Medicine can be as sweet as honey, especially if you actually use honey as medicine. But what kind should you use and when?

For thousands of years, people have been using honey for all sorts of ailments, putting it on bandages to heal wounds and slurping it up to treat digestive diseases or simply diarrhea. It has even been mixed with crocodile dung and inserted into the vagina as a form of contraception. The famous ancient Greek physician Hippocrates utilized honey for maladies as standard as pain and fever to the more complicated ones like baldness. These old doctors’ methods are not common practice now, but modern research has shown that honey can serve as an antibacterial and an anti-inflammatory, among other uses.

Manuka honey is a specific type that may be cited by medicinal honey advocates, but how is it any different from your average raw honey?

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Bees derive it from the manuka tree in New Zealand, also known as the tea tree. You may have seen it stateside if you’ve browsed the bandage aisle at your local CVS Pharmacy.

Proponents of manuka honey say it is more powerful than regular honey in its antibacterial and healing power. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center lists a few uses for this type of honey, including fighting off bacteria resistant to other antibiotics and healing infected wounds.

But as with any health fad, people can get carried away. Live Strong, for example, has an article that mentions the potential of manuka honey to fight cancer. However, while it contains some compounds called flavonoids that have suggested anti-cancer properties, Memorial Sloan Kettering says the honey has not been shown to treat cancer.

“Although [manuka honey] has antiseptic effects, patients should not self-medicate with honey products,” the organization warns.

It appears the jury is still out on manuka honey, so use caution if you plan on experimenting.

See also:

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