Manuka Honey Guide: Benefits, Uses, History, And Origin

What is Manuka Honey?

We all know that honey is delicious, and most of us have a general idea that there are some health benefits. Of the over 300 types of honey in the world, one particular type that stands out is Manuka Honey.

I’m a New Zealander, and New Zealand is the land of Manuka Honey. I’ve tried dozens of different brands and used them for a wide range of purposes. Here’s everything you need to know about it!

What Is Manuka Honey?

manuka honey guide

Manuka honey is a special kind of honey that is produced from the nectar of the Manuka tree, hence the name Manuka honey.

It can be identified on the basis of its extraordinary thickness or viscosity, and by its particular dark cream to dark brown color. It also has a distinct strong flavor. It tastes very different from the more commonly consumed clover honey.

Manuka honey is said to have a wide range of medicinal benefits such as improving digestion and increasing immunity, which we will discuss below.

It also has a range of other interesting applications, like helping to soothe mosquito bites. Because it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s the perfect natural remedy for such things.

Manuka honey is well known for helping to suppress the itchiness and discomfort caused by insect bites and other irritants. However, it is best to use a medical-grade honey for this type of thing. I’ll share more about that down below as well.

Where Is Manuka Honey From?

Manuka honey is made by bees that pollinate the Manuka flower. Most commonly, this is done by European honey bees or “Apis mellifera.”

The Manuka tree is native to New Zealand and found in most parts of the country. Its Latin name is ‘Leptospermum scoparium‘, and it is known to locals as the Manuka bush or tree.

Genuine Manuka honey comes from New Zealand (with one exception). Beehives are set up in and around large areas of Manuka bush, and in more recent times large plantations have been created specifically for the production of Manuka honey.

The exception to NZ Manuka honey is Australian Manuka honey. There are some occurrences of this particular flower in the south-eastern regions of Australia, so some Manuka honey can also be obtained from there and the industry is under development.

Manuka trees cannot be grown in all climates, but only in certain plant hardiness zones.

The History And Origin Of Manuka Honey

best manuka honey

While Manuka honey is now known as something that is specifically related to New Zealand, it would not be as we know it without the European honey bee.

While the flowers necessary for growing Manuka honey were always found in the country, the bees that are responsible for the creation of the honey (which has now turned into a $270 million industry) are not native to New Zealand at all.

There is strong evidence to suggest that the arrival of European honey bees to New Zealand was sometime after 1839. English beekeeper Mary Bumby arrived in NZ and managed to keep two skeps of honey bees alive during the 6-month journey across the ocean.

Bumby is said to have established her beehives in the areas where Manuka flowers are in abundance and that was what led to the creation of this coveted item which is now in high demand across the globe.

Why Is Manuka Honey So Expensive?

Manuka honey can be up to 100 times more expensive than average honey.

It naturally makes you wonder what the reason is behind such high costs:

  • Low supply
  • High demand
  • More difficult to collect
  • Transport and distribution costs from NZ
  • Testing, grading, and rating processes

One of the obvious reasons for its high price is the fact that this honey is scarce. Manuka honey probably makes up a very small percentage of all the honey that is present in the world, and the Manuka plant is no exception to this scarcity. It is a comparably rare plant, only native to New Zealand.

Another reason for high costs is the great demand. This honey only grows in popularity, being desired by people all over the world. Manuka Honey is especially desired in China and other parts of Asia.

Another factor that adds to its pricing is the tricky harvesting process of the honey. The flower itself only opens for 12 days, and the harvesting period remains somewhere between 2 to 6 weeks.

Manuka plantations are often located in remote regions of NZ, and unpredictable weather doesn’t help the situation either! Helicopters have been known to be used for assistance in the harvesting of this particular honey.

In addition to the difficult process of harvesting the honey, the testing processes also add cost. To ensure the unique properties found in Manuka honey are present it goes through testing and rating system we’ll explain below.

Lastly, it’s expensive because it also tastes good. There are other types of honey that are also harder to come by, like buckwheat honey, for example, but they don’t taste as good.

