Is Your Manuka Honey the Real Deal?

Manuka honey, a honey originating from the Manuka plant in New Zealand and Australia, has been researched immensely within the past few decades due to the vast range of benefits it has on the human body.

While all true natural honeys are naturally antiseptic, Manuka honey has been proven to contain high concentrations of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients. In addition, true Manuka is also considered a superfood. Manuka honey has a long list of benefits that are not commonly known.

In addition to its antibacterial property, Manuka honey has actually been proven to help human health in several unexpected ways. If you have a normal cut, this honey will actually fight microbial infections without causing damage to your skin, and will actually help your skin heal faster than normal. After this, the honey has a longer lasting effect on the skin by balancing its pH level, helping to prevent future infections. This honey can also even act as an anti-inflammatory for any puffy or inflamed skin, and true Manuka honey is actually FDA approved for wound care.

How to distinguish true Manuka honey from ordinary honey 

In order to discern true Manuka honey from ordinary honeys, there are a few key pieces of information to know that can help guarantee that you receive a product worth the price.

1. Look at the Methylglyoxal (MG) levels

Previously, it has been avidly debated as to what ingredient actually gives Manuka honey all of its health benefits, and after many studies, Professor Thomas Henle at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany isolated a compound he believed to be the main source of Manuka honey’s antibacterial effects.  

The main ingredient that gives Manuka honey its unique health benefits is known as Mythylglyoxal, also commonly labeled as MG. According to Mike Everly of ‘Bees and Trees Manuka Honey’, “The MG level correlates to the antibacterial properties in the honey. The higher the MG, the higher the antibacterial properties and the higher the anti-inflammatory properties in the honey.”

MG levels can vary greatly between honeys, depending on the actual source of the product. These MG levels are measured in a lab, and are reported in mg/kg or parts per million.

These lab test results range anywhere from 0 to 600+, but in order for a Manuka honey to be considered medically active, it must have an MG rating of at least 100 or more.

If you’re looking to use this honey for smaller everyday medical uses, according to Everly, the 320 MG rated honey is the best value. For more severe treatments for colds, deeper cuts or burns, however, the 520 MG product would be better suited for this use.  

2. Pay attention to the ‘UMF’ rating (Unique Manuka Factor)

A similar rating system also sits in place to rate Manuka honey based on its MG levels. This rating, called the Unique Manuka Factor, or UMF, is trademarked by The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association in New Zealand. It varies from 0 to 20, and has been in place even before honey was being tested for its MG content.

Traditionally, UMF ratings were based on the area of how much bacterial growth was actually being inhibited in a sample, but now,  UMF ratings are formulated based on their actual MG levels. When looking at honey labels, honeys using an actual UMF label in front of their rating are guaranteed to contain that listed level of methylglyoxal.

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3. Be Aware Possibly Misleading Labels

Unfortunately, as knowledge of Manuka honey’s medical benefits has spread, many other honey producers have attempted to use its name to sell their product.

Honey producers have been known to label their products with certain phrases that are not regulated in an attempt to sell their honey as active Manuka honey. Labels displaying phrases like “Active +”, or “Bioactive 15+” use these descriptions in the attempt to fool customers into believing their ordinary honey also has the medical benefits of true Manuka honey. This allows  them to also increase the price significantly.

If a honey is true Manuka honey, and really does have a high level of MG; either the MG count will be specifically listed and labeled on the product, or it will have a UMF rating. Any other label other than the two specified are not regulated, and most likely do not contain high levels of Methylglyoxal. Picking out the impostors in a group of honey can be a very easy task, so long as you know what the label terminology means.


YGL staff