We spoke with former Vogue art director and founder of Activist Mānuka, Gabrielle Mirkin, to learn all about the incredible benefits of raw Mānuka honey. Because not all honey is created equally, Gabrielle explains what makes Mānuka such a powerhouse when it comes to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. The super potent medicinal food can be used both internally and externally to heal skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis and Staph, as well as a multitude of other chronic infections. Gabrielle also talks to us about its beauty benefits and shares her favorite Mānuka face mask recipe with us.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to create Activist Mānuka?
I was living and working in New York City as an Art Director at Vogue Magazine. Shortly after my 30th birthday I became very sick literally overnight. I had many scary neurological symptoms and was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease. The dis-ease I experienced was from more than just the tick bite which causes Lyme Disease; my body and mind were so toxic from living a life completely out of balance, that my glass just overflowed from my stressful lifestyle and work environment. I was constantly overstimulated and depleted. My mind loved the idea of a big city, but my physical body did not.
After a month spent in Switzerland at a Biological Medicine Clinic, I returned to New Zealand, where my husband Luke and I spent a year living quietly on our piece of land in the Coromandel. Some bee-keeping friends asked if they could place hives on our land and we happily agreed. It was a transformative year. As my health began to improve, I became deeply interested in natural foods, preparing all our food from scratch, including nut milks, bread, granola, green juices, chocolates, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut. I really believe in the human body’s innate capacity to heal itself if provided with the right tools — one of these being nourishing foods from the earth and Mānuka Honey. Luke and I felt a pull towards creating a business that reflected our interest in the natural world and Luke’s life-long passion for surfing from an environmental standpoint. We began noticing the activity of the local bees as we walked through the thick native bush to get to the ocean. We became so aware of the bees’ activity as the earth warmed with the sun that we learned to tell the time by their activity and began to understand their key role as key environmental indicators. That was a magical moment for us. We felt the need to build a business that was in tune with our lifestyle and passions.
As a family we’ve built a company that works prolifically with natural resources native to our home country of Aotearoa New Zealand; which is our larger playground and one which we have a deeper understanding with. The ability to build a brand with limited industrial impact was something that was very important to us. In essence we are simply letting Mother Nature, the seasonal cycles, symbiotic relationships, and microclimates, cultivate the basis of our products. It is our role to present these to the world in their highest and unadulterated form with as little human interference and corporate shortcomings as possible. It’s very important to us to elevate and educate people about what real authentic Mānuka Honey is.
How does Mānuka honey differ from regular honey?
Mānuka is the beautiful tree and wildflower native to Aotearoa New Zealand. Depending on the year's climate and weather patterns of the Southern Hemisphere, Mānuka flowering starts at the beginning of spring at the top of the North Island of New Zealand and makes its way south. The flowering of Mānuka is a very short window ranging anywhere from two to six weeks of the year. Because of such a short window for the wild-crafting of Mānuka Honey, the season is labor intensive, preparation for bee-health is crucial and no time is wasted when the Mānuka is flowering. Factoring in so many elements over harvesting is essential to get our premium high grade Mānuka Honey so pure and unadulterated.
Mānuka Honey is one of the most unique and beneficial forms of honey in the world with considerably higher level of enzymes than regular honey. Mānuka’s active agent is methylglyoxal (MGO)—the measured concentration that determines the potency of the honey. Overall, Mānuka is highly anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial, making it a great addition to any wellness and beauty routine and health apothecary. Mānuka Honey is used internally and topically and helps many ailments including:
Acne, eczema, and dermatitis
Burns and wounds
What is methylglyoxal? Can you explain the MGO rating system?
Activist Mānuka is independently tested and certified in New Zealand using the Methylglyoxal (MGO) grading system. MGO is the measured concentration that determines the potency of the honey and verifies that the Mānuka Honey you are buying is authentic. The MGO rating is well recognized as a mark of real Mānuka Honey; the higher the MGO rating in Mānuka Honey, the higher the level of antibacterial activity, Mānuka’s key differentiator and global appeal. The MGO Certification is scientific, precise, transparent, and leaves no room for misleading. Products claiming to be Mānuka Honey but not showing an MGO or UMF rating are unlikely to be genuine.
Can you tell us about some of the health benefits of Mānuka honey?
Mānuka is an extremely special and beautiful resource native to New Zealand where we are from. Activist Raw Mānuka Honey has amazing health benefits, natural anti-bacterial and active properties which come from the nectar of the plant. Our product is raw and unprocessed, therefore retaining all the natural properties. Mānuka Honey is a great addition to any wellness routine, apothecary, and beauty cabinet.
Mānuka has been proven to have efficacy against antibiotic-resistant microbes, promoting its healing powers against pathogens internally and externally. When sick, it improves sore throats, helps soothe coughs and common cold symptoms. Mānuka also helps people with acute sinus problems and allergies. We take a spoonful of raw Mānuka in the morning when our hay fever begins to act up and gargle it with slightly warm salt water when our family has a sore throat. Mānuka Honey is the medicine of choice for families and kids in our homeland of New Zealand.
