All About Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is a special type of honey that is only produced in New Zealand by the European honey bees (Apis mellifera). It has gained worldwide popularity due to its unique healing properties, – the result of more than 2,000 individual natural compounds. This is a staggering 20x more than some conventional honey varieties contain!

What is Manuka?

Manuka Plant with 5 petal flowers

Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is an evergreen shrub-type tree, with dense branches that belongs to the myrtle family. It usually grows to a height of 2 to 5 m (7–16 ft). Some trees can reach a height of up to 15 m (49 ft).

Indigenous to New Zealand and parts of South-Eastern Australia, it grows best on modest hill land and reaches maturity at 6 years. It takes 4 to 5 years to produce white and occasionally pink flowers, and although the shrub like tree itself is very resilient, its flowers are not. They are extremely delicate and vulnerable to the slightest changes in climate, wind and rain. Therefore bees only have a very short window in which they can visit the flowers.

Originally many of the shrub-type trees were destroyed due to pastoral farming. Although some areas are now reforested, the majority of Manuka plants now grow in remote and inaccessible parts of the country. As a result, the flowers bloom far away from pollution and pesticides, which means that the honey is organic and GMO-free.

History of Manuka

New Zealand Māori Warrior

For a millenium the native Māori used Manuka for its healing properties and for other purposes. They used its leaves, seeds and other parts in form of gums, infusions, vaporizers and poultices for various health issues. The Māori used the tree as a host for various different natural remedies.  (pain, coughs and colds, urinary and intestinal problems like gastritis, dysentry, induce vomiting, lower fever, burns, scalds and skin conditions, gum disease, as well as reducing inflammation, and other ailments.)

The different preparations were used to reduce fever, treat head colds, stiff back and joints, treat constipation, induce vomiting, taken as a relaxant before going to sleep, for pain relief after injuries, as a mouthwash, to treat gum disease, bathing sore eyes, soothing burns, purifying the blood, reducing inflammation, treating dysentery, alleviating colac and more..

Manuka wood burns for a long time and although very hard it is also very flexible. The Māori used it as building material for houses, canoes, and paddles, as well as for fire wood, hunting weapons and gardening tools.

Interesting Facts!

Captain James Cook, New Zealand

Did you Know….that Captain James Cook used Manuka Tree leaves to make a tea to treat his crew from scurvy in the early 1800s?

….this is the reason why Manuka got the name ´tea tree´?

….Captain Cook used manuka branches and leaves to make the first ever brood beer in New Zealand?

Why is Manuka Honey so expensive?

Typically darker in color with a stronger flavor that other varieties, Manuka honey is more expensive than most other honeys. This is not only because of its healing properties it is also because it is made from the nectar of Manuka flowers that only grow in certain parts of New Zealand. As a result the demand is often greater than the supply. Another factor for the higher cost is that the unique properties of this honey must be verified in costly laboratory tests .

Unique Composition

The manuka flower is unique in that it contains high levels of methylglyoxal (MGO), which is the distinctive compound responsible for Manuka honey’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. The tests establish the amount of MGO present in the honey and it must be labelled accordingly. The two other unique compounds are Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the original source of MGO that in time converts to MGO, and Leptosperin. It is thought that Leptosperin has anti-inflammatory properties, however, research into this compound is still in its infancy.

Did you know that Manuka honey is known as a superfood? It´s MGO levels can be up to 100 times higher that those found in raw honey!

Manuka honey is effective against a wide variety of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains. Also prized for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it has is antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and immune-modulatory properties.

Manuka Honey Research

Manuka honey can be safely used as an alternative natural antibiotic. Recent research has shown that it can be effective in treating wounds and preventing infection. One study found that manuka honey was able to kill a wide range of bacteria, including resistant strains such as MRSA. The study also found that honey was more effective than conventional antibiotics at promoting healing. According to another in vitro study up to 90% of the MRSA bacteria died after 24 hours after the application of Manuka honey.

The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology published a study that manuka honey can be an effective treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a condition in which the stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn and indigestion. It proved that manuka honey can help reduce the production of stomach acid and promote healing of the esophagus. In addition it helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.

Other recent studies have shown that it can also be effective against other health problems such as stomach ulcers, Helicobacter pylori infections, and dermatitis. One study showed that manuka honey was able to kill Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which are responsible for causing stomach ulcers. The study found that honey was more effective at killing the bacteria than standard medications. Another study examined the use of manuka honey for treating dermatitis. The study found that honey was able to significantly improve the symptoms of dermatitis, including inflammation and itchiness. These studies suggest that manuka honey may be an effective treatment for a variety of health problems.

How do I Know If Manuka Honey Is Genuine?

Manuka honey must fulfill certain requirements to be labelled genuine.

The grading depends on the concentration of MGO or UMF. Both rating systems measure the purity and level of MGO. An MGO of 40+ rating contains at least 40 mg of MGO per kilogram. Therefore the higher the concentration of MGO, the more expensive the honey. The same applies for the UMF.

Manuka honey has to be tested for genuineness, purity, and UMF level (Unique Manuka Factor) by an official MPI (Ministry of Primary Industries) laboratory and needs to labeled containing detailed information. The UMF indicates the natural chemicals that are only present in Manuka Honey, – the concentration of MGO, DHA and leptosperin.

Manuka honey MGO vs UMF Rating


Should Manuka honey be refrigerated?

The answer is ¨No¨. When stored in a dark, air-tight glass or plastic jar it will keep almost indefinitely. When it is refrigerated it will crystalize faster and there is a danger that it may turn sour.

How much Manuka honey should I take a day?

The American Heart Association suggests that healthy children and women should eat no more than six teaspoons per day. Men no more than nine teaspoons (36 grams) daily.

Is Manuka Honey safe?

People with an allergy to bees should not consume honey or other bee products. Consumption of honey for those allergic could trigger a serious reaction. Additionally, honey should not be consumed by infants under one year old, as it can contain bacteria that can cause infant botulism.


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