Discover manuka honey

Discover Manuka Honey!

Manuka Honey – not your average runny honey

Manuka honey contains a ‘secret ingredient’ known as MGO (or methygloxal) which boosts its profile. Manuka honey is native to New Zealand. It’s produced by bees who pollinate the flower Leptospermum scoparium, commonly known as the manuka bush. Manuka honey’s antibacterial properties are what set it apart from traditional honey. due to its anti-bacterial properties.

Where does Manuka Honey come from?

Manuka Honey gets its name from where it’s come from; the flowers from the Manuka bush native to New Zealand. The Manuka flowers blossom throughout the New Zealand summer time, whilst we’re freezing here in the UK! Manuka Honey Bees forage from these flowers and then produce Manuka Honey back in their hives.

The Manuka bush, native to New Zealand, and its nectar contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which bees convert (thanks to enzymes in their… spit) to methylglyoxal – or MGO for short – a compound with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.

This is where it gets a bit special: When stored, the DHA content goes down, while the MGO content goes up (though, not forever!).

Before scientists understood that MGO was the ‘secret’ ingredient in Manuka honey, the antibacterial and antimicrobial properties were referred to as NPA, or non-peroxide activity (to differentiate it from the ‘peroxide’ activity they could detect, which is a series of anti-bacterial properties found in all honeys) and UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor.

Manuka flowers blossom in the (New Zealand) summer… while we’re shivering at home.

As much as 80% of honey sold as Manuka is essentially fake. New Zealand produced 1,700 tonnes in 2014, but somehow 10,000 tonnes were sold…

The New Zealand government is taking its honey seriously to prevent people passing regular honey off as Manuka (and charging more!) and to ensure the quality. So now, any product labelled as Manuka honey exported from New Zealand must be lab-tested.

This is where it gets a bit CSI: samples of honey are tested for four active ingredients, including levels of MGO, as well as undergoing DNA testing to prove the Manuka you buy is authentic.

The New Zealand government now certifies all Manuka honeys according to the amount of MGO they contain (as parts per million). UMF ratings range from 5 to 15 typically, MGO from 100-550ppm. Both MGO and UMF are trademarked. Formerly, Manuka honeys labelled as TA (Total Activity) or Active were graded according to a mix of NPA and peroxide activity.

Not all regions produce Manuka bushes that contain DHA – another reason why testing is really important.

Of course, we can’t stop bees collecting nectar from wherever they like. This is why there are two types of Manuka honey.

Monofloral (ie, one flower) applies to honey that has a very high level of Manuka in its DNA

Multifloral (ie, many flowers) is still mainly made up from nectar collected from the Manuka bush, but the bees have foraged from a greater number of flowers.

There is no such thing as a Manuka bee – in fact, the bees aren’t even native to New Zealand. Hives are populated by your bog-standard European honey bee, brought over in 1839 as native bees were not suitable for honey production.

There are three types of bee: the Queen, who runs the show and is everyone’s mum; Workers – an all-female crew that build and protect the hive and does all the foraging (these are the bees you see); and Drones, male bees whose purpose is to mate with the Queen and are kicked out of the hive in winter when the colony goes into survival mode.

Bees will fly a few miles from their colonies, so hives are placed in areas where Manuka bushes are abundant.

Static electricity can help with pollination; bees can take on a natural positive charge as they fly about, while plants often have a negative charge. When they meet, pollen can be attracted and ‘stick’ to the bee.

The average beehive is a lovely place – the temperature inside is around 35-40 degrees Celsius.

Don’t worry, you’re not stealing food… healthy, ‘kept’ bees can produce two to three times more honey than they need if they’re given enough storage space.

The average worker bee lives for around six weeks and, in that time, will fly around 366 miles

In its lifetime, a honey bee can produce around a 12th of a teaspoon of honey.

Archaeologists examining an Ancient Egyptian tomb found a cache of 3,000 year-old-honey. And it was still edible!

New Zealand’s Kakariki parakeets have been seen chewing on Manuka leaves then applying the mush to their feathers – apparently to get rid of parasites.

Why would I use Manuka honey instead of normal honey?

Here’s where it gets science-y. All honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which has natural anti-bacterial effects. In normal honey, these effects are lost when the hydrogen peroxide breaks down. However, in Manuka Honey, its anti-bacterial properties remain well after the hydrogen peroxide has disappeared.

How can I use Manuka honey?

Manuka Honey has been used for centuries by ancient tribes in food and on their skin – it’s very versatile! Whether you spread it over your toast in the morning, add it to a smoothie or use it in your beauty routine – it’s definitely the new kitchen and beauty staple.

Manuka Honey’s proven antibacterial properties can make it a natural skin soother and active ingredient in face masks. And when eaten, Manuka Honey may be beneficial to your mouth, throat and stomach, and contains vital amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

Unlike other nectars, those produced by the Manuka bush’s flowers – native to New Zealand – mean bees can create a honey containing high levels of methylglyoxal (MGO), which has antibacterial properties. The higher the MGO rating (all certified by independent labs, down-under), the higher the antibacterial punch.

1. Straight off the spoon

The higher the MGO of your honey, the more potent it may be. It’s recommended to sip your honey from a teaspoon, and repeat five times a day. Hold a spoonful on your tongue and let it melt away if you feel like your mouth needs a little TLC, and avoid other food and drink for at least 15 minutes.

2. Stirred into a smoothie

Due to the honey’s sweetness, you might want to reduce the amount of berries in your smoothie. But otherwise, pick your favorite recipe, blend and you’re good to go!

Avoid storing any leftovers in the fridge or the honey could begin to crystallise. If this happens, just remove the lid and gently warm the jar and stir until the crystals melt (sticking the jar in a pan of warm water does the job). Do remember that like all honeys, Manuka is not recommended for children aged under 12 months.

3. Applied onto skin

For any issues with your skin – or just to moisturise – apply directly to skin in a smooth, even layer. It’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties make it a soothing feast for your face. Manuka Honey can also be applied direct to sore spots on skin. Just try not to lick it off.

4. As part of a DIY facemask

The facemask trend is still going strong in the beauty world; not only are masks beneficial to your skin, but you get the perfect excuse to sit back and relax.

Manuka honey is a favorite ingredient among the DIY crowd thanks to its cleansing and soothing properties, so you get more from your own, bespoke mix and a recipe that’s right for your skin’s needs (and there’s no packaging).

5. In your next meal

If you’re still looking for inspiration on how to use Manuka Honey, when baking, switch sugar for a half measure of honey and reduce the oven temperature by 15C to prevent it browning too much. Do be aware though that cooking honey at high temperature may damage natural enzymes in the honey.

With liquid recipes, swap the amount of sugar for the same of honey. Or enjoy the benefits of Manuka honey by just adding it to salad dressings to taste!

How can I spot Manuka Honey vs normal honey?

It’s easy to tell the difference! Normal honey has a yellow/orange colour and is usually runny and transparent. Manuka Honey has a thicker consistency and has more of an orange/brown colour. You’ll also be able to tell whether it is genuine Manuka Honey by looking out for certified labels.

What do the numbers mean?

When buying a pot of Manuka Honey, you’ll notice lots of different numbers on the label. These numbers identify the potency of the MGO – basically, the higher the number the better the antibacterial effects. But no matter which strength you choose, every jar will be packed full of benefits. Enjoy!