As it gains in popularity, more and more people are beginning to ask, “What is kanuka honey?” Riding on the coattails of the famous manuka tree, its taller cousin, the kanuka tree, is now hitting the limelight.
Because of the tremendous health benefits of manuka honey, researchers are now exploring whether or not kanuka honey produces similar health benefits. The results are promising!
Kanuka Tree vs. Manuka Tree
Not surprisingly, the kanuka tree (Kanzea ericoides) is also native to New Zealand. It's indigenous to the pristine forests of North Auckland and produces flowers very similar to the manuka tree.
Different species produce different colored flowers ranging from white to cream. It's not uncommon for people to confuse the two, as they are both from the Myrtle family. While a manuka tree only grows to about 10 meters, its taller cousin grows to approximately 30 meters.
Additionally, manuka trees are known to only live for 30-50 years, whereas the kanuka tree can live upwards of 300 years giving New Zealand's bees plenty of longevity for harvesting their nectar.
Kanuka trees have a flaky bark that has long been known for smoking meats and already has quite a reputation with the locals for its tremendous flavor. Its leaves are very soft to the touch, and they grow rather tall and straight. Although manuka leaves look quite similar, they're more prickly to the touch.
Another distinguishing feature between the manuka tree and the kanuka tree is their seed capsules. Manuka trees sport these capsules all year round, while kanuka trees only wear them after the flowering season in late summer.
New Zealand bees have first dibs on the kanuka flowers since they bloom in late summer. Unfortunately, European honey bees don't have access to manuka flowers until December.
Native Bees vs. European Honey Bees
Obtaining nature's recipe is no easy task. So beekeepers work diligently to position their hives in just the right places of New Zealand's pristine forests.
While European honey bees harvest and gather pollen from manukas, it's up to the native worker bees of North Auckland to gather pollen and nectar from kanuka flowers.
Even so, it's not unheard of for the European honey bees to feed on kanuka nectar, but this results in a poly-floral honey with a lower MGO level and, thus, a lower unique manuka factor (UMF).
Both manuka and kanuka honey are sourced from various climates and locations around New Zealand and throughout different times of the year.
Because of this, each batch of honey is unique in its aroma, color, and flavor. However, both manuka and kanuka honey generally have a dark color and strong flavor.
Active Ingredients of Kanuka Honey
Both kanuka and manuka honey are similar in their amino acid content, making them natural energy boosters, and they both do well at inhibiting certain organisms.
However, there are a few key areas where kanuka honey shines.
Like manuka, premium quality kanuka honey also has a variety of active ingredients making its medicinal constituents quite useful for many health benefits.
Research thus far shows that kanuka honey is high in hydrogen peroxide, which produces antimicrobial properties.
Manuka honey, on the other hand, is high in methylglyoxal, a non-peroxide ingredient that contributes to its unique manuka factor.
This UMF is typically used to measure the level of methylglyoxal which is a solid gauge of the level of antibacterial properties any batch of honey may have.
While kanuka honey does have some levels of MGO, its content is extremely low. The good news is what it lacks in methylglyoxal, it makes up for in hydrogen peroxide, which is well-known for killing bacteria, germs, and viruses.
Kanuka honey also contains a compound known as arabinogalactan protein that stimulates the immune system and releases cytokine proteins that facilitate the healing process and reduce inflammation.
Studies show that kanuka honey is an effective treatment against E. Coli, P. aeruginosa, and S. aureus and can inhibit the growth of these harmful pathogens.
Although manuka honey can treat symptoms of E. Coli and S. aureus better, kanuka gains the upper hand over P. aeruginosa.
Thus far, the research shows that kanuka honey is the only honey capable of inhibiting the growth of P. aeruginosa, which is an invasive pathogen, particularly against those with compromised immune systems.
P. aerugosa is often found in patients with severe burns, diabetes mellitus, and cystic fibrosis.
Tumor Necrosis Factor-a
Raw kanuka honey has also proven to have better immunostimulatory properties when compared to manuka honey due to increased production of 'tumor necrosis factor-a,' which regulates the cells of the immune system.
Although both clover honey and manuka honey also stimulate the release of TNF-a, the research concludes that kanuka honey demonstrated the most activity making it the preferred choice.
Both kanuka honey and manuka honey possess increased phenolic content, which enhances their wide array of health benefits.
Because raw kanuka honey has increased phenols, it naturally produces improved anti-inflammatory properties when compared to manuka.
Is Kanuka Honey Better Than Manuka Honey?
When deciding whether to purchase kanuka honey or manuka honey, the short answer is that it depends on what you're using it for. Both have widespread uses for an array of ailments, but they excel in different areas.
Kanuka Honey for Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria
Manuka honey is famous for its ability to fight antibiotic-resistant infections and has been used as a topical treatment for many years. As such, it outperforms topical kanuka honey against B. subtilis, E. coli, and S. aureus.
On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, only kanuka honey has proven to be effective against P. aeruginosa, which can be most common in severe burns and diabetic ulcers.
Kanuka Honey for Wound Healing
All raw honeys have some wound-healing properties, but manuka honey made its name based on its ability to heal severe wounds, especially burns.
Its key functions include its antibacterial and antimicrobial activity, which kills bacteria living on the skin in and around the wound.
Additionally, the high sugar content of manuka honey pulls water from the cells thereby dehydrating and killing harmful pathogens. Manuka honey is also known for regenerating healthy new skin, as well as reducing swelling and drainage from wounds.
However, kanuka honey is showing promising results with its ability as a topical application for chronic wounds and infections.
In many cases, a combination of both manuka and kanuka honeys has proven to be most effective as a topical treatment, particularly in burns and skin ulcers.
