All you need to know about Manuka Honey

by Rasmus Heim

What is Manuka Honey?

Madhu Manuka Honey from New Zealand


Manuka honey is a monofloral honey and the result of bees feeding off the nectar of the Manuka flowers - Leptospermum scoparium - also known as the tea tree.

Tea tree oil is a popular ingredient in skincare products as well. It is very effective due to its anti-bacterial properties and utilized to treat acne-prone skin, boost wound healing, or treat nail fungus. These healing properties are even more potent in the honey providing countless health benefits under consumption and for application on the skin.

A study at the University of Sydney found that Manuka Honey is not only more effective in killing bacteria than any other honey, but also prevents bacteria from building up of resistances, as they do against antibiotics.

The reason for the honey's potency lies in the methylglyoxal concentration (MGO) that causes system failure in the bacteria long before they would be able to build up any resistance.

MGO found in raw, pure, and active Manuka Honey is resistant to heat, light, body fluids and enzymatic activity, allowing it to be added to warm drinks (below 80 degrees Celsius) and be consumed without losing its potency and health benefits.

Origin of Manuka Honey

Wairarapa Region in New Zealand, home to Manuka Honey

The unique habitat found  only in New Zealand's Wairarapa region, is where the Manuka tea tree bush grows and thrives. The region is characterized by inaccessible cliffs close to the ocean, dry and barren soil, and an ever-changing climate. The New Zealand native Maori have known and appreciated the beneficial properties of the Manuka Bush's leaves, bark, seeds, and roots for centuries.

They use the different parts to treat, digestive and gastrointestinal problems, bladder diseases, colds, skin diseases, and wounds. The different parts are cooked into a brew, which is how it got its name tea tree.

However, it is not before the year 1980 that Professor Peter Molan discovered the unique anti-bacterial properties of New Zealand honey, surpassing all types of other honey. The unique properties were traced back to the Manuka Tree, thus marking the birth of "Manuka Honey"

What are the benefits of Manuka Honey

Manuka Honey helps inhibit viruses and bacteria

Manuka honey provides countless benefits through consumption as well as by external use. Manuka Honey significantly reduces inflammation in and outside of the body, improves dental health by reducing harmful oral bacteria, soothes a sore throat, and serves as a cough suppressant. Improving deep sleep as well as to reduce seasonal allergic reactions is also attributed to some of Manuka Honey's health benefits.

Manuka honey is also an excellent supplement for athletes to speed up recovery or give an energy boost just before a workout.

In the US Manuka honey is even approved as a wound treatment option by the FDA. Apart from being an effective ointment to improve wound healing, it also finds application for the successful treatment of different skin disorders. 

Also read: 14 proven medical applications of Manuka honey that will surprise you


What is the difference between Manuka Honey compared to normal honey?

Madhu Manuka Honey on Spoon

Manuka honey has a stronger more distinct taste with herbal notes in addition to being slightly darker and thicker in its consistency. The most important difference compared to other honey is Manuka honey's MGO concentration. The MGO concentration in Manuka Honey is unique to this type of honey. Although there might be some very low concentrations found in other honey's it does not come close to the potency of pure and raw Manuka Honey.

How to buy the best Manuka honey?

Different Manuka Honey MGO concentrations

Real and active Manuka Honey will have a MGO or an UMF/NPA Factor label.The higher the number, the higher the honey's potency, health and nutritional benefits.

What does the UMF/NPA factors on Manuka honey mean?

Real Manuka Honey is a rare premium product and is significantly more expensive than conventional honey. The potency of Manuka Honey is measured in MGO concentration or NPA (UMF) Factor, meaning a higher rating equals a higher potency and scarcity. The term UMF factor was coined by Professor Molan.

Although the unique ingredient in Manuka honey has not yet been isolated and investigated, Professor Molan decided to develop a unit of measurement which separated it into different strengths: the so-called non-peroxide activity (NPA), which assigns an equivalent value to disinfectant phenol solutions and makes Manuka honey unique compared to other varieties.

This means that Manuka honey with a Peter Molan Standard showing an NPA value of 10+ has an antibacterial effect equivalent to a ten-percent phenol solution. A value of 15+ is as strong as a 15-percent phenol solution, and so on.

Why is the MGO factor superior in determining Manuka honey potency?

For many years, unsuccessful attempts were made to identify the active ingredient in Manuka honey. In 2006, the answer to the question regarding this secret component was provided by the Dresden University of Technology. Under the leadership of Professor Thomas Henle, a research group at the Institute of Food Chemistry isolated the substance methylglyoxal (MGO), of which significant quantities could be found in Manuka honey.

The results showed that the concentration correlated heavily with the antibacterial properties based on the NPA scale (see chart). These two values and their relationship with one another are still used today to evaluate Manuka honey and its antibacterial properties. Madhu Honey works exclusively with MGO values since the current healthcare regulations do not permit comparisons with phenol solutions as per the NPA approach and the so-called Unique Manuka Factor (UMF).

Comparison of MGO / UMF / NPA 





MGO 83+

UMF 5+

NPA 5+

Daily for health improvement

MGO 100+

UMF 6+

NPA 6+

Daily for health improvement

MGO 250+

UMF 10+

NPA 10+


MGO 400+

UMF 13+

NPA 13+


MGO 550+

UMF 16+

NPA 16+

Strong medicinal

MGO 700+

UMF 18+

NPA 18+

Strong medicinal

MGO 850+

UMF 20+

NPA 20+

Strong medicinal


Which MGO concentration is right for me?  

Manuka Honey soothes Dry Skin and eczema

Manuka Honey MGO100+ concentration is high enough to treat all kinds of skin irritations and of course a tasty daily treat, for anyone older than two years. 

Manuka honey stimulates the immune system

Manuka Honey MGO250+ is already quite effective against colds and the treatment of sore throats. A spoon per day keeps the doctor away!

Manuka Honey MGO400+ is the most commonly appreciated concentration and high enough to assist in fighting bad gut bacteria and inflammations. It is also a perfect boost for your workout and recovery as MGO attacks bacteria that cause soreness.

The nutritional profile of Manuka Honey

Manuka Honey's nutritional profile

Manuka honey naturally contains sugar of approximately 6g per 7,5g (one teaspoons) with around 25 calories.There is however a big difference in sucrose (refined sugar) and the superior kind of sugar found in Manuka honey. The sugar contained in Manuka honey is more readily absorbed for energy and provides plenty of additional nutritional values.

Manuka contains important vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B3 and B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, amino acids, potassium and phosphorous. A good amount of Manuka Honey, should not exceed two teaspoons per day, as it is high in sugar after all. It is best enjoyed to elevate the taste of drinks and dishes.

Is it safe for everyone to consume Manuka Honey?

Generally honey is safe for adults and children over 2 years. There are however some exceptions. For people suffering from allergies to bees, the consumption of honey poses a certain risk of an allergic reaction.

Furthermore does honey contain sugar, so we advice caution with regards to your blood sugar levels, especially, if you suffer from diabetes. The Food Administration Agency in Norway (Mattilsynet) advices against giving honey to infants under 12 months.


All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider.