UMF Manuka - Natural Skincare, Proven by Science
Professor Peter Molan, MBE, Director of The Honey Research Unit, University of Waikato, New Zealand
Honey has been used since ancient times as a moisturising ingredient in cosmetics. The moisturising properties are due to the major portion of the sugar in honey being fructose, a sugar which picks up water readily and holds on to it strongly. But honey does a lot more for the health of the skin than just moisturise it. The Ancient Greek physician Dioscorides (c50 AD) wrote of honey being 'good for sunburn and spots on the face' and that it 'mollifies the prepuce so that it can be pulled back over the bared glans penis'. Modern scientific and medical studies have revealed why honey is effective - it has been found that honey has multiple bioactive properties. The research has been done primarily in the context of the use of honey for wound treatment, which has become widespread with honey products registered with medical authorities in many countries. But the information is very relevant to healthy skin.
The bioactives that honey has been found to have are; stimulating the growth of new blood capillaries in damaged skin tissue; stimulating the production of collagen and other components of the matrix of the skin; stimulating the growth of new epidermal cells on the skin; releasing attached bacteria; stimulating the immune response; and (depending on the type of honey) a potent antimicrobial action. Honey also has excellent antioxidant properties and a potent anti-inflammatory activity.1
The anti-inflammatory effect of honey has been reported in many clinical reports on it's use on wounds (reduction of redness, swelling and pain). This is a direct anti-inflammatory action, and not just the result of the antibacterial action clearing bacteria causing inflammation - microscopic examination of sections of tissue found fewer leucocytes present where there was no infection involved. The anti-inflammatory action of honey has also been demonstrated directly in guinea pig tests (decreased stiffness of inflamed wrist joints). 1 Pharmaceutical (corticosteroid) anti-inflammatory agents used on the skin have adverse side effects - they suppress the multiplication of epidermal cells so the skin becomes very thin as the old cells flake off and are not replaced fast enough; also they suppress the immune response in the skin, leaving it prone to becoming infected. Honey not only has no adverse side effects, but actually has the opposite effect through it's stimulatory action on the growth of epidermal cells and the immune response.
Honey is being found to give excellent results clearing up acne and eczema/dermatitis, and is being used in a clinical trial to decrease the inflammation resulting from radio therapy for breast cancer (which causes burns to the skin like severe sunburn). Clinical studies have also shown that it gives good results when used on psoriasis, tineas, haemorrhoids (where it decreases itching) seborrheic dandruff and nappy rash.
But don't expect to get good results if you use just any honey. Although the Ancient Greek physicians were aware that only some honeys are good for use on wounds, this has long been forgotten other than in folk medicine. Honeys can vary by as much as 100 fold in potency of their antibacterial activity. Research at the University of Waikato, following up New Zealand folk knowledge, led to the discovery of the unusual antimicrobial component of Manuka honey. Other honeys have their antimicrobial activity due to hydrogen peroxide produced by an enzyme that the bees add to the nectar they collect to make honey. This enzyme does not work until honey gets diluted by water (which on unbroken skin will not happen) and if activated by dilution (as would happen in the manufacture of skin cream) it's activity destroys itself after a day or two. The antimicrobial component of manuka honey is fully active in undiluted honey and remains active indefinitely after dilution. It also has the ability to penetrate intact skin.
1. Papers reporting these bioactivities of honey are reviewed in Molan P.C. (2001) 'Potential of honey in the treatment of wounds and burns' American Journal of Clinical Dermatology 2: 13-19
Read more about the healing properties of UMF Manuka Honey