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Can Manuka Honey Help With Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Written by Suzanne Mooney
Posted on October 17, 2023

If you have hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), you have probably tried home remedies to heal your lesions. But with so many products on the market promising to speed up the wound healing process and prevent scarring, how do you know which ones to trust?

In this article, we explore manuka honey, a product myHSteam members often mention when sharing wound care tips. One member said, “Manuka honey is the best!” Another said, “I haven’t tried manuka honey yet, but I’m going to because I see it mentioned here constantly.”

Before trying manuka honey or any other home remedies or supplements, talk to your health care provider or a dermatologist.

What Is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey is one of the more than 300 types of honey that exist today. It’s made by bees that pollinate the flowers of the manuka bush, a tea tree native to New Zealand and Australia. Other names include tea tree honey, antibacterial honey, and Australian tea tree honey.

People use manuka honey for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Wound healing
  • Oral health (reducing plaque and gingivitis)
  • Acne treatment
  • Soothing of sore throats
  • Ulcer prevention
  • Alternative to traditional antiseptics (chemical agents like hydrogen peroxide that stop or slow down the growth of microorganisms and help prevent infection)

Unlike many other types of honey, which include nectar from multiple flowers, manuka honey comes from the nectar of one flower, Leptospermum scoparium, or the manuka flower. People have believed in the antimicrobial and healing properties of manuka honey for years.

Research on Manuka Honey

Studies have shown that manuka honey has antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. But will it help your HS lesions? There is minimal research on manuka honey and HS, but there is substantial research on HS and wound care generally.

Research on Manuka Honey and HS

In one case report, a woman with HS had an open wound on her armpit that wouldn’t heal. After numerous attempts to heal the wound and prevent infection with conventional methods, the woman asked about manuka honey during a follow-up visit. Her doctor agreed to give it a try.

After a month of applying sterilized manuka honey compresses and dressings as directed by her care team, the wound healed. There were also no more infections, the woman’s pain subsided, and she had minimal scarring. While this is just one example of one person with HS who experienced the benefits of manuka honey, medical professionals documented her progress. They concluded that manuka honey promoted wound healing.

More research is needed to explore the benefits of manuka honey as a treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa. Still, small studies and anecdotal evidence make it sound promising as a topical therapy.

Research on Manuka Honey and Wound Care

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved manuka honey for topical wound care based on the evidence of its effectiveness.

In a systematic review of the effects of manuka honey in wound care, researchers found that manuka honey helps control bacterial growth, which can cause infections and prevent or delay the healing process in open wounds caused by HS. They also concluded that there is no risk of resistance (bacteria can’t evolve to evade its effects) — as there can be with overuse of antibiotics — and manuka honey is easy to administer.

The antibacterial benefits researchers have observed most likely come from methylglyoxal, an active ingredient in manuka honey. Studies have shown that the amount of methylglyoxal in manuka honey is up to 100 times higher than in other types of honey, and the higher the concentration, the stronger the antibacterial effects.

If you’re purchasing manuka honey, the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating will tell you the concentration of methylglyoxal. (UMF is a formal grading system for manuka honey developed by the UMF Honey Association in New Zealand.) You may see manuka honey listed as an ingredient in body washes, lotions, and other products, but those likely have different benefits than pure medical-grade manuka honey.

What Members Say About Manuka Honey

Members of myHSteam frequently discuss manuka honey. Many members report positive outcomes when they use the honey as part of their bandaging routine. Please remember that what works for one person may not work for everyone.

“My surgeon encouraged me to use manuka honey under the dressings for my surgical wounds,” said one myHSteam member. “It took a few months, but it worked well. My scarring eventually faded.”

These are other personal experiences members shared:

  • “When I use manuka honey on Band-Aids, my open wounds heal almost overnight.”
  • “I use manuka honey salve on gauze to keep my flare-ups from getting larger.”
  • “I have found that manuka honey pads help with pain.”
  • “I use topical medical grade manuka honey with waterproof Band-Aids. It works!”
  • “You can’t just use any old honey. Use manuka honey!”
  • “I have had HS for what seems like forever, and I’ve tried everything. What seems to work best for me is manuka honey with cotton gauze bandages and latex-free tape.”

One member shared that they did not experience the same benefits others did. “I tried manuka honey,” the member said. “I know it works for some people, but not me.”

Talk to Your Doctor

If you want to try manuka honey, discuss the risks and side effects with your health care provider first. Even if they're natural, supplements, herbs, and other home remedies can cause adverse side effects in some people, so it’s best to ask.

Living with a skin disease like HS that causes lesions and open wounds can be frustrating. A health care professional specializing in dermatology can help you stay safe while you explore medications, dietary and lifestyle changes, and natural interventions like manuka honey to find relief.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On myHSteam, the social network for people with hidradenitis suppurativa, more than 36,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share stories with others who understand life with HS.

Have you tried manuka money to treat your HS symptoms? Has it made a difference for your skin condition? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on October 17, 2023
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    Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
    Suzanne Mooney writes about people, pets, health and wellness, and travel. Learn more about her here.

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