Manuka — The Medicinal Honey

Various brands of UMF-certified Manuka Honey

Most of you may have heard about the wonderful health benefits of the Manuka honey, ranging from healing sore throats and digestive illnesses to curing Staph infections and gingivitis. For those who have not, Manuka honey is a unique mono-floral honey produced in New Zealand and south-eastern Australia by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush.

In general, the typical raw unfiltered honey is a rich source of Amino acids, B vitamins (B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid), Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc. With such an amazing nutritional profile, it is no wonder that honey has been widely consumed by millions as a health food!

How is Manuka honey better than regular flower honeys?

Hydrogen peroxide is produced by some honey which gives its antibiotic quality. However, this “peroxide activity” is easily destroyed by exposure to fluids, heat and sunlight. Manuka honey has a different property from other honeys, termed “non-peroxide activity”(NPA), which is more potent & stable than hydrogen peroxide, rendering Manuka honey superior in usage and health benefits, enabling it to protect our body against damage caused by bacteria…

Studies have found that Manuka honey can also help to boost production of the growth factor white blood cells need to fight infection and heal tissue. Manuka honey’s nutritional content is up to four times that of normal flower honeys, and contain a number of natural chemicals that make it different and more beneficial to our health :

  • Methylglyoxal (MGO): This has been shown to be effective against several bacteria, including Proteumirabilis and Enterobacter cloacae. This is present in most honey, but usually only in very small quantities compared to Manuka honey.
  • Dihydroxyacetone (DHA): This is found in the nectar of Manuka flowers and converts into MGO during the honey production process.
  • Leptosperin: This is a naturally occurring chemical found in the nectar of Manuka plants and a few close relatives.

What is UMF, and which UMF grade is suitable for you?

The higher the concentration of Methylglyoxal (MGO), the stronger the antibiotic effect is expected. A global scale used by honey producers for rating the potency of manuka honey is the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), which correlates to the concentration of MGO and other compounds.

Note that not all honey labelled as manuka honey will contain significant levels of antibacterial factors. To be considered as therapeutic, Manuka honey must have a rating of 10 UMF or more. Therefore, when you buy Manuka honey, it is important to look for the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) mark which shows that the honey was produced by the beekeepers, producers, and exporters that are licenced by the UMF Honey Association.

While the minimum UMF rating recognized is UMF5, it is not considered beneficial unless it carries a UMF 10+ level of antibacterial activity in the honey. Anything ranging from UMF 10–UMF 15 is a useful level, and anything UMF 16 and up is considered superior quality.

Per the UMF association, the UMF scientifically tests the antibacterial performance of a honey and compares it to phenol (a disinfectant) in a 1:1 relationship to derive its rating. This means that a UMF rating of 20+ is equivalent in strength to a 20 percent solution of phenol. The ideal UMF rating varies depending on your purpose, but laboratory studies have shown that Manuka honey with a non-peroxide activity level of UMF 12 to UMF 15 is effective against a wide range of very resistant bacteria.

Below guide will help you decide which UMF grade of manuka honey is suitable for your purpose:

  • 0–4 — Non-therapeutic
  • 4–9 — Maintenance level with general honey health benefits
  • 10–14 — Supports natural healing and bacterial balance
  • 15+ — Superior levels of phenols that are highly therapeutic but shouldn’t exceed taking 1 tablespoon at a time

Like the UMF Manuka honey rating, Molan Gold Standard (MGS) measures the levels of MGO and DHA in the honey and assigns a grade between 5+ and 30+. This number correlates to the equivalent phenol strength of the honey’s antibacterial activity. Similar to UMF, MGS system runs independent audits at various stages of honey production to ensure that it’s quality standards are upheld by honey producers.

A third measurement commonly used besides UMF and MGS is the MGO quality score, which ranges from 30+ to over 800+, meaning that a honey rated MGO 550+ would have at least 550mg of MGO in one kilogram of honey. While the MGO grading is straight forward, do note the downside that there is no third-party oversight that ensures the MGO number on the label matches the MGO levels of the honey in the jar, so make sure it’s from a company you trust. If you’re buying lower grade honey (less than MGO 100) there’s no guarantee that the honey is primarily Manuka honey.

Table below provides you a handy guide in converting from UMF/MGS to MGO to help you avoid any confusion when buying manuka honey :

UMF Rating Minimum MGO (Methylglyoxal) Minimum NPA (Non-Peroxide Activity)
UMF 20+  829  20
UMF 18+ 692 18
UMF 15+ 550 15.6
UMF 15+ 514 15
UMF 12+ 400 12.9
UMF 12+ 354 12
UMF 10+ 263 10
UMF 5+ 100 5.6
UMF 5+ 83 5











Another 2 manuka honey grading systems are KFactor and Bio Active Manuka, but these tend to be confusing and are not widely recommended.

