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Manuka honey and cancer

Manuka honey is celebrated for its antibacterial and healing properties. It may also have anti-cancer properties and be useful for cancer patients who have problems with radiation therapy. However, this honey has the potential to interfere with some cancer treatments. Before using manuka honey, consult a doctor.

Manuka honey comes from New Zealand. (Image: Shaiith / iStock / Getty Images)


Manuka honey is collected in beehives around New Zealand's Manuka bush. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and cancer-fighting properties in laboratory experiments, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York or MSKCC. This honey is also rich in flavonoids. According to a scientific study "Current Medicinal Chemistry" carried out in November 2002, flavonoids have potential anti-cancer effects.


Manuka honey can help if you have ulcers or sores from radiation therapy, reports Angie Knox of BBC News. It is also potentially helpful in treating wounds where cancer breaks through the skin, Knox writes in the June 2004 story, "Using Honey's Healing Power." Manuka honey promotes wound healing by lowering the pH on wound surfaces and modulating the production of inflammatory substances called cytokines, according to MSKCC. It also has antibacterial properties that are attributed to several compounds in honey, including the unique Manuka Factor, or UMF, a little-understood substance found only in this honey. Manuka honey can prevent infection in wounds such as ulcers, according to a June 2008 study in the Journal of Wound Care. In fact, it is effective in eliminating meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, in 70 percent of chronic venous ulcers, notes the lead study author G. Gethin notes. This works better than a hydrogel bandage, which eradicates MRSA in 16 percent of wounds, Gethin notes.

Expert knowledge

While manuka honey is being promoted to cancer patients, MSKCC advises that it is unclear whether the honey actually has cancer versus cancer. The ability to help with some cancer-related problems like oral mucositis after radiation therapy has also not been well studied, although there has been a clinical study of this potential benefit since July 2011, reports MSKCC. Oral mucositis is inflammation and ulceration that occurs in your mouth.


Manuka honey has a theoretical risk of affecting some chemotherapy drugs. According to the MSKCC, this risk is due to the honey's antioxidant properties. The sugar in this honey can also raise your blood sugar levels, which is a problem for diabetics. Avoid manuka honey if you are allergic to other types of honey.