Authentic Manuka honey is reputed for a number of health benefits. As a type of raw honey, Manuka honey is best known for its brown hue, highly viscous texture, as well as, its delicately subtle, bittersweet aftertaste.
Manuka honey bees in New Zealand, as part of their journeys to produce the monofloral honey, collect nectar mainly from the Leptospermum scoparium, the flower of the hardy evergreen Manuka shrub.
Typically, every bottle or jar of Manuka honey bears the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) quality mark. Every Manuka manufacturer is required to hold a valid UMF license in order to obtain a UMF trademark on the labels of their bottles of Manuka honey. This quality mark is a distinction accorded by the UMF Honey Association in New Zealand, which grants UMF licenses to Manuka honey manufacturers who meet their rigorous quality standards.
The brightly coloured Leptospermum scoparium from which bees collect nectar for producing Manuka honey (Image credit: www.flower-db.com)
The rest of the article will help provide some clarity about the common terms used to characterize Manuka honey. We will also take a look at the benefits of consuming Manuka honey regularly and what makes Manuka honey so special – so much so that a bottle can command prices that have been compared to that of a “little bar of gold”.
Top 4 reasons why Manuka honey is so special
Similar to other honeys, Manuka honey is high in sugar with 12g per 15g of serving and its nutritional value comprises low fat, fibre and protein of less than 0.5g each, according to BBCgoodfood.com. While Manuka honey is a sugar, it is a simple sugar, unlike refined sugars. This makes absorption for energy easier and faster. What’s even more significant is Manuka honey has many more nutritional advantages.
Manuka honey contains polyphenols, flavonoids, probiotics, minerals, amino acids, vitamin B, iron, calcium, potassium and zinc.
Manuka honey contains some polyphenols such as flavonoids, minerals, probiotics and amino acids, which are key building blocks that contribute to growth and support other physiological functions. First, there is the presence of B vitamins which, among other benefits, release energy from food, provide calcium for bones, iron for red blood cell production, potassium which helps heart muscles work properly. Zinc, an essential trace mineral, is also present in Manuka honey which is important in the healing of wounds and in helping us process all the macronutrients from our food.
Read on to uncover compelling facts about this product of Mother Nature and how it is truly precious and comparable to gold.
1. Manuka honey’s antibacterial property sets it apart from other honeys
Different types of natural honeys have been used in traditional treatments
Most honeys are believed to have some degree of bacteria killing properties because honeys contain chemicals that produce hydrogen peroxide. Due to this ability to promote wound healing, it is well known that traditional cultures have included natural honeys in their treatments.
However, according to an online article by Healthline.com, a study in 1991 conducted by the Honey Research Unit in New Zealand revealed that when they removed the hydrogen peroxide from a range of honeys, Manuka was the only type that kept its ability to kill bacteria. This is due to the presence of a unique ingredient, identified as Methylglyoxal (MGO). In other words, Methylglyoxal (MGO) is the unique active ingredient in Manuka honey responsible for its antibacterial properties.
Today, we are cognisant of instances where Manuka honey has been reported to work wonders for soothing sore throats, preventing tooth decay, curing soft tissue infections and improving digestive or gastrointestinal issues.
2. Manuka honey’s concentration of active ingredient increases over time
The active ingredient found in Manuka honey is Methylglyoxal (MGO)
The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is a quality trademark issued to all registered licensed beekeepers, producers and exporters of genuine Manuka honey. On the label of any Manuka honey product, consumers will notice a number such as 10+, 15+ or 20+. These numbers indicate the levels of Methylglyoxal (MGO) and Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) present in the honey.
In a research paper published on www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, researchers have indicated that there exists a dynamic nature of the chemical composition of Manuka honey. The paper recognizes that Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is the precursor molecule of MGO found in Leptospermum flower nectar, by itself actually lacks antimicrobial activity. Additionally, “With maturation of the (Manuka) honey, a portion of DHA will convert to MGO, thus increasing MGO concentration with time. Decreases in DHA and increases in MGO concentrations begin to occur after Manuka honey extraction, with changes continuing up to at least one year of storage.”
