The Ultimate Multitasker: Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is known best for it's potent antimicrobial properties. It is particularly rich in hydrogen peroxide, which it self-produces, as well as the compounds methylglyoxal (MGO) and dihydroxyacetone. This unique combination gives Manuka honey natural superpowers in it's ability to fight bacteria and boost health. There are even cases of Manuka honey being used in hospitals for severe burns and anti-biotic resistant infections.
What exactly is so special about Manuka honey and how is it different to regular honey?
More importantly. Is it worth the hefty price?
With so many health benefits including up to four times the nutritional benefits of regular flower honeys, Manuka honey is considered by many to be a superfood. This unique type of honey is produced only in New Zealand by a European variety of bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, a relative of Australian Tea Tree. The way Manuka honey is harvested and manufactured all has an impact on the potency of the honey, and so care must be taken in order to deliver quality products from hive to consumer.
Manuka honey standards are supported by a grading system called Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). This system provides a global standard that determines the activity of antibacterial factors in Manuka honey and it can be scaled from low to high. This allows consumers to select less active Manuka honey, below UMF 5, or more active Manuka honey, generally UMF 10 and up. As the UMF goes up so do the healing and medicinal benefits as well as, of course, the cost. It's important to understand that not all Manuka honey contains UMF properties, and some Manuka honeys contain the same amount of antibacterial properties as regular honey. So not all 'Manuka' is medicinal.
There is another system that has been used on Manuka honey labels called MGO, representative of the natural occurrence of the compound methylglyoxal, however it is not considered a definitive Manuka rating scale as it does not identify a compound consistent to all Manuka, even though some products may still display an MGO rating. The UMF grading system itself has been reconsidered in recent years, and new approaches to ensure Manuka quality have been introduced by the New Zealand government's Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI).
Phew! This honey stuff is sure sticky.
So, what should you look for in a Manuka honey?
In 2018 new standards by MPI were introduced to help ensure Manuka sold to international markets was genuine and quality tested.
In addition to this, the New Zealand company Wedderspoon, which produces Manuka for international markets like us, has taken this a step further and developed a trademarked system called KFactor which includes the following quality assurances and go above and beyond government (MPI) standards.
The Wedderspoon Manuka honeys are guaranteed to be:
- Raw and unpasteurized
- Non-GMO Project verified
- Produced and packed in New Zealand
- Free of antibiotics, glyphosate and pesticides
- Traceable from hive to home
At the end of the day, it's admittedly a lot to take in. What's important and makes it easier is to find a brand such as Wedderspoon, that you can trust. Spend your money on a guaranteed product, and do not fall prey to cheaper Manuka look-a-likes.
What does Manuka taste like?
The taste of Manuka is similar, yet pleasantly different, to common honey. Although both types of honey are technically sweet, Manuka has a thicker, creamier texture and a deeper, earthier flavor.
Who should use Manuka honey?
The immune boosting and antimicrobrial benefits of Manuka honey can be beneficial for those with a number of ailments including:
- Gastric ucers, acid reflux, IBS, digestive discomfort
- Sinus infections, seasonal allergies, common colds
- Skin conditions and minor abrasions
- Gingivitis, mouth ulcers and cavity prevention
- Cystic fibrosis and other conditions of excess mucous
How should Manuka honey be used?
The best way to get the maximum benefits of Manuka honey is of course to eat it straight off the spoon. Yum! You can also stir it into tea, spread it on toast or drizzle it over your favourite yogurt. For a beauty booster mix Manuka honey into a DIY face mask.
Like this article? Be sure to sign up for our weekly email newsletter to get information like this, recipes and our weekly flyer sales delivered straight to your inbox.
Written by Functional Medicine Nutritionist, Sita Huber