Acne, eczema, and dermatitis
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, Mānuka has extraordinary healing properties for skin conditions. It can reduce redness and heal congested or inflamed skin such as eczema or psoriasis. Additionally, Mānuka can be used for its antibacterial properties on the skin by oxygenating pores, which can draw out or reduce the amount of bacteria on blemishes. This can drastically improve acne-prone skin. You can use Mānuka Honey as an everyday face wash, direct spot treatment on acne and as a face mask and leave on for 20-30minutes.
Skin Repair and Healthy Aging
Studies show that the methylglyoxal found in Mānuka Honey has been shown to increase and protect the production of collagen in the skin, promoting structural growth and regrowth. Mānuka’s amino acids harmonize perfectly with the pH balance of our skin, helping us age well. It is also extremely hydrating for the skin, helping to retain moisture, which is an important part of reducing fine lines. Mānuka can be taken internally or externally for this reason.
Burns and wounds
The methylglyoxal enzymes within the honey create a natural hydrogen peroxide that works as an antibacterial. Mānuka can soothe inflammation and pain, as well as dress a wound at any stage. It can stimulate wound healing time and repair white blood cells.
Mānuka is wonderful for supporting the natural digestive microbiome. Because low stomach acid can come from overgrowth of bacteria, Mānuka is a great way to rid your body of those pathogens and keep the digestion flowing properly. This is because it contains oligosaccharides, which have a prebiotic effect on the gut and promote the proliferation of good flora. In addition, the high antioxidant content has been found to be effective in the treatment of gastric and peptic ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, dyspepsia, GERD, Staph infections, food poisoning and more. We eat it by the spoonful daily!
Because of its anti-bacterial and microbial properties, Mānuka can kill plaque and improve and prevent issues relating to tooth decay and gingivitis. It is great when used as a mouthwash or oil pull to remove toxins, especially for someone suffering from periodontal disease. It can easily be spread across gums and teeth, and since it’s non-toxic, can actually be swallowed with saliva.
How does Mānuka honey benefit beauty on a cellular level?
I believe in the concept of cellular beauty. This refers to ingesting internal health products rather than just focusing on external skincare. Skincare is no longer just topical, but it is what we put into our bodies. Mānuka is the true cellular beautician and one of nature’s multifunctional healing treasures.
If cellular beauty refers to internal health reflecting externally, then Mānuka does just this. Mānuka is highly anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and can be absorbed on top of the skin or swallowed for its health benefits. It is amazing for digestive, immune and oral health, burns and wounds, and almost any skin condition. It is completely adaptable for internal and external health. This ingestible beauty technique can help increase collagen protection, fight free radicals, and support our skin from the cellular level and out.
Mānuka is especially wonderful for supporting the natural digestive microbiome, preventing, and healing inflammation. It uses its antibacterial properties to rid the gut of pathogens, allowing for the liver and lymphatic system to shine through your skin. This is because it contains oligosaccharides, which have a prebiotic effect on the gut and promote the proliferation of good flora. In addition, the methylglyoxal found in Mānuka Honey has been shown to increase and protect the production of collagen in the skin, promoting structural growth and regrowth. Mānuka’s amino acids harmonize the pH balance of our skin, helping us age well. It is also extremely hydrating for the skin, helping to retain moisture, which is an important part of preventing fine lines. Mānuka can be taken internally or externally for this reason.
Mānuka honey makes an incredible face mask. How does Manuka benefit the skin when used externally?
I receive a lot of questions about if Activist Mānuka Honey can help with the relief and healing of skin conditions such as dermatitis, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, acne and more. And our answer is…ABSOLUTELY YES.
One of the many reasons we love Mānuka is its simplicity. This golden nectar speaks directly from nature itself. It has multifaceted uses and can be applied to the skin to heal almost any condition. It is the quintessential antidote to almost any skin issue. This is because the methylglyoxal found in Mānuka Honey has been found to promote skin regeneration, repair cellular damage, calm inflammation and get rid of bacteria. It has also been shown to increase and protect the production of collagen in the skin, promoting structural growth and regrowth. Mānuka’s amino acids harmonize the pH balance of our skin. In addition, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, Mānuka has extraordinary healing properties for skin conditions. It can reduce redness and heal congested or inflamed skin such as eczema or psoriasis.
Additionally, Mānuka can be used for its antibacterial properties on the skin by oxygenating pores, which can draw out or reduce the amount of bacteria on blemishes. This can drastically improve acne-prone skin. Mānuka truly is magical at repairing skin damage and health.
We recommended externally using Mānuka in whatever way you need! You can use it as a daily face wash, lather on as a mask, or even simply spot treat certain areas or wounds when needed. We would especially recommend washing regularly with our 100+ MGO honey or 300+ MGO honey, lather weekly masks with our 850+ MGO honey, and spot treat with 1000+ MGO honey.
