Worldwide millions of people are affected with liver problems. In UK alone this number is 2 million. There are 100 of types of diseases pertaining to liver damage.
Of these the most important ones are non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. Added to these there are alcoholic fatty liver diseases. The initial symptoms of liver damage are jaundice with loss of appetite and weight loss.
Of these diseases hepatitis is caused by different types of hepatitis virus – predominantly HBV and HCV. However, there are vaccines available for certain forms of the virus like HBV.
Hepatitis C virus is hepatitis is a leading concern which causes to chronic liver infection, liver cirrhosis sometimes leading to liver cancer. Globally 130 million are affected of which 7000, 000 die every year.
Alcoholic liver disease is caused by excessive alcohol consumption which may results in fatty liver disease (accumulation of fat in the liver), alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation, scarring of liver tissue) and alcoholic cirrhosis (destruction of normal liver tissue and scarring). These results in symptoms like fever, jaundice, enlarged liver, abdominal pain.
All of these are primary discourse towards liver cancer. Left to itself these diseases can potentially lead to liver cancer. Apart from medicinal therapy, one major alternative for this is liver transplantation. However, it isn’t the only feasible way.
Several naturally occurring food can act as a viable alternative for curing liver problems. Manuka Honey is one of them.
It is produced by the honey bee’s by collecting nectar from Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) bushes. It is rich in phenolic content and flavonoid – also highly acidic in nature.
The healing property and the anti-bacterial property is primarily responsible for this. Manuka honey contains methylglyoxal which has high anti-bacterial effect.
In the following section we are divulging into details of this phenomenon.
4 Benefits of Manuka Honey In Liver Health
There are beneficial aspects of including manuka honey in diet which helps in curing various diseases. Properties such as anti-microbial, anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation goes a long way in slowing down liver damage.
1. Anti-oxidant property of manuka honey prevents liver damage
Due to its high phenolic content manuka honey has strong anti-oxidant property. It is this property which protects cells and tissues from potential oxidative damage.
Animal model study vindicates this point. Animal study showed that manuka honey treatment reduced DNA damage in the liver tissue of rats. This reduction was co-related with the phenolic content. Manuka Honey does this by modifying and suppressing the level of various anti-oxidant enzymes.
Another study highlights the anti-oxidant effect in obstructive bile duct induced hepatic damage. This is a kind of liver damage cause by obstruction of the common bile duct. It is a major symptom of liver cirrhosis.
Treatment with manuka honey reduced liver damage by affecting the nitric oxide levels and reducing the oxidative stress related damage.
Similar outcome is observed in another mouse animal model study where it was found 90 days of manuka honey supplementation reduced lipid peroxidation (formation of fat) level and level of oxidative enzymes. Manuka honey increased anti-oxidants molecules in the liver thereby reducing liver damage.
What does this mean?
Phenol content of manuka honey decreases the oxidative damage in cells. Thus preventing further liver damage.
2. Manuka honey prevents inflammation of liver cells
Manuka honey has potential anti-inflammatory capacity and this comes handy in the treatment of liver inflammation. Inflammation of liver cells is a potential symptom of hepatitis and liver ulcer. Manuka honey with its phenol, flavonoids and methylglyoxal content prevents this inflammation.
A study explores the extent of the anti-inflammatory effect in cyclodextrin complexed manuka honey. The study showed that the anti-inflammatory effect may enhance or suppress depending on the methylglyoxal content of the complex. This can be seen in altered levels of TNFα.
A similar result was seen in dose dependent reduction of super-oxide (a form of oxide causing oxidative damage) because of the anti-inflammatory effect of manuka honey in topical wound application. However, in this study the anti-inflammatory effect was based on phenolic content.
These 2 components of manuka honey effects prevent the inflammation in liver cells in thesame way as shown in the above studies
What does this mean?
From the above studies on manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory effect it can be easily concluded that manuka honey acts as protective cover against inflammation. Thus preventing liver damage associated with liver diseases.
3. Manuka Honey prevents the growth of cancer cells
Manuka honey has anti-cancer property. Like other forms of honey, manuka honey is cytotoxic to cancer and tumour cells. It specifically acts on these types of cells and prevents its growth and cell division.
