Conjunctivitis, commonly also called “pink eye”, is a disease that is characterised by the inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye, which is the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids.
Conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by an infection, viral or bacterial. Redness around the infected region, swelling of the eye, watering are all common symptoms of this disease.
What is manuka honey?
Manuka honey is widely regarded as a natural home remedy for a number of ailments, and is famous for its many health benefits.
It is a type of honey that is found in New Zealand, and is made from the nectar of wild Manuka trees indigenous to that area.
Manuka honey can be used for the treatment of eye diseases such as conjunctivitis. The major causes for conjunctivitis are either viral or bacterial infections, and manuka honey is known to be effective against both.
The presence of the compound methylglyoxal in manuka honey lends it properties that help it inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and virus.
This compound is not present in regular honey, and is the main reason for the popularity of manuka honey as a natural home remedy against so many diseases and disorders.
How does manuka honey benefit in conjunctivitis?
Various properties of manuka honey find its use in treatment of conjunctivitis.
1. Manuka honey has anti-microbial effect
According to a study published in 2012, manuka honey is found to have potent anti-viral properties. In the study, the effect of manuka honey on Varicella Zoster Virus was studied, which is very well known to be a common cause of conjunctivitis .
In case of a bacterial infection, the bacteria most commonly responsible are Staphylococci, and Streptococci, against whom manuka honey is known to be extremely effective.
The anti-bacterial properties of manuka honey due to the methylglyoxal present in it works efficiently against the bacteria that are commonly known to cause conjunctivitis. This was proved in a study that was conducted in August 2004 on the effect of natural honey on bacterial infections in the conjunctiva .
For the purposes of the study, bacterial conjunctivitis was induced in rats by the action of bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Honey was then applied to the infected area of the eye daily at least 4 times a day .
It was found that the growth of the bacteria in the infected region was inhibited completely by 30% and above concentration of honey. The most common disease causing microbes such as E. coli, P. aeruginosa, and H. influenza were found to be the most vulnerable to the action of natural honey.
The application of honey into the infective conjunctivitis, according to the study, reduced redness, swelling, pus discharge, and even the time needed for the eradication of the bacterial infections .
Research shows that manuka honey also exerts bactericidal effect on Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Similarly its anti-microbial action has been proven against various infective bacteria.
What does this mean?
Manuka honey has microbicidal effect against various pathogens that cause conjunctivitis.
2. Manuka honey has anti-inflammatory effect
Manuka honey is also known for its potent anti-inflammatory effect. This effect of manuka honey makes it extremely effective against a disease such as conjunctivitis as the infection mainly involves the inflammation of the conjunctiva.
Manuka honey is found to mediate anti-inflammatory effect by acting via Toll like receptor pathway. This biochemical pathway is essential in cell proliferation, immune response and inflammation. It also prevents inflammation by inhibiting activation of immune cells.
In addition to all this, manuka honey is also known to produce an immune boosting effect. A study conducted on January 2012 proves that it is due to the presence of certain Arabinogalactan proteins and Apisimin that manuka honey has such a pronounced “immunostimulatory” effect .
What does this mean?
Manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory action can help in controlling inflammation in conjunctivitis.
3. Manuka honey is safe for eyes
If you are wondering whether manuka honey is safe for the eyes, then here is a study that depicts the therapeutic effect of manuka honey on eye swelling on post surgical recovery. They were treated with Optimel Antibacterial Manuka Honey drops in combination with conventional therapy.
Reduction in swelling, inflammation and improvement in visual acuity was observed. Slight stinging was observed but no side effects occurred.
What does this mean?
Clinical trial suggests that manuka honey can be safely used for the eye and is effective in treating post surgical eye related complications.
How to take Manuka honey for conjunctivitis?
For oral consumption honey, being a natural food, does not have any specific dosage. 1 teaspoon of of manuka honey 2 times a day daily is recommended. It can be taken directly, or after dissolving in in cold or warm water.
High temperatures may degrade beneficial properties of manuka honey, and hence it should never be dissolved in hot water.
How to apply Manuka honey for conjunctivitis?
For maximum effect in case of conjunctivitis, manuka honey needs to be applied externally. For this purpose, manuka honey needs to be applied to the site of the infection in the eye directly. In order do to this, a diluted solution needs to be prepared that can be applied to the eye.
Prepare a solution of equal parts manuka honey in warm distilled water. Tap water, or drinking water will not do for this purpose.
Now with the use of a clean eye dropper, 2-3 drops of this solution can be applied to each eye about 3 times a day until the infection clears off.
It is extremely important to have pure honey for this else it may damage the eye. Therefore extreme caution needs to be applied here and if not sure do not use the method.
You can also apply manuka honey externally to lower eyelid in small amounts. 3 tablespoons of manuka honey mixed with two cups of boiling water can serve as an eye compress.
UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) rating should be checked on the bottle of store bought honey in order to guarantee purity and potency.
A patch test is recommended to check for allergies against manuka honey. This should be done at least 48 hours before the manuka honey is first consumed. These kinds of allergies are common in people who already have related allergies against bees and/or pollen.
Children under the age of 1 year should not consume manuka honey, as it may cause botulism poisoning.
Diabetic patients may also be able to take manuka honey, but it needs to be done while keeping a check on the blood sugar levels to detect any adverse effects or complications.
Manuka honey may be considered an effective treatment option for conjunctivitis. This is because manuka honey has both antibacterial and antiviral properties,that have been proved to work even specifically against the common causative organisms of conjunctivitis.
In this way, the methylglyoxal works directly against the cause of the infection. In addition, it also has anti-inflammatory properties and works towards boosting the response of the immune system against the pathogen.
However before using manuka honey topically for the eyes, please check its purity and use distilled water. You can still use manuka honey as an eye compress.