is especially effective when dealing with antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA.(4)  Research studies have been carried out to explore Manuka honey’s antibacterial properties as a treatment for cystic fibrosis,(5) clostridium difficile (c-diff),(6) and gastrointestinal diseases.(7)

Recent research has focused on Manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory(8) property and ability to mitigate oxidative stress.  The implications of this research are far reaching, as it is widely believed that chronic inflammation and oxidative stress in the body is an underlying root cause of heart disease, arthritis, neurological disease (including dementia), autoimmune disease, and cancer.(9)  The subject of research into potential uses of Manuka honey as a cancer treatment or the supportive role it can play in traditional drug treatments warrants a full separate discussion.  One study looking at Manuka honey in treating colon cancer(10) showed very promising results.  Other links to studies on the subject of cancer can be found here(11) on our website.  

Research has also been carried out looking at the antiviral properties of Manaka honey.  A research team in 2014 published results of their work on the effect of Manuka honey on a variety of strains of influenza A and influenza B viruses.(12)  They studied Manuka honey alone, and in combination with the most common class of antiviral drugs known as neuraminidase inhibitors or NAIs (Tamiflu is an example of a NAI). NAIs block virus replication analogous to the effect researchers believe Remdesivir is having on the Coronavirus causing COVID-19.  This first study concluded that Manuka honey had a “potent inhibitory activity against the influenza virus” as well as synergistic effects with NAIs.  Later work by this same team published in 2016 studied Manuka honey and its key ingredient Methylglyoxal’s (MGO) effect on influenza B virus strains.  This study’s conclusions included “MGO exhibited a broad spectrum of inhibitory activity against influenza B viruses”, and importantly “against NAI resistant influenza B strains”.  Another study found Manuka honey effective against the Varicella Zoster(13) Virus (VZV), known to cause Chicken Pox, Shingles, and Herpes.

What does all this mean for Cold & Flu season 2020-2021?

The common cold and influenza are both caused by viruses.  Meaningful research-based evidence cited above, as well as a lot of anecdotal evidence,

Manuka honey on spoon with manuka twig and bud

support the hypothesis that Manuka honey can kill viruses as well as stop them from spreading in your system.  Additionally,  significant health risks associated with cold and flu viral infections result from secondary bacterial infections.(14)  These are also referred to as opportunistic secondary bacterial infections.  These infections are able to take root in the upper and lower respiratory tracts as well as in your lungs.  These are termed “opportunistic” because these bacteria may be living in your body and are being kept in check by your immune system. Viral infections take your immune system down and enable bacterial infections to take root.  The initial infection could be from a common cold (common coronavirus ), flu (influenza A or B strain virus), sinus infections (rhinovirus), or COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).

Upper and lower respiratory infections are the fourth highest cause of global mortality (Lozano et al., 2012).(15)  Staphylococcus aureus (the SA in MRSA) is one of the three most common bacteria associated with these respiratory infections, which often lead to pneumonia.

Good hygiene, wearing a mask, getting a flu shot are steps you can take to avoid picking up a virus that could lead to serious illness.  Eating Manuka honey regularly may help protect you by creating an inhospitable environment in your mouth, throat, and lower respiratory system for invading viruses, as well as the bacteria that can cause secondary infection.  In fact, a recent study concluded that Manuka honey may have an immune system stimulatory(16) effect on the body's ability to sense microbial infections.  There is an abundance of anecdotal evidence that Manuka honey helps with cold and flu symptoms and can help mitigate the severity or avoid illness completely.

My personal experience and that of my family is at the onset of symptoms, a couple of teaspoons per day can often head off a cold or greatly mitigate its symptoms.  We also use manuka honey dissolved in a saline solution to irrigate sinuses with a Neti Pot or nasal rinsing system.  A clinical trial for chronic rhinosinusitis(17) (sinus infection), and the cystic fibrosis study referenced above both were focused on the nasal irrigation effects of Manuka honey.

Is Manuka honey effective against COVID-19?

This won’t be determined until research specific on Manuka honey’s effect on COVID 19 is performed.  We are not medical professionals and can’t give you medical advice.  What we do know from scientific research and anecdotal evidence is that Manuka Honey shows inhibitory activity and potential medicinal value on some viruses.  Whether this translates to COVID-19 prevention or treatment is unknown.  However, COVID-19 is caused by a Coronavirus, as are many common colds.  Researchers are looking at the potential that some people may have a greater natural immunity to this novel Coronavirus from past exposure to common cold viruses.  Reasonably, if Manuka honey is effective when used to treat the common cold, it could also be effective with this new virus that causes COVID-19.  Additionally, honey is a natural product, and excepting diabetic concerns over sugar intake, will not hurt you, and just might help.