I also had thyme honey not too long ago, and let’s just say it must be an acquired taste!

What Does Manuka Honey Taste Like?

As it is a rare form of honey, and quite distinct from other types of honey, one of the most common questions is what does Manuka honey taste like?

The flavor profile of this particular form of honey has been repeatedly described as sharp, intense, and unique.

It is said to have a sweet taste in the mouth and a slightly bitter aftertaste along with some warm, herbal, and earthy undertones included in it.

As you are consuming it, you might notice that the texture of this substance is not quite as smooth as any other form of honey you might’ve ever eaten. Manuka is said to grow darker and richer in taste as it gets old and gets compared to a fine wine in this regard.

The Benefits Of Manuka Honey

What sets Manuka honey apart from other honey, is its high bio-active properties.

It has special anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties because of which it has a wide range of health benefits.

It has been said to provide relief from dietary illnesses along with treatment for some respiratory problems, and it also provides a boost to the body’s natural immune system.

Some studies have also shown that Manuka honey can also inhibit the process of carcinogenesis, meaning it may limit cancerous growths inside the body. Nutritionists are occasionally split between whether or not the health benefits of Manuka honey are authentic, but for the most part, agree.

It has been proven to kill harmful bacteria and can even be used to treat wounds. More on that next.

What Is Medical Grade Manuka Honey?

the story of manuka honey

Methylglyoxal is the component of Manuka honey that allows it to be used medically. It contains a much higher proportion of this organic compound compared to the other honey on the market.

Common uses for medical-grade Manuka honey include:

  • Wound dressing
  • Supporting good bacteria
  • Calming the gut
  • Helping gut flora
  • Support a healthy immune system

However, a word to the wise, while Manuka honey does have medical uses such as treatment of wounds as mentioned above, your jar of Manuka Honey on the kitchen counter is not best suited for this purpose.

The honey which is used in medical scenarios is specially prepared and is known as medical-grade Manuka honey. This Manuka honey is specially sterilized to be used as a dressing.

What Is Activated Manuka Honey?

The specific antibacterial properties of the Manuka Honey mentioned above are commonly known as UMF or Unique Manuka Factor. While these properties are present in nearly all occurrences of Manuka honey, they aren’t always present in the same concentrations.

The UMF rating of the Manuka honey tells the consumer the potency of the antibacterial properties of the particular batch of Manuka honey you are purchasing. Hence, the term “activated Manuka honey” refers to that Manuka honey which contains at least a decent potency in the antibacterial department.

Hence if you are purchasing Manuka honey for medical purposes specifically, then the terms UMF and activated Manuka honey are of key importance. Activated Manuka honey is the most recommended form of Manuka honey to be used for medical purposes.

The Rating System

As explained above, not all occurrences of Manuka Honey are the same. They differ in properties and hence in quality.

These properties are judged by various testing processes that are carefully carried out in well-maintained laboratories. On the basis of these testing processes, several rating systems have been developed to tell you what you need to know about the Manuka honey you’re purchasing.

The UMF rating system, as explained above, is a system that tells you about the potency of the antibacterial properties of your Manuka honey. This system is affected by two important calculations, which are NPA, Non-Peroxide Activity, and MGO, methylglyoxal. The concentration of both of these inside your Manuka Honey affects its UMF rating.

You won’t always be provided with a UMF rating as some manufacturers only provide an MGO rating, but you can convert that to a UMF rating quite easily as there are scales available for that.

A UMF rating of 15+-20+ tells you that your Manuka honey is of the highest grade and vice versa if the rating is low.

How To Choose Manuka Honey

As explained above, there isn’t just one type of Manuka honey, and there isn’t just one use for it. Therefore, there is no one universal form of Manuka honey that everyone should purchase, and that is superior to all.

While the higher grade Manuka honey does have more potent antibacterial properties, it isn’t necessary to purchase that for everyone. What Manuka honey you should purchase depends on your usage and also on your budgets as these differ in price as well. An easy rule to remember when purchasing it is simple.

