So you’re in the market for some honey, manuka honey to be exact. But you’re overwhelmed by the amount of choice, the health benefits on the labels, and the numbers like ‘110+MGO’ and acronyms like ‘UMF’. Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to give you the information you need to be able to select the right manuka honey for you.
Manuka honey vs. other types of honey:
First of all, if you’re still aren’t sure what type of honey you’d like, we recommend heading here to our blog. It covers the differences between regular honey, raw honey, and manuka honey so you can make a good choice.
What is manuka honey?
If you know that you’d like to get your hands on the best manuka honey but aren’t sure what makes it so special, here is a brief overview. Manuka honey is produced by European honey bees. It is unprocessed, raw honey, that comes from the pollen of the manuka tree (leptospermum scoparium), a native tree found in New Zealand. It contains a unique enzyme called methylglyoxal (MGO) that is derived from the manuka bush and contains a high level of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Manuka honey labels usually reference ‘MGO’ or ‘UMF’ ratings (Unique Manuka Factor). These ratings indicate how much methylglyoxal is present in the manuka honey and its level of antibacterial potency. Scientists have researched the unique properties of MGO and UMF in manuka honey and have established the term ‘inhibine’. This term refers to the light and temperature-sensitive antibacterial substances it contains. The most known inhibine is hydrogen peroxide, which is formed in the honey by glucose oxidase . The manuka honey produced in New Zealand has a very high level of ‘nonperoxide’ antibacterial activity. This helps explain why New Zealand manuka honey is so highly regarded.
If that all sounds like gibberish, don’t fret. In a nutshell, manuka honey has great benefits. From wound healing, immune system support, reducing inflammation, to being a beauty ingredient or sweet addition to a food or drink. Yet, it’s important to know that not all manuka honey is equal, and there are varying levels of quality. From the highest grade, which is generally best for medicinal uses, to lower grade manuka honey that you could add to your beauty regime or to your toast. The grade of manuka honey that suits you depends on what you’re intending to use it for.
We’re here to help you make the best honey choice based on the following criteria:
3 key factors to consider when choosing manuka honey
The strength and grading of the manuka honey
We know from above that MGO, stands for methylglyoxal, the naturally occurring chemical compound that has high antibacterial properties and makes manuka honey so sought after. But what about all of the other ratings like UMF, KFactor or Bio Active that you might see? And, what strength of manuka honey do you need?
- MGO and UMF are the most common grading systems used to convey the medicinal quality of manuka honey. They measure the NPA (non-peroxide activity).
- The Bio Active grading system doesn’t measure NPA, but refers to the quality of the honey and not the antibacterial activity.
- KFactor grading is an independent grading system that refers to the purity and quality of honey. Like Bio Active, this measure does not consider NPA.
MGO grading starts at 30+ and goes above 800+, while UMF ratings start at 5+ and can go as high as 25+. To be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, Manuka honey needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF. Honey at or above that level is marketed as “UMF Manuka Honey” or “Active Manuka Honey.” A UMF factor of 10 has a minimum MGO rating of 263, which means the honey has 263mg of MGO per 1kg. The higher the UMF or MGO rating, the higher the antibacterial and medicinal properties of the honey.
The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA), have internationally recognised testing procedures. These procedures can confirm the MGO levels found in manuka honey. You can find a UMF grading chart on their website, here.
Before you purchase manuka honey, check MGO grade to make sure you’re buying the level that suits your needs. At Forest Maker Honey, we have the following MGO levels of 100+, 250+ and 550+, available in different sized jars.
The source of the manuka honey
Nowadays the market is flooded with honey brands that claim to sell genuine manuka honey. But where do they all come from, and does that matter? We would argue, yes. Two main areas to consider when looking into the source of manuka honey are:
1. The dilution of the manuka honey
Manuka honey can have varying levels of MGO depending on the source of the Manuka pollen, and also how many types of pollen the bees have collected at the same time (called multifloral honey), which dilutes the Manuka honey. For this reason it’s important to consider both the MGO factor, and whether the honey is multifloral or monofloral manuka honey (where the nectar is solely from the Manuka plant).
2. The authenticity
When choosing between different brands that make and sell manuka honey, a great place to start is checking for the FernMark logo. The FernMark is a trademark that officially recognises and endorses a product by the New Zealand Government. Making it a trusted mark that indicates a product’s country of origin and connection to New Zealand. If a manuka honey product carries the FernMark along with a unique licence number, you will be able to verify its authenticity. You can read more about FernMark here.
The business behind the manuka honey
Here we’re going beyond the authenticity of the honey and are referring to the ethos of the business that produces the manuka honey. Now more than ever consumers are realising the power they have when choosing where to spend their money. Businesses that were once feigning social resposibility or greenwashing (using marketing to deceptively pursuade people their organisation was environmentally friendly) are now facing increased scrutiny.
But what does that have to do with the honey industry? It’s no secret that high grade honey sells for higher prices than some other food or health products. This can encourage businesses or entrepreneurs to see dollar signs and enter the industry. So, we urge you to look further into the businesses you support, with honey producers being one of them.
Manuka honey plays a special role in the world due to its natural medicinal uses, and bees are crucial to our ecosystem. So, to us at Forest Maker Honey, the honey industry is perfectly positioned to positively impact the environment, and stand for more than just profit.
At Forest Maker Honey we’ve turned our words into actions, and each honey sale helps to fund forest restoration. We’re passionate about making a difference and we hope you are too.
Where to from here?
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with us. You’ve just taken in a lot of information about how to choose the best manuka honey, so to simplify and summarise it for you, remember to:
- Look out for the strength and grading of the manuka honey, and ensure you buy the grade that’s suitable for what you’re using it for
- Check the source of the manuka honey to ensure it’s origin claims stack up
- And if you’d like to, take a moment to learn more about the business behind the manuka honey (and any other purchases you make for that matter. Let’s all work towards being more conscious consumers).