Looking through the world’s history books, honey
pops up time and time again, including in records
from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.
As well as being a desired food, it is also one of the
oldest known medicines, with famous philosophers,
such as Aristotle and Dioscorides, mentioning it being used for
ulcers, wounds and even a salve for sore eyes.
In more recent years, MGO Manuka honey, sourced from
the wildest, most beautiful areas of New Zealand, has developed
a reputation for being the most powerful of all and it’s easy to
see why. Manuka honey is widely believed to soothe, moisturize
and nourish troublesome skin, and support digestive health.
Studies have also shown that it is effective at treating upper-throat
infections and wounds. It has been the go-to health and
beauty product for health enthusiasts for years with stars such
as Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lizzie Jagger and world
number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, raving about it.
How To Identify Manuka Honey
Typically a dark brown color, Manuka honey is a thick, smooth,
rich tasting honey. It is produced by honeybees feeding on
Manuka tree nectar, a beautiful plant with white flowers, that
grows uncultivated and flowers for just 2–6 weeks a year, in
some of the most scenic and untouched areas of New Zealand.
Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, have long
treasured the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium) for its
special powers. Their medicine men boiled the bark and leaves
for colds, using Manuka steeped in water for rheumatism,
stomach upsets and dysentery and the bark for skin ailments.
They even presented Captain Cook with a Manuka tea when he
landed on New Zealand shores, which he continued to take after
their meeting, as did his crewmen, to promote good health.
In more modern times, the power of Manuka honey was
discovered when New Zealand farmers supplementing cattle
feed with the honey realized that their stock never fell ill.
Since then, it has become firmly associated with New Zealand
and celebrated throughout the world as a naturally powerful
ingredient and remedy.
Bees are faultless in their work but despite their best efforts,
the quality and potency of the end product can vary. Honey can
be damaged if it isn’t stored, processed or packaged properly,
and there are also strict guidelines around what can be labeled as genuine Manuka honey. As with any food or health product,
it’s important to be informed on how to identify the real deal.
Along with taste, color and texture, there are several other
factors that distinguish good quality Manuka honey from other
Shopping For Authentic Manuka Honey—Look For MGO
Those wanting to purchase the best Manuka honey products
can find genuine, undamaged, premium New Zealand Manuka
honey by following a few simple rules. One way to distinguish
authentic Manuka is to look for honey with proven methylglyoxal
(MGO) content. MGO is a naturally occurring compound found
in high concentrations in Manuka honey—up to 100 times
greater than ordinary honey—according to the University of
Dresden in Germany—and is thought to be responsible for
the unique bioactive and antibacterial properties of genuine
The MGO system was first launched in 2008 and has since
come to be the most widely accepted measure of determining
genuine Manuka honey. It is supported by industry groups
and organizations, such as the Ministry for Primary Industries
in New Zealand, and leading international scientists, such as
Professors Molan—founder of the Honey Research Unit at the
University of Waikato, New Zealand and Henle—the head of the
Institute of Food and Chemistry at the Technical University of
Dresden, Germany. The higher the level of MGO in a product,
the more potent the Manuka honey. For example, MGO 100+
Manuka honey is guaranteed to contain at least 100 mg of
methylglyoxal per kilogram of honey. The MGO scale runs
from 30 –1000, though experts recommend opting for at least
MGO 100+ to enjoy the health benefits associated with Manuka
honey. MGO 550+ is the highest level of methylglyoxal available
from most producers and indicates an exceptionally strong and
powerful Manuka honey.
It is also important to determine that Manuka honey has
come from New Zealand, renowned for its native Manuka plant,
and for producing honey untainted by antibiotics, additives
and other chemicals. With some brands, this information
can be found on the back of the jar or packet. If consumers
choose a honey that is proven to be of a high MGO level and
is produced from Manuka plants grown in New Zealand, they
can be confident that they will get the genuine Manuka honey
How Cyclodextrins Can Turbo-Charge Manuka Honey
Another exciting recent discovery is that the already powerful
qualities of Manuka honey can be boosted further when
combined with other beneficial natural ingredients. One of
these complementary ingredients is cyclodextrins; a plant
starch derivative that Japanese scientists at the highly regarded
Kobe University discovered can aid the transportation of bioactives
into the body.
When combined with active ingredients (such as the
methylglyoxal molecules found in Manuka honey), it has been
shown that the naturally fibrous cyclodextrin molecules can
substantially elevate the beneficial activity by making them
more stable, soluble and bioavailable for more efficient delivery
over a longer period of time. Cyclodextrins also actively lower
the glycemic index of Manuka honey, meaning this combination
is an ideal solution for diabetics or people on low sugar diets.
Like Manuka honey, cyclodextrin is a prebiotic to help aid in
Some pioneering Manuka honey producers in New Zealand
are combining Manuka honey and cyclodextrins in tablets and
capsules for more effective supplementation. This protected
delivery system means it is now much easier to deliver the
benefits of Manuka honey where it is needed most. Other
delivery systems, such as nasal sprays and eye ointment are
also likely to be developed in the future as the technology and
capability of the ingredients is even better understood.
Top Three Reasons To Use Manuka Honey
ENERGY: Manuka honey has a lower glycemic index (GI) than
sugar, which means it is a good natural source of long-lasting
energy. Try switching out white sugar for Manuka honey in teas
and coffees. It’s also a great addition to a pre-workout breakfast.
Blend into a delicious fruit smoothie with banana and ginger or
a ripe mango.
SKIN HEALTH AND HEALING:Manuka honey is known to
be anti-inflammatory and have antibacterial properties when
applied to the skin. Clinical research has supported the idea
that Manuka honey helps heal skin burns and wounds, it even
works against some of the superbugs. This means that it may
help in treating sore throats and irritated skin. To soothe skin,
add Manuka honey to a homemade face mask. Leave on the
skin for 10–20 minutes, and then gently wash it away with warm
DIGESTIVE HEALTH: It is widely believed that Manuka honey
can assist with digestive health. Scientific studies have shown
that Manuka honey may be effective in the stimulation and
growth of beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract. Mix with
warm water and enjoy as a healthy drink to kick off the day. Make
sure the water isn’t boiling as this will damage the nutrients in
the honey. Alternatively, eat straight off the spoon!
Mavric, E. et al. MGO mechanism of action: Identification and quantification of methylglyoxal as the dominant antibacterial constituent of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honeys from New Zealand. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2008, 52