Mānuka Honey for Digestive Health

Public Summary


Principal Investigator: Dr Jody Miller, University of Otago

Collaborating Organisations: Comvita New Zealand Limited, University of Otago, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Riddet Institute 

High-Value Nutrition funding: $874,927

A $1.3million clinical trial is underway to investigate the potential of Comvita Mānuka Honey to improve digestive health.

High Value Nutrition have awarded $874,927 to Comvita New Zealand Limited, University of Otago, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and the Riddet Institute to work together on this project.

Comvita-funded research recently discovered a natural compound called Lepteridine™, which is unique to Mānuka honey. This compound inhibits key biological enzymes involved in gastrointestinal inflammatory and pain pathways. 

Comvita used these findings to develop a Mānuka honey standardised for levels of Lepteridine™. The team researching this project will investigate the potential of Comvita Lepteridine™ Standardised Mānuka Honey to support digestive health and quality of life through scientific clinical trials.

The team will also use advanced scientific techniques to assess the impact of Comvita Lepteridine™ Standardised Mānuka honey on inflammatory biomarkers, immune cell function and the gut microbiota.  

History of Mānuka honey as a natural healer

Honey has been used as a therapeutic agent since ancient times to heal wounds and treat or prevent gastrointestinal symptoms. It’s also used in traditional Chinese medicine to support digestive comfort.

Mānuka honey is harvested from the nectar of the Leptospermum scoparium tree native to New Zealand and has higher levels of natural phenolic compounds compared to other honeys. These compounds give Mānuka honey a unique range of bioactive properties not found in other varieties of honey.

Scientific research shows that Mānuka honey has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial bioactivities. Clinical trials demonstrate the efficacy of medical grade Mānuka honey (Medihoney™) as a topical treatment for wounds, burns and skin conditions such as eczema. 

This science has led to a global consumer demand for Mānuka honey and its products, increasing its value as a result. However, the potential health benefits of Mānuka honey for digestive health haven’t, until now, received the same level of investigation.

Global demand for effective digestive health products

Up to 30 per cent of the world’s adult population live with chronic digestive symptoms like pain or burning in the stomach, bloating, and excessive belching or nausea after meals. These symptoms significantly impact a sufferer’s quality of life and can lead to increased time off work, reduced productivity, and extensive use of healthcare services.  

Often these symptoms have no obvious cause and treatment options can be limited to dietary and lifestyle advice or moderately-effective pharmaceutical treatments.

The outputs of this research will provide scientific evidence for the potential digestive health benefits of Mānuka honey, and support the need to develop and test new therapeutic approaches.

Research team

Jody Miller

Dr Jody Miller

Jody Miller is a Senior Research Fellow with the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago. Her research interests include investigating the role of micronutrient and protein deficiencies on health and disability in at-risk populations, with an overall aim to develop and test nutritional strategies, such as food fortification, supplementation, and dietary diversity, to improve the nutritional health of these groups.