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Manuka Honey: Are There Potential Health Benefits for MS?

Posted on May 23, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Megan Cawley

Some people with multiple sclerosis (MS) seek to supplement their MS treatment regimens with alternative or natural therapies. One such option is manuka honey, which has been noted for its anti-inflammatory properties and healing properties.

If you have heard of manuka honey and wonder whether it can help your multiple sclerosis symptoms, it’s a good idea to understand more about this ingredient. Note that before trying any new natural therapies, you want to be sure you won’t set your progress back by counteracting the effects of your current health care program. Always talk to your neurologist or health care provider before incorporating natural remedies to make sure these products won’t interact with your prescribed treatments.

What Is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey comes from a type of flowering tea tree found in parts of New Zealand and Australia. Bees that pollinate these manuka bushes make the honey, which has long been used as a traditional healing method. Proponents have used manuka honey for healing wounds, staving off tooth decay, and more. The honey may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties.

Research on Manuka Honey

Very little available research addresses manuka honey’s effect on MS. Medical-grade manuka honey is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in some topical treatments for wound care. This honey is antibacterial and is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin. However, it’s unclear whether these same properties would be helpful in managing MS.

According to a review of studies, there are some indications that certain compounds in honey may be bioavailable (usable by the body) for reducing inflammation. However, the researchers themselves indicated that larger studies — with placebo control and randomized participation — must be completed before any conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of specific types of honey.

Ultimately, more research must be conducted to determine manuka honey’s potential benefits for people with multiple sclerosis.

Honey, MS, and Type 1 Diabetes

There are two forms of diabetes — type 1 and type 2 — and both may be more common among people with MS than in the general population. Researchers have determined that MS and type 1 diabetes — both of which are autoimmune disorders — share environmental risk factors, as well as similar genetic components. Having type 1 diabetes is considered a risk factor for MS. People who have type 1 diabetes have at least a threefold higher risk of developing MS than individuals who do not have type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, however, may pose a risk among people who already have MS. Researchers are unclear whether disability from MS contributes to type 2 diabetes or whether other factors — such as genetics, lifestyle, or environmental factors — play a role. One study found that insulin resistance (a primary marker of type 2 diabetes) was 46 percent higher in people who had MS compared with those without this diagnosis.

Managing blood sugar levels is an important aspect of living with diabetes. Fructose, the sugar found in different types of honey, is known to have a lower glycemic index than glucose or refined (processed) sugar. This means honey doesn’t raise blood glucose (sugar) levels as much as these other sugars, suggesting that honey could be a healthier choice than glucose or processed sugar.

MyMSTeam Members on Manuka Honey

Several MyMSTeam members have expressed interest in manuka honey. One shared that they eat manuka honey as part of a balanced breakfast: “I have porridge when the weather is chilly — with a bit of cinnamon and manuka honey. [It] helps stave off the nasties.”

Another wrote that they “found some manuka honey cream for the damage” to their mouth, acknowledging that the honey, along with some Benadryl, was mostly for “psychological help.”

Talk With Your Doctor

Although manuka honey appears to show some potential to help heal wounds and reduce inflammation, there is not yet enough data to draw conclusions about its health benefits. Multiple sclerosis should not be treated with honey alone, and the condition should always be managed under the supervision of a qualified medical expert.

If you want to add honey to your MS management regimen, first talk with your neurologist or health care provider to get medical advice. They may be able to help you add honey in a way that will be safe, minimize potential side effects such as allergic reactions, and offer the best chance of helping you feel better.

Find Your Team

Are you or a loved one living with MS? Consider joining MyMSTeam today. Here, you can share your story with MS, join ongoing conversations, and more. Soon, you’ll get to know a team of people from around the world who understand life with multiple sclerosis.

Are you curious about manuka honey, or have you tried using it for MS symptoms? Share your story in the comments below or by posting on MyMSTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Megan Cawley is a writer at MyHealthTeam. She has written previously on health news and topics, including new preventative treatment programs. Learn more about her here.

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