Recently, there has been a lot of talk about manuka honey and its many benefits. Almost daily, we’re asked how manuka honey can help treat dry eyes, blepharitis, and meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). Read on to learn more about how manuka honey may benefit you and your eyes.
What is Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey is a specialized form of honey native to New Zealand. When bees pollinate the manuka plant (Leptospermum scoparium), you end up with manuka honey. So why is this honey so superior to regular honey you’d find at any grocery store? Manuka honey contains hydrogen peroxide and an antibacterial substance known as methylglyoxal (MG). While these two substances are found in very small quantities in regular honey, the manuka variety has them in higher quantities. Manuka honey also contains over 2,000 other natural healing compounds and phenols.
It is quite a bit more expensive than the regular form you’d find anywhere, ranging from $2 to $14 per ounce. The range of pricing comes down to the quality and something known as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). The UMF Honey Association (UMFHA) governs all manuka honey coming out of New Zealand, and if producers want to comply with these quality standards, they have to go through the UMFHA to get their approval. If you see their stamp and grading on the jar, it’s likely of high quality.
This honey has antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties that make it so great for many conditions. It has traditionally been used for wound healing, preventing tooth decay, and soothing sore throats and digestive issues. But what about using this alternative, natural antibiotic for blepharitis? First, let’s discuss what blepharitis is so you can more easily decide for yourself whether or not to try manuka honey.
What is Blepharitis?
Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids, and this may occur anteriorly or posteriorly on the eyelids. Anterior blepharitis is most often due to staph bacteria or scalp dandruff, and it affects the front portion of your eyelids (close to your eyelashes). Posterior blepharitis affects the meibomian glands, and it’s also known as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). The tiny oil glands in your eyelids work to provide the oily portion of your tears, and they are important to prevent evaporation of the tear film.
Those with blepharitis may notice many of the same symptoms of dry eye disease, because these conditions often coincide. You may notice any of the following:
Flakes or crust on the eyelashes
Redness of the eyelids
Flaking of the eyelid skin
Foreign body sensation
Eyelids stuck together
As you can see, this condition can be devastating for some people, and it can really affect quality of life. Beginning treatment in the early stages can help decrease the likelihood of progression to more severe disease that is harder to control.
Is Blepharitis Cured by Honey?
There is no cure for blepharitis, but there are ways to effectively manage this condition. With its substantial antibacterial properties, research has shown that manuka honey is very beneficial for wound healing and other conditions where bacteria is an issue. However, research on manuka honey and blepharitis is limited at this time. We do know that staph bacteria is the largest contributor to blepharitis, however, so it makes sense that using manuka honey may be beneficial.
Of course, manuka honey is not FDA approved to treat any condition, but those who wish to experiment with it will likely find minimal side effects to doing so. If you’re thinking of using manuka honey for blepharitis, consider using it topically over your closed eyelids. Simply close your eyes and use a clean cotton swab to spread the honey over your lids and lashes. Let it sit with eyes closed for 20 minutes, and then remove with a damp cloth.
Other Blepharitis Treatments
Many people may not be comfortable using manuka honey for blepharitis, and there are many other ways to effectively treat this condition.
1. Facial Hygiene
Facial skin hygiene is so important when it comes to treating blepharitis of any form. To begin with, ensure that you’re thoroughly removing your makeup every single night with an oil based eye makeup remover. After that, use a tea tree oil face wash to wash your face. The benefits of tea tree essential oil come down to its immense antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Tea tree is also known to be great for fighting demodex eyelash mites, a main contributor to blepharitis.
2. Clean Eyelids
After you’ve washed your face, you need to be thinking about eyelid hygiene. Keeping your eyelids clean can mean the difference between symptom free and miserable. We recommend a hypochlorous acid cleanser used twice daily. Hypochlorous acid is made naturally by the body to fight microorganisms, and it’s gentle enough to be used around the eyes. Simply spray the solution onto your closed eyelids, rub it in, and let it dry, Alternatively, you can use a cotton ball or round to apply. There’s no need to rinse this cleanser off.
3. Decrease Inflammation Through Diet
When treating blepharitis, it’s important to decrease the amount of chronic inflammation in your body overall. This can be accomplished by paying attention to what you’re putting into your body! First of all, it’s recommended to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. If you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking about 75 ounces of filtered water daily. If you’re concerned about this or have kidney issues, make sure to discuss this with your primary care doctor.
In addition to increasing water intake, the food you eat is so important to overall health (and this includes the health of your eyes!) Remove all of the processed food, fried food, and excess sugar from your diet. Consider taking a break from gluten and dairy as well, as these are typically very inflammatory.
What should you eat? Keep your diet as plant-based as possible. Eat real food. Fruits, vegetables, and food choices with minimal healthy ingredients are your best options for health. The simplest way to begin implementing this way of eating is to replace your breakfast with a green smoothie. This will ensure that you’re flooding your body with hydration, antioxidants, and essential nutrients first thing in the morning. Learn more about green smoothies and grab a few recipes here.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Speaking of food, it’s important to make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats. In America, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is much higher than it should be (optimal being a 4:1 ratio of omega-6:omega-3). To increase omega-3 fatty acids, you can choose to eat organic, wild caught fatty fish when available. Choices like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies can help level out your ratio.
As you can see, there are many great ways to treat blepharitis and keep it at bay. We could continue to list all of the treatments available, but the above really are important building blocks for healthy eyes and eyelids. Manuka honey may or may not help treat your blepharitis, but there’s no doubt it has some amazing medicinal properties.