It primarily does this by affecting certain signalling pathways of the cells. Thus it results in selective destruction of cancerous cell keeping the healthy cell intact.
Study suggest this anti-cancer property of honey is due to its anti-proliferative (inhibits cell division) and apoptotic (causes cell death) effect and anti-oxidant effect. The anti-TNFα effect that is suppression of TNF-α cytokine (immune system messenger molecule) secretion and enhancement of other anti-inflammatory cytokine expression also plays a vital role.
Another study has illustrated this inverse relationship of manuka honey with cancer. It illustrates that due to anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting property of manuka honey, it acts as a natural cancer vaccine.
A study highlights the efficacy of manuka honey in cancer treatment. It shows manuka honey not only honey acts as a effective treatment alternative but it also reduces the toxicity of conventional chemotherapeutic agents.
Manuka honey’s major ingredient is methylglyoxal. It is due to this chemical content manuka honey has potential anti-microbial property.
This property prevents further bacterial infection in the damaged liver tissue. However, this methylglyoxal is considered as an anti-cancer component.
A study conducted on various cancer patients with methylglyoxal treatment showed potential improvement
Another study conducted on different cancer patients vindicated this point. Methylglyoxal formulations seem to cure these patients. This is primarily done by altering the structure of glyceraldehydes-3-phosphate dehydrogenase enzyme and mitochondria complex1 (enzymes needed for the breakdown of glucose in food and also for initiating cell death)
However, we should be careful as methylglyoxal content have been associated with diabetes related liver damage.
What does this mean?
Manuka honey can protect the damage liver cells from developing into potential cancerous cells by inhibiting its uncontrolled cell division and growth. Thus it offsets the advancement of liver cancer.Manuka honey with its high methylglyoxal content can prevent liver cancer.
4. Manuka Honey protects from drug induced hepatotoxicity
Manuka honey has another extra-ordinary when it comes to liver disease. It acts as a protective shield and prevents toxicity in the liver cells induced by various drugs. Thus it protects the hepatic cells from damaged caused by medicines.
An animal study on anti-tubercular drugs (tuberculosis curing drugs) illustrates this point. It shows that manuka honey acts like a hepatoprotective agent and protects the liver cells against the toxic effects of anti-tubercular drugs like isoniazid, rifampicin.
It potentially acts by reducing cell inflammation and degeneration in the liver.
This hepatoprotective role of manuka honey was further observed in another animal model where it reduced the toxic effects of paracetamol drug. This is essentially done by reducing the serum levels of certain enzymes and cytokines which damages liver cells.
Another study suggests that manuka honey acts on cytochrome P450, an enzyme which breaks down drugs to toxic oxide forms. These oxides cause oxidative damage to the liver cells often leading to cell death. It also creates bile secretion imbalance and change in membrane properties.
All of these effects are seen in liver cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, hepatitis and other chronic liver diseases.
What does this mean?
Research shows that manuka honey acts as a protective agent for the liver cells and prevents any kind of damages done by medicines. It protects the cell from toxic effects of certain medicines.
How to take manuka honey protect liver health?
There is no strict dosage of manuka honey for any condition. 1 teaspoon of manuka honey 2-3 times a day can help.
This can be consumed with lukewarm or plain water if needed, but it is best to take manuka honey straight off the spoon.
Wallace et. al have conducted a study on safety of manuka honey and their results prove that manuka honey has a good safety profile. The manuka honey used in the study had UMF 20+ and 20 g was given each day for 4 weeks. No adverse effects were observed.
Preservative free honey has very little side effects but one potential area of concern is allergic reactions. Honey is very much prone to allergic reactions. This is due to the bee wax or pollens which act as allergens. Hence, people with allergic history are advised against using it.
The above sections clearly demarcates that manuka honey has an effective role in preventing liver damage. It has an overall protective effect on the liver tissues preventing any kind of liver disease.
Hence it is advisable to add this in our daily diet. However, people prone to allergies should be cautious as pollen present in honey can trigger allergic reactions.