So you’ve discovered the magic of manuka honey, and now you’re ready to finally get your hands on the stuff.
The only problem?
Too many brands, ratings, prices, all from different countries with different grading systems. What the heck are you supposed to buy?
I’m going to break that all down for you in the next few minutes.
What makes a good manuka honey?
There are three things we need to look for when buying manuka honey.
The first is quality. Luckily, places of origin such as New Zealand and Australia have a grading system that is quite rigid, meaning it’s easy to gauge the difference in quality between brands. UMF, KFactor and MGO are all gradings that we can use to determine how “good” our honey is. We’ll get to that in a second! It’s also important to buy from a reputable brand – manuka honey is big business and there are many fakes floating around. Buy from an established brand and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
The next thing we’re looking for is price. Let’s face it – most of us don’t have hundreds of dollars to be throwing around on honey. We need something that’s high quality, potent and won’t break the bank.
Lastly, we’re looking for flavor. Not all manuka honey tastes the same – there are some that are very sweet, some taste more medicinal, and some have a herbal flavor to it. This comes down to personal preference, but it’s something to also consider if you plan on eating the honey (there are many other uses for it).
How do we measure the quality of manuka honey?
Manuka honey is measured with certain grading systems, but before we can break down the grading system, we need to understand exactly what they are measuring.
There are several components:
The most well known component of manuka is MGO, or methylglyoxal. Don’t sweat the fancy name – it’s simply a compound that’s been measured to have very strong antibacterial properties (study here, if you’re interested).
DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, is also essential in a good manuka. The production of MGO is dependent on high DHA levels in the manuka flower, and therefore a high DHA level is usually a precursor of high levels of MGO.
NPA, or non-peroxide activity, is what brings it all together. NPA is important because many of the proven benefits of manuka honey is dependent on the presence of NPA. Potency of the honey is highly dependent on this. Check this carefully in any manuka honey you buy: Honeys with low or no NPA are generally considered low quality honey.
Leptosperin is a chemical found only in the nectar of manuka plants. This is often used as a marker to determine if manuka honey is genuine. If leptosperin is unable to be found, it is unlikely the honey is authentic manuka.
The above compounds are what determine the quality of a good manuka. Of course there are other measurements you can make, but the ones above are unique to manuka honey and the most important to look for.
UMF, MGO, KFactor – what’s the difference?
Whenever you shop for manuka honey, you’re going to come across several different grading systems. Let’s go through them.
UMF – Unique Manuka Factor
UMF is a grading system developed by the UMF Honey Association in New Zealand, where the manuka plant originates from. The highest quality manuka honey in the world comes from New Zealand’s shores, and many of the top honeys out of the country grade their honey using the UMF system.
NPA, or non-peroxide acitivity, is central to the UMF grading system. As we said earlier, the potency of any manuka honey is highly correlated with NPA. Without NPA, the honey is simply considered poor quality. The actual UMF grade on the honey jar itself corresponds directly to the NPA. Therefore if the NPA level is 15, the honey will be marked “UMF 15”.
UMF also measures DHA and MGO levels, to determine sufficient levels of antibacterial activity, plus the presence of leptosperin to ensure honey has been produced from real manuka flowers.
UMF is the most comprehensive manuka honey grading system in place today and considered the best indicator of overall antibacterial quality.
The MGO grading system is less complex than UMF, and only measures the level of MGO, or methylglyoxal.
There are two things to be aware of with MGO gradings. One, the level of MGO can change over time, so the amount of MGO in your honey when it was packed and the level when you buy and consume it may be different. MGO is also not solely responsible for manuka honey’s antibacterial properties – there are other compounds that contribute to how potent a particular manuka is. This makes MGO less reliable than a UMF grading, but can still be somewhat helpful in determining quality.
KFactor is a grading system invented by the company Wedderspoon. It measures various chemical compounds, DHA, purity, and pollen count. A high KFactor rating indicates that there is a high count of manuka pollen, thereby indicating the authenticity of the honey. The main criticism of the KFactor system is that it doesnt test the most important components of manuka honey, those being NPA, MGO or leptosperin. No company other than Wedderspoon has adopted this rating system as of yet.
So what do the gradings actually mean?
You’ve probably seen a manuka honey with a ‘UMF10’ or a ‘KFactor 16’ and wondered, “Is that good?”
Yeah, it’s a little confusing right.
Let’s break down some of those numbers so you know what you’re looking at:
|High quality honey with high antibacterial activity.||15-20+||400-550||22|
|Good quality honey with good antibacterial activity.||10-15+||100-400||16|
|Medium level honey. Good for general wellbeing.||5-10+||30-100||12|
|Similar or indistinguishable from regulary honey.||0-5+||0-30|
The real question – which honey would I recommend?
There are so many manuka honeys available today, but my advice is to always stick to the trusted brands that have been doing it since forever.
I’ll start by saying, don’t bother getting any manuka honey that’s UMF 5 or lower. Unless you’re buying it purely for the manuka flavor, you can save your money and just buy regular honey.
If you don’t need anything fancy and just want to maintain good health, UMF 10 is the way to go. I’d recommend going with a honey from the New Zealand company Comvita, which has been in the honey business for decades and is consistently rated as one of the top quality manukas on the market. It also has a great flavor – not too strong, and not too sweet. This Comvita UMF 10 product can be bought directly on Amazon:
If you’re looking for something more potent, such as something to help treat a nasty case of strep throat or to apply to a staph infection, I would recommend getting something UMF15 or higher. Comvita’s UMF 15 product is great:
If you’re looking to try a different brand, Kiva has a great UMF 20 product that is not too pricey:
However, if you’re looking for the gold standard, perhaps if you’re trying to treat a stubborn case of MRSA, there is no substitute for Comvita’s UMF 20. It is a super premium product, and in my opinion worth every cent:
As I mentioned, there are many brands available but if you’re going to invest in premium health products like manuka honey, it always pays to stick with reliability. Choose brands that have a record of producing the highest quality honey, and you’ll never regret your purchase.
Questions? Leave them below. Good luck!