When purchasing for non-medicinal purposes such as beauty treatment or sweetener for food items the antibacterial properties aren’t necessary, so save your finances and opt for a lower-grade Manuka honey, somewhere around a UMF +5 rating.

When purchasing for medical uses such as wound treatment or for treating acne and whatnot, go for at least a UMF +10 rating.

If your use is going to involve diluting the honey then purchase a high-grade UMF +15 to UMF +20 rating Manuka honey as it will lose its anti-bacterial properties when diluted.

Manuka Honey Uses

As mentioned above, there is a wide range of applications for Manuka honey in various areas; however, here we will only mention a few of them. Besides having it on your toast in the morning, here are some other ways you can use Manuka honey.

1. One common use of Manuka honey is for wound healing

Its antibacterial properties make it an ideal ointment for wounds as it provides a protective covering against harmful bacteria that may infect the wound as well as boost the healing process.

2. A lesser-known use of Manuka honey is in the area of oral health

Manuka honey’s antibacterial properties are said to attack the harmful bacteria that form inside the mouth. This may come as a shock to those of you who have been informed that the consumption of sweet substances is bad for your teeth; however, that argument refers to refined sugar.

3. Manuka honey has proven digestive benefits

It can be used to address and alleviate several dietary ailments due to its anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties, and regular consumption can lead to overall better functioning of your digestive system.

4. Manuka honey can be used to treat a sore throat

Its anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties can help reduce inflammation in the throat. In addition to the anti-inflammatory effects, the lining of the throat coated with Manuka honey will provide a soothing sensation to the patient. Upper respiratory ailments such as sinusitis and other allergies can also be alleviated through the use of Manuka honey.

5. It can be used as a beauty product

For example, a Manuka honey face mask is said to soften the skin, open the pores, and help with dry skin and acne. Even some of the best Korean moisturizers even have Manuka honey as an ingredient.

How To Use Manuka Honey

There are different usage techniques for Manuka honey in order to reap many benefits. Here are some general use techniques so you can get an idea of how to use it!

For Skincare:

If you wish to use it as a skincare product for reducing the irritating effects of acne, the best way to incorporate Manuka honey in your routine is by simply applying it to the area on your skin where you wish to witness its effects.

For Diet:

To reap the dietary benefits that Manuka Honey has to offer the advised method is to consume roughly 1-2 tablespoons of the substance every day. You can even consume it by applying it to a slice of bread or by adding it to your cup of tea.

For Wounds:

To use it for wound treatment, you should ensure that you have medical-grade Manuka honey and then assess the amount you need to apply based on the secretions from your wound. The greater the secretions, the greater amount of Manuka honey you should be applying to reap its wound-healing benefits.

How To Eat Manuka Honey

You can eat Manuka honey in the same ways you eat regular honey!

  • on its own off a spoon
  • in a cup of tea or hot water
  • on toast, bagels, or croissants

Use it in any cooking you see fit!

Pros And Cons

manuka honey flower

The pros of Manuka honey are pretty clear with its wide range of medicinal and non-medicinal uses which stem from its extraordinarily high anti-bacterial properties.

The cons of Manuka honey are not exceptionally surprising:

  • it’s not suitable for babies under 12 months old as honey contains bacteria that causes botulism
  • it’s not suitable for diabetics because of its high sugar content
  • it can cause allergic reactions to individuals who have a history of honey or honey bee allergy

Side Effects

So far, no specific side effect has been discovered on this particular form of honey.

Despite saying that keep these things in mind, which we’ve just mentioned as cons:

  1. It may, like all the other forms of honey available on the market, cause an allergic reaction if you are allergic to bees and/or honey.
  2. It will cause blood sugar to rise which makes it a little ill-advised for diabetics to eat.
  3. There’s a chance it will affect some very specific chemotherapy drugs, so if you are undergoing such treatment consult your doctor before consumption.

I think if you’ve read this far, you would answer yes to this question! Manuka honey is a great product that you should definitely try out, despite the high cost.

If you’ve given it a go already, or have any other questions or comments, let us know down below.

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