Australian Manuka Honey

Honey has been used as a medicine since ancient times. One of the most common medicinal use of honey is as an antimicrobial agent. The current problem of antibiotic resistance has revived interest in the therapeutic use of honey and led researchers to explore the untapped properties of honey.

Honey as a Medicine

Honey is produced from the nectar of flowering plants and the medicinal properties of honey depend substantially on the type or species of flower, geographic location, weather, and storage conditions.

One kind of honey that has attracted substantial attention for its medicinal properties is the Manuka honey. Honey produced from the Leptospermum scoparium (Manuka) plant shows activity against a variety of microorganisms and is also effective against multi-drug resistant bacteria. Apart from antibacterial activity, Manuka honey also possesses antiviral, antioxidant, and healing properties.1

Manuka honey is derived from bees that feed on the Leptospermum scoparium bush and is particularly potent. The high potency of Manuka honey is attributed to the high levels of methylglyoxal, a compound not found in other types of honey. Of the available varieties, Australian Manuka honey contains high levels of methylglyoxal, which is responsible for its high level of stable antibacterial activity.2

Other compounds found in honey that contribute to its antimicrobial activity include bee defensin-1, phenolic compounds, and complex carbohydrates; these compounds are responsible for bacteria’s inability to develop resistance to honey, contrary to the rapid induction of resistance observed with the antibiotics.3

Cold sores or fever blisters are caused by Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) infection. Symptoms of HSV infection, transmitted orally, include painful blisters or open sores around the mouth. Cold sores are the sores located on the lips. People infected with HSV experience a tingling, itching, or burning sensation around their mouth before the appearance of sores. After initial infection, the blisters or ulcers may reappear periodically.

While there are many medicinal products for getting rid of cold sores, only some hasten the healing process. Typically, antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, are used to manage cold sores; however, because of emerging resistance to acyclovir and other antiviral agents, novel treatment approaches are the need of the hour.4

Compounds present in honey, such as flavonoids, have demonstrable antiviral activity, of which Manuka Honey is seen as a potential natural product that is effective in cold sores. The antiviral properties of Manuka honey have been demonstrated in preclinical studies, with efficacy against viruses such as influenza, varicella-zoster, and rubella viruses. The safety and efficacy of honey in herpes infection is also proved in a few small clinical trials. A study conducted on 16 adult patients with a history of recurrent herpetic lesions showed that the pain and duration of attacks, the occurrence of crusting, and the healing period with topical administration of honey were much better than with acyclovir treatment.5-8

Apart from the useful constituents, Manuka Honey has multiple bioactivities and physical properties that help speed up the healing process in conditions such as cold sores. The acidity of honey increases the release of oxygen from hemoglobin and discourages the proliferation of harmful proteases. Proteases are known to delay wound healing.3

Another important property of honey is its high sugar content (high osmolarity). The high osmolarity of honey helps drain fluid out of the wounds, which assists the clearance of lymph, and this mechanism promotes wound healing.3

Generally, honey has a broad-spectrum antibacterial activity attributed to the presence of hydrogen peroxide; unfortunately, much of this activity is inactivated by the enzyme catalase present in blood, serum, and wound tissues. However, this is not the case with Manuka honey in which, the antibacterial activity is preserved due to methylglyoxal. Thus, Manuka honey used in wound-care products can withstand dilution with substantial amounts of wound exudate and still remain active to inhibit bacteria’s growth.2

Manuka honey has also exhibited efficacy against bacteria contained in biofilms. Biofilms are clusters of microorganisms responsible for poor healing of wounds as the biofilm protects the microorganisms from the body’s immune system.3

The therapeutic potential of honey is also associated with its antioxidant capacity against free radicals known as reactive oxygen species. Antioxidant properties facilitate healing by eliminating cell-damaging free radicals. Recent research shows that Manuka honey, compared to other kinds of honey, is characterized by a high content of polyphenols and relatively high antioxidant capacity. It is reported that the higher the methylglyoxal present in honey, the more antioxidants it contains.9,10

The Leptospermum species, the source of Manuka honey, is native to Australia and New Zealand. Australian Manuka honey has similar levels of antibacterial activity to New Zealand Manuka; some of them have even higher quantities of methylglyoxal, the vital compound responsible for the antibacterial function. However, there are two advantages to Australia Manuka. It is reported that the activity of Australian Manuka honey remains consistent for about seven years from harvest; this feature may have vast implications in increasing the shelf life of the product. Further, Australia is home to 83 of the 87 known Leptospermum species of plants and is free of the varroa mite, a potential challenge that the New Zealand beekeepers struggle with.2


  1. Carter DA, Blair SE, Cokcetin NN, et al. Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative. Front Microbiol. 2016;7:569.
  2. Cokcetin NN, Pappalardo M, Campbell LT, et al. The Antibacterial Activity of Australian Leptospermum Honey Correlates with Methylglyoxal Levels. PLoS One. 2016;11(12):e0167780.
  3. Johnston M, McBride M, Dahiya D, et al. Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS Microbiol. 2018;4(4):655-664.
  4. Piret J, Boivin G. Resistance of herpes simplex viruses to nucleoside analogues: mechanisms, prevalence, and management. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2011;55(2):459-472.
  5. Watanabe K, Rahmasari R, Matsunaga A, et al . Anti-influenza viral effects of honey in vitro: potent high activity of manuka honey. Arch Med Res 2014;45:359–65.
  6. Shahzad A, Cohrs RJ. In vitro antiviral activity of honey against varicella zoster virus (VZV): A translational medicine study for potential remedy for shingles. Transl Biomed 2012;3:1–5.
  7. Zeina B , Othman O , al-Assad S . Effect of honey versus thyme on Rubella virus survival in vitro. J Altern Complement Med 1996;2:345–8.
  8. Al-Waili NS. Topical honey application vs. acyclovir for the treatment of recurrent herpes simplex lesions. Med Sci Monit. 2004;10(8):MT94-MT98.
  9. Chua LS, Rahaman NL, Adnan NA, et al. Antioxidant Activity of Three Honey Samples in relation with Their Biochemical Components. J Anal Methods Chem. 2013;2013:313798.
  10. Gośliński M, Nowak D, Kłębukowska L. Antioxidant properties and antimicrobial activity of manuka honey versus Polish honeys. J Food Sci Technol. 2020;57(4):1269-1277.

Life Is Smiles

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herlip™ cold sore rapid relief gel is an 8x multi-action formula used for rapidly treating the symptoms and signs associated with cold sores. The result of 6 years of research and development, this unique eco-friendly antiviral product with 30+ naturally-sourced ingredients, soothes, treats, and rapidly improves cold sores.

Packed with fast-acting ingredients and zero harsh chemicals, herlip™ cold sore rapid relief gel is the safe, effective choice for cold sore management. herlip™ cold sore rapid relief gel contains a unique combination of nine (9) active ingredients:

  • Leptospermum Australian Manuka honey 50mg/g,
  • Zinc Oxide 38mg/g,
  • Lysine 14.9mg/g,
  • Propolis Liquid Extract 12mg/g,
  • Melissa Officinalis 10.5mg/g,
  • Glycine 10mg/g,
  • Menthol 1.2mg/g,
  • Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) 1mg/g
  • Ubiquinol-10 (CoQ10) 500 Microgram/g

Our 8x multi-action formula is unlike any other on the market.  It simultaneously provides; antiviral action against HSV-1, assistance with wound healing, relief by soothing and cooling the area, acting as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, giving an anti-itch effect, and, finally, moisturizing the affected area.

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