Manuka Honey Facts

Everything you ever wanted to know about New Zealand Manuka Honey

New Zealand Manuka Honey is world-renowned as not just a delicious natural sweetener, but as a unique super-food to boost our well-being. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about New Zealand Manuka Honey

What is Manuka?

Manuka is a native New Zealand tree. Its official name is Leptospermum Scoparium [1]. Most parts of the New Zealand Manuka tree were used in traditional Maori medicine (Rongoā Māori) to treat wounds, burns, inflammation and digestive complaints.

Where does Manuka Honey come from?

Manuka honey only comes from New Zealand, as this is where the Manuka tree is endemic. The most potent Manuka Honey comes from areas where the Manuka Tree and its blossoms are abundant – often in very remote areas of New Zealand, in the North and South Island. This ensures that the bees harvest nectar specifically from only the Manuka flowers. The highest gradings for Manuka Honey (UMF or MGO) are from honey taken from hives where the bees have almost exclusive access to only Manuka trees. [2]

Are Manuka and Tea Tree the same?

No. Manuka is a New Zealand native tree (Leptospermum Scoprium). Sometimes the Manuka tree is called the New Zealand tea tree.
Tea Tree is an Australian plant, Melaleuca Alternifolia. Both are part of the Melaleuca plant family.

Both plants produce an essential oil that have similar properties, although Manuka is generally thought to be more potent. [3]

What is the difference between Australian and New Zealand Manuka Honey?

The New Zealand Manuka Tree, Leptospermum Scoprium, is also found in Australia. However, New Zealand Manuka Honey is strictly regulated by the New Zealand government to guarantee authenticity. Australian Manuka Honey is not as regulated and has an optional authenticity logo from the Australian Manuka Honey Association. [4]

What is Manuka Honey?

Real, authentic Manuka Honey is only produced in New Zealand and is made from bees that gather the nectar from the Manuka flower. Manuka Honey is strictly regulated by the Ministry of Primary Industries in New Zealand, to ensure that only premium products are exported. High quality Manuka Honey is tested at independent labs to check the quantities of active Manuka compounds that give it the unique properties that it’s famous for. Manuka Honey is tested for a combination 4 chemicals from nectar and 1 DNA marker from Manuka pollen which identify the Manuka as either monofloral (only Manuka) or multifloral (Manuka plus other pollens).

Why is Manuka Honey expensive?

The flowering season of the Manuka tree is very short – up to 6-12 weeks, making Manuka Honey rare and therefore expensive. Manuka Honey also has medicinal properties that make it highly sought-after. Manuka Honey with higher grades of UMF or MG(O) are the most expensive. For Manuka Honey to have the highest gradings the bees need access to only Manuka nectar with very little nectar from other floral trees. This means that the hives are often set in very remote locations, requiring helicopter access.

Is Manuka Honey good for you?

All honey contains a range of proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phenolic acids and flavonoids.

Manuka Honey also contains other compounds that makes it an important super-food.  

  • Honey contains almost exclusively all carbohydrates (sugars) fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose, with no fat, fibre or protein
  • Trace amounts of B vitamins; niacin and riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium
  • Antioxidants; Phenolic acids and flavonoids that reduce oxidative stress on the body, helping protect against heart disease and some cancers

There are three compounds found exclusively in Manuka Honey have been linked to health benefits: Leptosperin, DHA and Methylglyoxal (MGO). HMF (Hydroxymethylfurfural) [5]

  • Research has found that at certain concentrations MG/MGO has been shown to restrict bacterialgrowth
  • When used on the skin, compounds found in Manuka Honey have been found to reduce inflammation and assist in healing.

 

What is Manuka Honey good for?

Manuka Honey can be used as an ingredient or as a way to boost wellness

  • As a sweetener in drinks or smoothies
  • On toast, crackers, muffins, crumpets
  • On yoghurt or desserts
  • In baking

 

Medicinal uses of Manuka Honey?

Manuka Honey is often used on the skin to help healing. Studies [6] have investigated the use of Manuka Honey in 

  • Oral health and mucositis
  • Antiviral and antibacterial treatments
  • Gastrointestinal health
  • Wound healing and skin ulcer management
  • Immune and inflammatory conditions

 Many of the studies have been done on cell cultures rather than human trial, and much of the human trials have very small numbers of participants. However, the range of studies indicate an interesting potential for Manuka Honey in health and wellness.

What is the nutritional value of Manuka Honey?

Honey [7]                                     

  • 95-97% carbohydrates (mainly fructose, glucose and maltose)
  • Protein
  • Folate
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Polyphenols
  • Flavonoids
  • Glycosides
  • Alkaloids

Sugar [8]

  • 6% carbohydrates (sucrose)
  • Negligible amounts of iron, calcium, copper, riboflavin, selenium

How is Manuka Honey made?

Bees collect the nectar from the New Zealand native Manuka tree. They bring the nectar back to the hive where it is stored in honeycombs. Water from the nectar is naturally evaporated off to become Manuka Honey. [9]

Is Manuka Honey vegan?

No. No honey is not vegan as it is produced by honey bees. Vegans don’t eat animals, or products made by or from animals. [10]

Is Manuka Honey vegetarian?

Yes. Manuka Honey can be enjoyed if you choose a vegetarian diet. Vegetarians often choose to use products made by animals, such as eggs, milk and honey. [11]

Can I give Manuka Honey to my baby?

No child under the age of 1-year old should be given any type of honey. In all types of honey there may be present a type of toxin that babies under the age of 1-year old can’t digest, leading to infant botulism which is very serious. [12]

What’s the difference between raw and pasturised Honey?