“The extent of DHA conversion to MGO is not wholly predictable… as side chemical reactions also occur and predictions are complicated by temperature and other variables. Higher DHA:MGO ratios between 5:1 to 9:1are observed in fresher Manuka honey compared to lower DHA:MGO ratios approximating 2:1 in older honeys. A major Manuka honey testing laboratory found that final packed Manuka honeys of lower UMF grade tended to have higher DHA:MGO ratios, whereas higher grade UMF honeys tended to have lower such ratios and higher content of hydroxymethylfurfural and C4 sugars, indicating honey that was older at the time of UMF grading.” [Editor’s note: Hydroxymethylfurfural is an organic compound formed by the dehydration of certain sugars.]
Commercially, it then makes sense that Manuka honey, graded according to the level of active ingredients present, is priced more expensively as the honey ages, much like vintage wine.
3. Manuka honey, a ‘sweet’ for good oral health, without the cavities
Other than honey, Propolis and honeycomb are other honey-related products with plenty of nutritional content
Studies have shown Manuka honey attacks harmful oral bacteria associated with plaque formation, gum inflammation and tooth decay. Now, many of us may think consuming honey for good oral health seems totally counterintuitive since we will remember that constant warnings about consuming many sweets leading to cavities.
However, unlike sweets and refined sugar, Manuka honey’s potent antibacterial effects make it unlikely to contribute to cavities or tooth decay.
A research published on www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov has shown that manuka honey with a high antibacterial activity is effective at inhibiting the growth of harmful oral bacteria including P. gingivalis and A. actinomycetemcomitans.
The report shared that one study had examined the effects of chewing or sucking on a honey chew for the reduction of plaque and gingivitis. The honey chew was made of manuka honey and similar to a chewy honey candy. After three daily meals, participants of the study were instructed to either chew or suck on the honey chew for 10 minutes, or chew a sugar-free gum. The group taking honey chewshad shown a significant reduction in plaque and gingival bleeding, compared to those who only chewed the sugar-free gum.
4. Manuka honey, a rare product of nature’s work, is a welcomed luxury
The intrinsic nutritional value of Manuka honey has turned the natural product into a global commodity cherished by many including naturopathy advocates
According to renowned biochemist, Professor Peter Molan, who uncovered the antimicrobial contents in Manuka honey, Manuka honey is a completely natural product. Molan iterated that The Codex Alimentarius of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and most food regulations worldwide, specify that no additives are permitted in honey. Mostly, honey is produced by the bees from nectar secreted in flowers, but bees sometimes also collect the phloem sap of plants, in the form of honeydew which drips out when aphids tap into the plants. The bees secrete enzymes into the nectar which they collect, then they dry off most of the water to form a thick syrup which is sealed in the cells of the wax honeycomb.
This product produced entirely by nature is exactly what the affluent in China have been seeking. On the back of numerous food manufacturing nightmares, mainland Chinese have been constantly on the hunt for natural food sources and products. Food safety concerns as explained in a 2015 report by BBC.com, Sweet obsession: China’s manuka madness, are largely the drivers responsible for the tremendous growth of Manuka honey so much so that from a virtually non-existent market, it has become a multimillion-dollar luxury industry in merely two to three years.
The report recognises that “From virtually no imports of New Zealand honey just seven years ago, China has drawn level with Hong Kong as the second largest market in the world… importing nearly 1,500 tonnes in 2014 — the large majority of which is Manuka honey. Taken together, the China and Hong Kong markets far outpace the United Kingdom, which has been the world’s largest market for a decade.” According to government statistics, New Zealand’s goal is to grow Manuka honey into a NZ$1.2 billion per year industry by 2028 becoming as valuable to the country as its wine industry.
Fueled mainly by word of mouth marketing, Manuka honey has indeed skyrocketed to the status of a truly desirable luxury, one where the Chinese view the honey in the same way all Koreans view ginseng — a highly valued natural product that generations of consumers take for continued good health.
Manuka honey is priced by the Chinese reportedly for its wide range of health benefits including its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties
In Singapore, there is an abundant supply of authentic UMF-graded Manuka honey. First Health is a member of the UMF Honey Association and we are committed to making real Manuka honey and its plethora of health benefits accessible to everyone. In helping families achieve healthier well being, we only source honey directly from local farmers in New Zealand. Our Manuka honey is certified by independent laboratories to ensure true-to-label claims.
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