Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
January 23, 2024 ·  5 min read

This Natural Substance Could Treat Potentially Lethal, Drug Resistant Lung Infections

Many people use honey to treat a sore throat, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Research has found that honey has many benefits, including antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Since ancient times, humans have used honey to treat burns, sores, wounds, and boils. Now, a new study found that mānuka honey may be able to treat lung infections that don’t respond to the standard medications.

Study Finds that Mānuka Honey May Treat Lung Infections

Mānuka honey is a monofloral honey, which means it’s made mostly from the nectar of one type of flower. Regular honey is often polyfloral, meaning the nectar comes from a variety of flowers. While all kinds of honey have some antibacterial effects, mānuka honey is more potent when it comes to combating bacteria. It also has antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. The antibacterial effects come from an active ingredient called methylglyoxal (MGO). Mānuka flowers contain glycerone sugar, which converts into a high concentration of MGO. Regular honey doesn’t contain MGO. [1]

Therefore, research is investigating the potential of mānuka honey in treating illnesses. One new study pitted it against one of the most aggressive, sometimes lethal, and drug-resistant lung infections. The bacteria is called Mycobacterium abscessus and is distantly related to tuberculosis. It can cause serious lung infections for those with chronic lung diseases like cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis. It can also cause persistent skin and soft tissue infections.

Now, this bacteria has several strains, all resistant to different medications. To treat this lung condition, patients have to endure a year of antimicrobial chemotherapy, and cocktails of antibiotic pills, some of which have negative side effects, like severe nausea, vomiting, potential hearing loss, liver damage, and reduction of white blood cells and blood clotting capabilities. After all that, patients have only a 50% chance of a successful treatment.   

Mānuka Honey vs Mycobacterium abscessus

In the study, published in the journal Microbiology, researchers tested mānuka honey against Mycobacterium abscessus in tissue cultures taken from 16 patients with cystic fibrosis or bronchiectasis, all of which were resistant to first-line antibiotics. The mānuka treatments were overall successful, although the honey was more effective than isolated MGO, demonstrating that other components in honey enhance the antibacterial properties. [2]

The researchers also nebulized the honey into a mist to inhale alongside the antibiotic amikacin. When used side-by-side, only 2 micrograms per milliliter of amikacin was needed to be effective, a drastic decrease from the usual 16 micrograms per milliliter used in treatments. The lower dose could translate into less negative side effects. 

“By combining a totally natural ingredient such as mānuka honey with amikacin, one of the most important yet toxic drugs used for treating Mycobacterium abscessus, we have found a way to potentially kill off these bacteria with eight times less drug than before,” explains Aston University microbiologist Jonathan Cox. “This has the potential to significantly reduce amikacin-associated hearing loss and greatly improve the quality of life of so many patients — particularly those with cystic fibrosis.” [3] The team hopes this discovery would lead to future clinical trials, a hopeful promise to the 100,000 people affected with cystic fibrosis worldwide. 

Dr. Peter Cotgreave, chief executive of the Microbiology Society, states, “The Microbiology Society is proud to support the scientific community as it explores innovative solutions to overcome the growing global challenge of antimicrobial resistance. This study demonstrates one of many ways in which microbiologists are pioneering new methods to tackle drug-resistant infections, by incorporating natural products, like mānuka honey, into existing therapies.[4]

Read: The Vitamin Deficiency Up to 80% of People Have

More Health Benefits

Most research about mānuka honey is preliminary, but it’s already showing great potential when it comes to health benefits. Folk medicine has already used the ingredient throughout history, and many people today use it as an alternative treatment for different conditions. Here are some scientifically-backed medical benefits of mānuka honey:

May treat skin conditions:

Because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, mānuka honey could help with the bacteria growth that causes and worsens acne, as well as soothe red and dry skin. So if you have dry skin, acne, eczema, or psoriasis, try applying a small amount to the skin for 15–20 minutes before washing off with warm water. Remove the honey immediately if you feel burning or itchiness. Any grade contains benefits but the higher grade could be more effective. 

Read: Doctor explains what those random chest pains you get are

May help heal wounds:

Its antibacterial properties may help with wounds and burns, but check with a doctor before applying mānuka honey onto open wounds. Studies show that mānuka honey could enhance healing and even decrease pain when spread onto burns. [5]

Soothe sore throats:

Honey is known as the cure for sore throats, but mānuka honey can be more efficient at reducing inflammation and enhancing the healing process. You can eat the honey by the spoonful, mix it into hot water, or drink it with tea. Mānuka honey may also help suppress coughs if that’s what’s causing the sore throat.

Improve oral health:

It may sound strange to use a sugary food to clean your mouth, but mānuka honey’s antimicrobial activity could help inhibit the formation of plaque, reduce gum inflammation, and help prevent tooth decay. You can consume the honey to get this effect, or use it as a mouthwash or toothpaste. Check with your dentist before trying mānuka honey to discuss if it’s a good option for you, and if so, which grade to buy.

However, honey isn’t good for everyone. People with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels, or bees or honey allergies should avoid it or consult their doctors before trying it. Additionally, children under the age of one should not consume any kind of honey, including mānuka. [6]

Keep Reading: Signs of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency You Should Never Ignore


  1. “5 Benefits of Manuka Honey.” Cleveland Clinic.
  2. “In vitro synergy between manuka honey and amikacin against Mycobacterium abscessus complex shows potential for nebulisation therapy.” Microbiology. Victoria C. Nolan​, James Harrison​, Jonathan A. G. Cox.
  3. “Mānuka Honey Could Treat Potentially Lethal, Drug Resistant Lung Infections.Science Alert. Tessa Koumoundouros.
  4. “Manuka honey could help clear deadly drug-resistant lung infection, research finds.Science Daily. Aston University.
  5. “Health Benefits of Manuka Honey.Web MD.
  6. “7 Health Benefits of Manuka Honey, Based on Science.Healthline