Why Bees & Trees Manuka Honey this Cold & Flu Season

Manuka honey is expensive and you want to make sure you are buying one that is going to give you the wellness and healing benefit you are after.  You should only look at brands that are labeled with the actual MG content and/or the correlated UMF value.  MG (or MGO) stands for methylglyoxal, which is the naturally occurring organic compound found in true Manuka honey, and MG is the primary marker for its wellness and healing properties.  MG is measured in mg/kg and you should look for values of at least 250 MG (correlates to 10+ UMF).  At Bees & Trees, we offer two ranges of MG—a mid-activity honey (generally 250-350 MG) and a high-activity honey (generally 400-550 MG).  Our honey is raw, minimally processed, produced in small batches, from our own hives.  Our honey comes from the prized Taranaki region, known to produce some of the highest quality Manuka honey in New Zealand.  We are the only US manuka honey brand that owns our own hives, our own processing facility, packs in glass jars and imports specifically for the US market.

Ways to Use Manuka Honey During Cold & Flu Season

Since Bees & Trees Manuka honey is so delicious, it’s easy to fit it into your health and wellness regimen.  It can help support treatment and relieve symptoms so you can get you back to normal in no time.  Here are some ways to take your Manuka honey.

Preventative Measures:

Manuka honey on wooden spoon with manuka honey in a glass jar
  • Take 1-2 teaspoons per day right out of the jar for immune support.
  • Sweeten hot tea, coffee, or just water with lemon or ginger.
  • Sweeten plain yogurt, or other foods to incorporate Manuka honey into your day.

At Onset of Symptoms:

  • Take 2-3 teaspoons per day out of the jar.  Use a 500+ MG Manuka or higher if you have it.
  • To soothe a sore throat, let a teaspoon of Manuka honey coat your throat as you swallow.
  • For dry cough, honey is a powerful all-natural cough elixir eaten right from a spoon.
  • For sinuses, dilute 1 teaspoon in a saline solution (distilled water) and rinse out your sinuses using a nasal irrigation device (e.g. Netipot, Nasaline syringe, etc).
  • Add a teaspoonful to a glass of warm water.  Consume this mixture every morning to help soothe throat irritation caused by cold symptoms.
  • Try Manuka honey, ginger and lemon drink. Combine 3 tbsps of Manuka honey with a squeeze of lemon juice, grate an inch of fresh ginger, add warm water and let it stand for 20 minutes.  Mix well and enjoy the healthy goodness of Manuka honey. 

I wish you and your family health and happiness as we head into the coming holiday season.  As always, if you have any questions about Manuka honey, you can reach out to us by clicking here.  

Mike Everly – Founder
Bees & Trees Manuka Honey

To ask a question, click here.

Bees and Trees Manuka and Native Honey


(1) Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837971/

(2) Health Benefits of Manuka Honey as an Essential Constituent for Tissue Regeneration https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28901255/

(3) Manuka honey pilgrim meets his benefactors https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/manuka-honey-pilgrim-meets-his-benefactors/SLR7JCHQGXCXWHJSKTRNIXBMUY/

(4) Can honey fight superbugs like MRSA? https://www.nhs.uk/news/medication/can-honey-fight-superbugs-like-mrsa/

(5) A demonstration of the susceptibility of clinical isolates obtained from cystic fibrosis patients to manuka honey https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25680398/

(6) Antibacterial effect of Manuka honey on Clostridium difficile https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3669629/

(7) The controlled in vitro susceptibility of gastrointestinal pathogens to the antibacterial effect of manuka honey https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21165664/

(8) Protective effects of Manuka honey on LPS-treated RAW 264.7 macrophages. Part 2: Control of oxidative stress induced damage, increase of antioxidant enzyme activities and attenuation of inflammation https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30077706/

(9) Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: how are they linked? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20840865/

(10) Manuka honey synergistically enhances the chemopreventive effect of 5-fluorouracil on human colon cancer cells by inducing oxidative stress and apoptosis, altering metabolic phenotypes and suppressing metastasis ability. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30056083

(11) Bees & Trees website  https://www.beesandtrees.com/pages/benefitsandresearch

(12) Anti-influenza viral effects of honey in vitro: potent high activity of manuka honey https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24880005/

(13) In vitro antiviral activity of honey against varicella zoster virus (VZV): A translational medicine study for potential remedy for shingles https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22822475/

(14) Secondary Bacterial Infections Associated with Influenza Pandemics https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2017.01041/full

(15) Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23245604/

(16) Mānuka honey-derived methylglyoxal enhances microbial sensing by mucosal-associated invariant T cells https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2020/FO/D0FO01153C#!divAbstract

(17) Manuka honey sinus irrigation for the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis: a randomized controlled trial https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27935259/

(18) Anti-influenza viral effects of honey in vitro: potent high activity of manuka honey https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24880005/

(19) In vitro evaluation of the antiviral activity of methylglyoxal against influenza B virus infection https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27558282/

(20) In vitro evaluation of synergistic inhibitory effects of neuraminidase inhibitors and methylglyoxal against influenza virus infection https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25523147/

(21) In vitro antiviral activity of honey against varicella zoster virus (VZV): A translational medicine study for potential remedy for shingles https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22822475/

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