Special Manuka Honey Dripping onto a Wooden Spoon

by Sarah Gill July 15, 2019 5 min read

What's So Special About New Zealand Manuka Honey?

New Zealand is famous for its Mānuka honey.

Not only is it a delicious natural sweetener, but it has some unique properties that earned it a title as a super-food. It’s time to learn about New Zealand Mānuka honey, why it’s so special and what to look for on the label when making your purchase of New Zealand’s own Mānuka honey.


What is Manuka?

Let’s start right at the beginning and find out what the ‘Manuka’ in Manuka Honey is. Manuka is a native New Zealand tree. It's official name is Leptospermum scoparium and is found all over New Zealand.

New Zealand Maori recognised the Manuka tree, with it's white flowers and small, pointed green leaves as being something special a long time before scientists did the research that agreed with them.

Most parts of the New Zealand Manuka tree were used in traditional Maori medicine (Rongoā Māori).


What is New Zealand Manuka Honey?

Honey is made when bees collect nectar from flowers. The type of flowers give the unique taste, colour and properties found in different types of honey. Manuka Honey is made when bees collect nectar from the Manuka tree.


What makes New Zealand Manuka Honey so special?

Mānuka honey has been thought to have some unique properties that make it
more than just a natural sweetener.

All honey contains a range of proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phenolic
acids and flavonoids that may be responsible for the traditional benefits. But
Mānuka honey has something a bit extra.

Before scientists worked out exactly what it was in Mānuka honey that made it so special, they identified this special something as Unique Manuka Factor or UMF.

Then they found that one of the unique properties that may make New Zealand
Mānuka honey a real superfood is a compound called Methylglyoxal (MGO).


What should I look for on the label?

Not all Manuka Honey is created equally. So it’s important to know what to look for on the label, whether it’s a jar of honey or a honey skin care product.


MGO/MG or UMF rating

Here’s how the UMF and MG ratings line up

UMF and MGO Ratings

All pure monofloral Manuka Honeys come in varying degrees of strength. Different brands use different grading systems to highlight the strength or bioactivity. UMF and MGO are the most commonly used grading systems and the most trusted.

UMF & MGO comparison table of Manuka honey grading

MGO (Methylgloxal) is one of the chemical markers found in Manuka Honey As part of the quality process, independent testing measures four key signature markers - MGO, Leptosperin, HMF and DHA
MGO 80 UMF 5+
MGO 260 UMF 10+
MGO 510 UMF 15+
MGO 690 UMF 18+
MGO 830 UMF 20+
MGO 1200 UMF 25+
MGO 1620 UMF 30+
Source: UMFHA Official UMF™ MGO Comparison Table

Raw honey

Although there’s no strict definition of “raw” honey, the “raw” is taken to mean that the honey has been processed at low temperatures. Generally less than 47 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit). Pasteurising or extracting honey at high temperatures is thought to reduce the amount of nutrients and antioxidants in the honey.

Multiflora or monofloral

Some Manuka Honey may have the label “multifloral”. This means the honey contains nectar from Manuka and other flowers. Pure Manuka Honey may be labelled “monofloral”. You can learn more about the difference between monofloral and multifloral Manuka Honey here.


Honey, a natural sweetener

Honey is great as a natural sweetener in drinks, as an ingredient in food or a spread on crackers or warm toast. The sugar that honey contains is a combination of fructose and glucose. The amount of fructose compared to glucose varies depending on the type of honey and flower of origin.

White (table) sugar is a sugar called ‘sucrose’ and contains 100g sugar per 100g. Honey contains less, around 78g sugar per 100g. This is also less than the sugar content of coconut sugar.

Choosing honey is a lower-sugar sweetener option.


What does Manuka Honey taste like?

Manuka Honey has a rich, floral taste. It’s a golden honey but the higher MG /UMF Manuka Honeys are darker and more solid.


How do I use Manuka Honey?

Mānuka honey is available in so many different ways. You can eat New Zealand
Mānuka honey or drizzle it into your tea. It’s also an ingredient in many lozenges, throat sprays, creams, wipes, balms, and supplements.

Depending on what you buy, the storage and use-by dates will vary. So always
check the container.

If you buy a jar of Mānuka honey and it starts to crystalize (or granulate), it doesn’t mean the honey is out of date. It’s normal for honey to grow into crystals. Keeping your jar of honey somewhere warm may help to reduce crystal formation. Don’t be tempted to heat your honey to remove the crystals. You may also affect the taste of the honey. Give it a stir, and keep enjoying your Mānuka honey.


Who can’t use Manuka Honey?

New Zealand Manuka Honey, like other honey, shouldn’t be given to infants under 12 months old to eat. This is because honey may contain a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum that can cause severe sickness in infants due to their immature digestive system. This bacteria is usually harmless to adults and children over 1 year old, because the microorganisms normally found in the intestine keep the bacteria from growing. Using creams and balms that contain Manuka Honey is safe.

Using New Zealand Manuka Honey and honey products is safe when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Although rare, if you’ve an allergy to honey then an allergic reaction will happen with Manuka Honey as well.

As Manuka Honey is considered an animal product people following a vegan diet tend to avoid honey. But it is enjoyed by many vegetarians.


That’s our introduction to New Zealand Manuka Honey

As you’ve guessed, it’s a favourite of ours. Uniquely New Zealand.

If you’re curious, and want to find out where we got our information, here are the references we used to get you the best over-view of what makes Manuka Honey our favourite.


Alvarez-Suarez, J., Gasparrini, M., Forbes-Hernández, T., Mazzoni, L., & Giampieri, F. (2014). The composition and biological activity of honey: a focus on Manuka honey. Foods3(3), 420-432.

Atrott J & Henle T. 2009. Methylglyoxal in manuka honey—correlation with antibacterial properties. Czech Journal of Food Sciences27(Spec.), S163-S165.

Best Practice Journal. 2008. Issue 13. Demystifying Rongoā Māori: Traditional Māori healing. BPACNZ Better Medicine. Accessed June 2019 

Hamdan, K. (2010). Crystallization of honey. Bee World87(4), 71-74.

Mavric E et al. 200). Identification and quantification of methylglyoxal as the dominant antibacterial constituent of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honeys from New Zealand. Molecular nutrition & food research52(4), 483-489.