Top 10 Manuka Honey Health Benefits

Manuka honey benefits are well known in the natural health world for a long time, and has become even more popular in recent years because a growing body of research is starting to support thousands of years of folk medicine use. Some of the top Manuka honey benefits include:

  1. Heals Sore Throat and Improve Immunity
    • A 2011 research has shown how Manuka honey can stop the growth of sore throat-causing Strep bacteria. Many have testified that they have benefited almost instantly from taking a spoonful of Manuka honey when they feel unwell. Recently it has even been approved by the National Cancer Institute to be used to treat inflammation in the throat from chemotherapy.
    • Manuka honey has ability to quickly heal mouth ulcers and chapped lips of patients undergoing chemo therapy despite their low immunity, improving their comfort level as the patients undergo a difficult treatment.
  2. Treats Burns, Wounds and Ulcers
    • In 2004 Britain’s National Health Service has licensed the use of manuka-honey wound dressings and sterilized medical grade manuka-honey creams. Many scientific studies and clinical trials have shown that manuka honey is one of the best natural treatment (better than synthetic drugs) for skin infections.
    • Another research publication in the Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products also reinforced that “the use of honey leads to improved wound healing in acute cases, pain relief in burn patients and decreased inflammatory response in such patients.”
    • Please note that medical grade honey is sterilized, with all impurities removed, and prepared as a dressing. This is different from food-grade honey. Wounds and infections should always be seen and treated by a healthcare professional.
  3. Helps treat Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Low Stomach Acid, Acid Reflux
    • Manuka honey’s known natural antibiotic qualities make it a wonderful medicine for any bacteria-related disorder. Manuka honey is also very beneficial at reducing acid reflux and balancing your digestive system to heal stomach and intestinal imbalances.
  4. May Help Cure Acne and Eczema
    • There are plenty of testimonials that Manuka honey works marvellously for acne and eczema patients. For best results, apply Manuka honey on affected areas for a few minutes and then washing off with gentle soap and water daily.
  5. Combats Staph Infections (MRSA)
    • Antibiotic overuse and drug ineffectiveness have caused certain strains of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) to become virtually indefensible using standard hospital and nursing home medical protocols. This methicillin-resistant superbug has plagued hospitals over the several years and spread so rapidly that people affected by MRSA end up getting so infected that they require invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, artificial joints or intervenes tubing, to save their lives.
      • Researchers from Cardiff Metropolitan University have reported that Manuka honey down-regulates the most potent genes of the MRSA bacteria. Some scientists now suggest that regular topical use on cuts and infections (especially in the hospital and nursing home setting) may keep MRSA naturally at bay.
  6.  Prevents Tooth Decay and Gingivitis
    • Research by School of Dentistry at the University of Otago in New Zealand founded that sucking a Manuka honey product not only caused a 35 percent decrease in plaque, but it led to a 35 percent reduction in bleeding sites in people suffering from gingivitis.
  7. Helps in IBS and IBD Treatment
    • Studies have shown that Manuka honey can reduce intestinal inflammation and pain, and repair free radical damage and protect against further damage. When evaluating the effect that Manuka honey has on experimentally induced inflammatory bowel disease in rats, researchers from Chandigarh Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research discovered that Manuka honey at different doses provided protection against TNBS-induced colonic damage and restored lipid peroxidation, reduced the colonic inflammation as well as improved antioxidant parameters.
  8. Treats Allergies
    • Studies of honey plus birch pollen consumption have reported that patients saw 60% lower total allergy symptom score, double of their asymptomatic days, 70% fewer days with severe symptoms, and 50% less antihistamines used when compared to the control group who are just using antihistamines. The researchers also found that there was very little difference between the birch pollen honey users and the regular honey users, therefore taking Manuka honey alone regularly may reduce your seasonal allergies and reduce need for medications.
  9. Beauty and Energy Booster
    • As Manuka honey is very rich in nutrients, it’s been known to boost vitality, youthful energy, and improve skin tone and texture.
    • You can use Manuka honey in a homemade face wash to exfoliate and fight free radicals in the skin, or in your hair shampoo and hair mask to boost the shine of your hair.
  10. Improves Sleep
    • Manuka Honey helps to promote restful deep sleep by slowly releasing glycogen that is required for essential bodily functions during sleep. Consuming milk with honey before going to bed helps the body release melatonin into the brain, which is necessary for deep sleep.

How to Use Manuka Honey

  • To experience the maximum benefit, you should take one to two tablespoons of Manuka honey a day before meal. Take the honey direct from a plastic spoon (metal may reduce healing property), without mixing into a drink.

Manuka Honey Potential Side Effects

  • Honey naturally contain the spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. This does not mean that the honey is contaminated. It is natural and harmless to almost all adults and children. Unfortunately, babies less than 12 months old has not developed his digestive and immune system well and can fall very sick due to bacteria spores- botulism. To reduce such risks, it is best to avoid giving any honey to babies.
  • Risk of a rise in blood sugar if taken orally.
  • Possible interaction with certain blood thinners and seizure drugs if taken by mouth.


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