You have some amazing testimonials on your website, including reviews from people saying your Mānuka honey has helped them to clear cystic acne and others who say that it’s healed their ulcers. What is the most common feedback you receive from people about your honey?
I’m so grateful to receive emails and messages from customers daily letting me know how Activist Mānuka has helped them recover from a particular health issue, skin condition, or heal from something major in their life. It really is the reason that we do what we do and are so proud to offer Activist Manuka to our friends and customers. Most testimonials I receive from people are in relation to Activist Manuka healing something that conventional medicine failed at; cystic acne, eczema, dermatitis, immune health, stomach ulcers and infections, C Diff.,acid reflux, Staph infections and even diaper rash.
Most testimonials are from people who have been on long-term antibiotics for skin conditions and internal infections and are using our high-grade medicinal Manuka Honey (850+ and 1000+MGO) with fantastic results. A couple recent testimonials have actually made me cry!
“I was just talking about how amazing your company is to everyone I speak with. I have been using your ACTIVIST Mānuka 850+MGO for face masks the past two weeks for my skin and I could cry from happiness. I have been struggling with acne and I’ve tried everything. After using your honey, my skin is so much more even, no redness. And no breakouts. This is magic. I am so thankful; thank you for making a beautiful company. Your lifestyle and ethos is so aligned with mine, thank you for the inspiration.” ~ Taylr Anne @taylranne
"Activist is nectar from the gods. After years of struggling with acid reflux, I discovered, almost by accident!, that a spoonful of Mānuka before bed left my previously burning esophagus soothed and in repair." – Danielle Beinstein @danibeinstein
Can you tell us about your Mānuka Elixir and how it supports the immune system?
Activist Mānuka Elixir is infused with our medicinal grade Raw Mānuka Honey 850+MGO and is specifically formulated to boost the immune system. It is used for immune maintenance or immediate illness treatment. This ruby red ambrosia works to heal and nourish with medicinal herbs and adaptogens, under a base of spring water and vegetable glycerine. Right now, it is of the utmost importance to keep our immune systems safe and healthy. Our list of ingredients is powerful and 100% clean and safe for the entire family (apart from infants under 12months).
We use one of the highest methylglyoxal grades of Mānuka Honey because it is highly anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial. We use bio-active Sovereign Silver because it helps fight bacterial infections and boosts immune support. Sovereign Silver has been used medicinally for more than 2,000 years and is still as potent today as it was then. We also use sugar-free, pure elderberry syrup because it is one of the oldest and most effective remedies for viral and bacterial infections. Organic Echinacea is used because it contains ec
hinacein, which protects healthy cells from viruses and bacteria that are trying to invade them. We use wildcrafted Turkey Tail mushroom because it is a true, safe, and tonic adaptogenic mushroom that has efficacy for the entire family of all ages. Organic astragalus is a great addition as well for its immune and adaptogenic properties. It helps fight viral and bacterial infections and lowers duration of illness. Last but not least, Organic ginger is one of the world’s oldest and most popular medicinal spices and medicines. It not only aids in digestion, but it helps colds and flu, sore throats, exhaustion, and fatigue.
You have another product called Mānuka Oil. What is Mānuka Oil and what are some of its benefits?
Activist Mānuka Oil is 100% pure, wildcrafted and distilled from the leaves and twigs of the New Zealand Mānuka Tree. This special oil is freshly distilled for us every few weeks, in small batches, on a beautiful and remote island in New Zealand which sets it apart from any other Mānuka Oil on the market. It contains very high levels of triketones and various terpene molecules, which makes it a 100% natural disinfectant and has high anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It has a beautiful medicinal aroma which is herbaceous, green, fresh, spicy, clean, and sweet. Studies have shown Manuka oil to be more than 30x stronger than Tea Tree oil.
I love to add one to two drops to a teaspoon of Activist Manuka Honey for a 100% natural face mask (recipe below). Add one to two drops to your favorite face oil and apply to your skin. Add directly to broken skin caused by cuts, abrasions, burns and rashes. Manuka oil is extremely effective for acne, Staph, psoriasis and eczema. I also loving adding Manuka Oil to a diffuser for a natural air cleanser, which is especially important during cold and flu season.
You have a great face mask recipe that incorporates your Mānuka Honey and Manuka Oil. Can you share that with us?
My personal favorite way to use our new Manuka oil is for skincare, either in a face mask or by adding a couple drops into my favorite face oil and applying after freshly cleaning it. It is also amazing at making spots disappear fast! This face mask recipe is great for calming inflammation, detoxifying, and hydrating the skin. I also like it as an antibacterial remedy.
ACTIVIST MANUKA HONEY + MANUKA OIL FACE MASK
2 drops Activist Mānuka Oil
2 tbs fresh, gutted aloe
1 tsp chlorella
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Whisk as needed to get a desired consistency. Slather on face generously. Leave on for 20 to 30 minutes. Wipe clean with a warm washcloth. Glow all day long!
Photo Credit: @activistmanuka