Honey may be pasturised to give it a better texture and may help reduce spoilage. ‘Raw’ honey has been processed at very low temperatures. The pasturisation process heats the honey to a high temperature, which may reduce the enzymes and nutritional compounds that give Manuka Honey it’s health benefits. [13]

Does Manuka Honey expire?

Manuka Honey doesn’t go off, if stored correctly. Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunshine and it will last. Don’t freeze honey, and warm gently if it starts to crystalise. Because Manuka Honey is very high in sugar and low in moisture, it can reduce the growth of bacteria, reducing the risk that honey will go bad. In fact, the properties that Manuka Honey is known for also help keep it safe in your cupboard for years. [13]

Honey may go bad if

  • it is contaminated
  • has been adulterated with other products (NZ Manuka Honey is strictly regulated so this doesn’t happen)
  • stored incorrectly


Which Manuka Honey is best?

Genuine New Zealand Manuka Honey is the best (see ‘How to guarantee your Manuka Honey is genuine').

  • As a sweetener, lower graded Manuka Honey (UMF 5 or less, or MGO less than 250) has a milder taste than the higher grades
  • For first aid and traditional healing, choose a Manuka Honey with MGO 250+ or UMF 10+

 

How to guarantee your Manuka Honey is genuine

Since 2017 the NZ Government has put in place strict regulations [14] around the production and labelling of New Zealand Manuka Honey.

Prior to 2017 there was reported adulteration of Manuka Honey. The new regulations were brought in to protect the Manuka Honey industry and consumers. [15]

All Manuka Honey for export must be tested by laboratories certified by the Ministry of Primary Industry to make sure it really is Manuka Honey.

MPI have also created an official definition [16] for both monofloral and multifloral Manuka Honey to make quality expectation transparent for both industry and consumers.

Manuka Honey grading systems: MG/MGO

MGO+ Rating is the potency of the Methylglyoxal the major antibacterial component of Manuka Honey.

The higher the rating given the more potent/beneficial the compounds that are being tested for are. [17]

Manuka Honey grading systems: UMF

UMF+ (Unique Manuka Factor) Rating identifies the potency of three unique signature compounds characteristic of real Manuka Honey. These compounds are Leptosperin, DHA and Methylglyoxal (MGO). HMF (Hydroxymethylfurfural) is also included in the test to ensure the honey has not been modified to increase the MGO rating. [18]

How do UMF and MG/MGO ratings compare?

Here’s how the UMF and MG ratings line up:

 

UMF MGO/MG
5 83
10 263
15 514
18 696
20 829
22 1000
24 1122
26 1282
31 1722

A UMF 10+ or MGO 250+ or higher is considered medicinal and therapeutic for the skin. [19]

Is Manuka Honey an antiviral and antibacterial?

Manuka Honey contains compounds that may influence our health. While we would love to tell you about the positive experiences others have had personally or professionally, New Zealand regulations, and strict rules around health claims related to food, do not allow us to go into detail about the health benefits of Manuka Honey. We recommend a Google Search for thousands of first-hand reviews, scientific papers, applications and experiences. Here are also some links to relevant research articles.

Products which show they have MGO 250+ or UMF 10+ Manuka Honey as the active ingredient are considered to be higher quality. 

Is Manuka Honey good for acne or my skin?

Studies investigating Manuka Honey suggest it contains compounds that may help to manage skin conditions where infection or inflammation are common, such as dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis. [20]

How much Manuka Honey is exported from New Zealand?

In 2018 the value of New Zealand Honey exports was over $350 million, growing at over 19% each year. Around 70-75% of New Zealand Honey export value is thought to be from Manuka Honey. [21

Between July and December 2019 New Zealand exported more than 4000 tonnes of Manuka Honey. [22]

COVID-19 in 2020 has seen global exports of Manuka Honey boom, with people wanting to make the most of natural ways to improve their health and wellness. [23]

 

 

Sources

https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/leptospermum-scoparium-var-scoparium/

https://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Manuka-plantation-guide-landcare-April2017.pdf

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Melaleuca+alternifolia

https://www.manukaaustralia.org.au/

https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6382/9/11/766

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2016.00569/full

https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/3/3/420    

https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s13659-013-0018-7.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103956/nutrients

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103933/nutrients

https://apinz.org.nz/learn-about-bees/

https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism

https://vegsoc.org/info-hub/definition/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/foods-to-avoid-giving-babies-and-young-children/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942910600981708

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-science-behind-honeys-eternal-shelf-life-1218690/

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/6785848/Fake-manuka-honey-threatens-industry

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/auckland-company-prosecuted-by-mpi-over-alleged-fake-manuka-honey/MZG6GC3YTQ2FOJGN7L3E72WLGU/

https://www.mpi.govt.nz/growing-and-harvesting/honey-and-bees/manuka-honey/

https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/17374-Manuka-Honey-Science-Definition-infographic

https://www.analytica.co.nz/tests/honey-testing/manuka-honey-3-in-1/dha-and-mg-explained

https://www.umf.org.nz/grading-system-explained/

https://www.analytica.co.nz/News-Resources/dha-and-mgo-the-most-common-testing-in-manuka-honey

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jocd.12058

https://mro.massey.ac.nz/handle/10179/2997

https://www.myfarm.co.nz/cms_files/investments/manuka-market%20insight%20final.pdf

https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/40849/direct#:~:text=New%20Zealand%20exported%204%2C587%20tonnes,kilogram%20for%20non%2Dm%C4%81nuka%20honey

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/travel/2020/07/global-surge-in-demand-for-nz-manuka-honey-keeping-airlines-busy.html

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