How to use manuka honey for coughs, colds, sore throats and flus

manuka honey on table

For centuries honey has been used for medicinal purposes, such as treating wounds and as a medicine for patients when they come down with a cold or flu. The main reason honey is effective in these situations is due to the hydrogen peroxide contained in most honey varieties.

However, manuka honey is doubly effective in these situations due to its levels of MGO or methylglyoxal. 

While peroxide is great for killing bacteria, MGO is more potent and has been studied to have stronger antibacterial properties. Not surprisingly, when you put the two together you get a superfood in manuka honey that can be used to knock colds and flus out with a swift one-two punch!

Why is manuka honey effective against colds and flus?

When you come down with a cold or flu, or have a sore throat, you are usually given some form of antibiotics.

The reason you are prescribed antibiotics is because the goal is kill the bacteria that is causing the illness. Often in sore throats this is strep, or sometimes the issue is viral as is the case with influenza. 

There are many studies, such as this one and this one, that have shown the anti-influenza properties of manuka honey. On top of this are the many years of studies that have shown the antibacterial properties of manuka honey. Put these two together and you have an extremely potent natural remedy for relieving patients for both flus, colds and sore throats.

How to use manuka honey against sore throats and flus

manuka honey tea

 There are many ways you can use manuka honey to treat illness. When it's an internal illness such as a cold, the flu, or strep throat (as opposed to an external need such as a wound or skin issue) the best way to use manuka honey is to consume it orally.

Some of the many ways you can do that are:

Eat it naked

The simplest way is to just eat it!

This is a great way to give any illness, such as a cold or throat infection, exposure to the antibacterial properties of manuka honey. Similar to taking antibiotics morning and night with meals, you can simply eat a teaspoon of manuka honey instead. 

The pros of this approach is you don't risk adulterating the honey in any way as you might do with cooking, nor do your dilute it. Simply eating it at room temperature straight from the jar is the our favorite way of using manuka honey when feeling under the weather.

Mix it into a warm drink

Notice how we used the word warm and not hot. 

If you mix manuka honey into a drink that's too hot, you risk altering its antibacterial compounds, similar to what happens when honey is pasteurized.

Instead, it's better to make your hot drink with boiling water, and then let it cool for 10-15 minutes. 

Whether it's a tea or a coffee, or even a hot chocolate, whenever you consume manuka honey with your drink get used to drinking it a few levels cooler than you usually do.

Once it's been left to cool, mix in one teaspoon of manuka honey and stir it well until the honey dissolves.

Spread it on toast

We love eating our manuka honey on toast!

One of the great things about this approach is it's similar to eating it naked, in that you don't need to cook or heat the honey in any way. As long as your toast is not scorching hot when you spread the honey, you shouldn't risk any alteration of the bioactive compounds. 

Simply spread the honey as you would a normal condiment and enjoy. Once you've had manuka honey on toast, we're sure you won't go back to anything else. Even Nutella is no match!

Make our special manuka tea recipe

If you'd like to drink a warm manuka drink but don't know how to make it, you could use the recipe we've used in our household for over 20 years. It's very simple and tastes delicious, and knocks a cold out faster than a pot of chicken soup.

  • 2 cups warm water (boil water and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes)
  • One thumb of mashed ginger
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons of UMF 20+ Manuka honey
  • A dash of cinnamon (optional)
  • A very small dash of cayenne (very optional!)

It's fine to drink up to 3-4 cups of it per day. Sip on it slowly and re-brew a new cup as needed.

Eat manuka honey lozenges

Some companies make ready made manuka honey syrups, gummies and lozenges that are great for giving to kids (and even adults!)

While these products will certainly be more processed than naked manuka honey, we still think they're a great way to get your daily dosage of manuka honey, particularly when you're unwell and might be after a quick and easy treat.

Wedderspoon makes many great chews and lozenges, as do other companies like Comvita and Manuka Health.

manuka drops

You can check out the range of manuka honey lozenges, drops and chews currently available by clicking here.


Which manuka honey should i take for strep throat?

The manuka honey you should take for strep throat is something that is at least UMF20+. We recommend the higher UMF grades for strep throat as strep is quite a stubborn infection and can take a while to pass. Using a more potent manuka honey is a good option for an infection like this.

Our recommendations would be the NZ Honey Co UMF 24+ or the Comvita UMF 20+ options.

Is manuka honey  good for coughs and colds?

Yes, manuka honey is great for coughs and colds! Most common colds and coughs are caused by bacterial infections or viral infections, and manuka honey has proven to be good against both. It's also great for boosting your immune system, as studies have shown. which should improve your recovery time and help prevent you catching further coughs and colds in the future.

Is manuka honey good for mucus?

Manuka honey can be great for mucus when you are unwell. Mucus is usually a result of a build up of bacteria in your body that your body is trying to dispose of (that's why it's usually yellow, and you keep coughing it up). Manuka honey's antibacterial nature helps treat unwanted bacteria which should result in a reduction in mucus as you continue to treat.

does manuka honey boost the immune system?

Yes, manuka honey boosts the immune system! A recent 2018 study by AIMS microbiology was published in a medical journal, which showed along with manuka honey's antibacterial properties, it also had immune boosting qualities not found in other honey varieties.

can you put manuka honey in hot water?

No, we don't recommend putting manuka honey in hot water. While heating probably doesn't affect all the bioactive compounds in honey, we do believe it affects some of them. When treating a cold or sore throat, it's best to mix your manuka honey into warm water to preserve its potency.

Who are we?

I'm Erin, and my husband and I have been raising bees in Northern New Zealand for over 30 years. We no longer raise bees on Manuka flowers, but it remains one of our favorites, and we eat it daily, among other honeys like Kamahi and Rata. Since Manuka has grown in popularity overseas in recent years, we thought we should educate people on the true benefits of Manuka and how to find quality Manuka honey. Above is our guide, written by us and designed by our brilliant computer whiz of a son, Byron. We hope you find it helpful! Learn more about us here.