The perk of using premium kanuka honey over manuka, however, is the price. You get proven healing benefits known to be effective against minor and chronic wounds at a fraction of the cost.
Kanuka Honey for Digestive Health Benefits
Several studies show all regular liquid honey improves overall digestive health. However, manuka honey has shown the most improved overall microbial activity protecting your gut against harmful pathogens and reducing intestinal inflammation.
If you have significant digestive issues, making manuka honey part of your daily routine can help you live healthier. The evidence shows one spoonful of manuka honey a day can be beneficial for ailments such as acid reflux, gastric ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
However, in the absence of severe digestive issues, kanuka honey is just as effective in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Because both kanuka and manuka contain amino acids, kanuka raw honey is equally capable of helping the body digest food, enhancing the digestive system as a whole.
Kanuka Honey for Skin Conditions
Premium quality kanuka honey is making its claim to fame with its ability to heal a variety of skin conditions, including acne. So much so that pharmaceutical-grade kanuka honey has widespread use for a variety of topical medications and treatments.
Rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis
Rosacea is a common skin condition that often appears on the cheeks, nose, and other parts of the face. Frequently associated with rashes, skin bumps, swelling, and dilated blood vessels, it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.
A randomized controlled trial using kanuka honey instead of antibiotics shows promising outcomes for those that suffer from rosacea. Using kanuka honey as a skin mask has proven to be a successful treatment for this particular skin condition.
Other studies show kanuka honey to be equally effective as a topical treatment against other skin disorders, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Propionibacterium acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition marked by bacterial flora of the skin's surface with deeper recesses of follicles causing comedones. P. acnes takes root in moist, oily skin and is known to develop antibiotic resistance.
In 2011, a thesis submitted by Qiong Wu and published by Massey University in New Zealand revealed kanuka honey's antibacterial activity against P. acnes was equivalent to that of manuka honey with a UMF of 15-20.
Actinic keratosis is a condition of the skin characterized by rough, scaly plaques that usually result from increased sun exposure. Treatment usually involves surgical removal or immunomodulatory treatments.
In one remarkable study, a 66-year-old man used kanuka honey to treat his actinic keratosis. He saw drastic improvements after the topical application of kanuka honey for three months.
By using kanuka honey consistently for nine months, his lesions and other symptoms practically disappeared.
This study suggests that the immunomodulatory properties of kanuka honey outweigh those of traditional honey and even manuka honey.
Raw kanuka honey also makes an effective treatment against cold sores- those pesky blisters that occur around the mouth and nose as a result of the herpes simplex virus.
In 2017, another randomized controlled trial revealed that kanuka honey was just as effective as Aciclovir, a popular over-the-counter treatment for both herpes simplex and herpes zoster.
Kanuka Honey for General Wellness
Most regular liquid honeys are known to be advantageous for general wellness and can help people live healthier lives, but making kanuka honey part of your daily routine enhances those benefits even more.
Chocked with amino acids, a spoon full of this super honey serves as a natural energy booster.
What Does Kanuka Honey Taste Like?
Raw kanuka honey from New Zealand has a dark hue with a slightly granulated texture and a delicious rich flavor. Some kanuka honey actually comes in a solid form.
In contrast, manuka honey's dark color has a grainier texture.
Just like manuka honey, premium kanuka honey has a wide range of tastes, from lightly sweet and floral to a rich, bold, and strong flavor. Some even claim a slight hint of butterscotch.
Honey lovers enjoy this light consistency with a naturally granulated smooth texture.
Because raw kanuka honey can be both monofloral and poly-floral, the spectrum of flavors from nature's recipe is broad.
Is Kanuka Honey UMF Certified?
If you're familiar with manuka honey, then you know it has a unique manuka factor that quantifies the methylglyoxal (MGO) level within any given batch of honey.
Since kanuka honey contains little to no MGO, it cannot be certified, nor can any label or packaging insinuate that it has an MGO rating since kanuka honey is not tested the way that manuka honey is. However, some companies do go the extra mile and have their batches independently certified.
How to Purchase Authentic Kanuka Honey
It's no secret the honey industry is adulterated with plenty of fakes. Finding genuine kanuka honey may pose a bit more challenging than manuka in the absence of a UMF number.
While every batch of manuka honey is tested, this isn't always the case with kanuka honey.
The good news is the lack of testing reduces the prices substantially. The bad news is it makes finding authentic raw kanuka honey a bit harder to find. So what can you do?
Just like manuka honey, raw kanuka honey is exclusive to New Zealand. So make sure your jar bears its origins.
Look for companies that can track their honey. Some go so far as to place a scannable QR code on the jar. Scan the code and enter your batch number, and viola! You know exactly where your jar came from.
Finding genuine kanuka honey on your store shelves is unlikely, leaving you to purchase online. Find reputable companies with their own websites and avoid buying from middle-men distributors.
Most New Zealand honey companies proudly display the history of their companies on their personal websites. They gladly share the lengths they go through to ensure the authenticity of their products.
Many are family-owned businesses that have been in production for over three generations. A little due diligence goes a long way to ensure you're getting a quality product.
How Do You Use Kanuka Honey?
You can use raw kanuka honey pretty much the same way you use any other raw honey. Honey lovers often enjoy it by the spoon full, but you may prefer to add just a little to your morning tea or coffee.
Much the same as manuka, you can also use it in all of your favorite culinary dishes.
Otherwise, you can apply it directly to your skin as a treatment for acne, eczema, rosacea, or other skin conditions.
Better than regular liquid honey, raw kanuka honey is gaining in its popularity proving to be just as beneficial as manuka honey. In some cases, even better.
From a simple spoon full in your morning tea to a facial mask for skin ailments, making kanuka honey part of your everyday life can provide a wealth of health benefits.
Try exploring the flavors of kanuka honey with these great recipes: