Manuka honey is a type of honey produced by bees in New Zealand. These bees pollinate the flower Leptospermum scoparium, also known as the Manuka bush.

Manuka honey is also produced by bees in Southeastern Australia. While the Leptospermum scoparium flower is used to produce Manuka honey in New Zealand, Australian Manuka honey is derived from a variety of Leptospermum plant species.

Manuka honey isn’t only meant for eating but has medicinal properties, too.

Bees collect nectar from Manuka plants and produce Manuka honey, which has unique properties. It contains an active ingredient called methylglyoxal (MGO), which a 2018 research review suggests has antibacterial effects.

MGO is what makes Manuka honey even more potent against bacteria than other types of honey.

Manuka honey also contains:

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • amino acids

These properties make it a very versatile therapeutic agent.

Read on to find out what to look for in this type of honey and some of its uses.

The grading system for New Zealand Manuka honey is very complex and several different systems can be used such as UMF™ (Unique Manuka Factor), which is considered the strictest and highest graded Manuka Honey measurement system.

Other measurement systems used in New Zealand include MGS (Molan Gold Standard), K-Factor, and Bio Active. New Zealand also includes measurement of markers in their honey (MGO and NPA).

The UMF number on the label represents the amount of MGO in the bottle. That number can range from UMF 5+ to UMF 20+. The higher the UMF rating, the more antibacterial activity Manuka honey has — and the more potent it is.

MGO (Methylglyoxal) is a naturally-occurring compound found in Manuka honey that gives it its unique antibacterial properties.

NPA (non-peroxide activity) is an additional antibacterial factor found in Manuka honey, adding to its unique antiseptic properties.

In a 2017 lab study, Manuka honey with UMF 10+ and higher had increased antibacterial effects. UMF 20+ Manuka honey was also effective against drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

Australian Manuka honey uses their own grading system, which can either be labeled AMHA (Australian Manuka Honey Association) Authentic or Authorised and labels must provide the levels of MGO on their products.

Look for Manuka honey that’s UMF certified, AMHA Authentic, or AMHA Authorised to ensure it contains the three key signature compounds that authenticate Manuka honey (Leptosperin, DHA, and MGO).

Leptosperin is a naturally occurring chemical, found only in the nectar of Manuka plants (and a few very close relatives). Its presence in honey is how Manuka honey can be identified.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is found in the nectar of Manuka flowers and develops over time into MGO during the production of honey.

Both laboratory and animal studies — including a 2014 lab study and a 2017 study on rats — have shown that Manuka honey has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

It may help clear up infections and speed skin healing, according to a 2016 review. For these reasons, it’s sometimes used in dressings to promote wound healing from surgery, diabetes, and burns.

Small studies suggest Manuka honey may also be helpful for:

Manuka honey may also help improve the appearance of your skin by balancing its pH level and ridding the debris of dead cells.

A humectant, Manuka honey may be used to help hydrate your skin. Cosmetics companies have included Manuka honey as an ingredient in products ranging from lip ointments and hydrating creams, to shampoos and conditioners.

Keep in mind that most of the studies that have been done on Manuka honey are small and their results haven’t been duplicated in larger studies. More research is needed in this area to support these claims.

Manuka honey used to be hard to find outside of New Zealand. But thanks to its growing popularity, today you can buy this honey at many natural and grocery stores as well as select club stores throughout the United States. You can also find it online.

Some of the brick-and-mortar stores that sell Manuka honey are:

  • select Costco locations
  • The Vitamin Shoppe
  • Kroger
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Whole Foods Market

When you buy Manuka honey, look for the UMF or AMHA certification on the label. This tells you the honey’s potency and certifies that the product is real Manuka honey.

Also, the product you’re buying is more likely to be genuine if it was made in New Zealand or Australia.

Manuka honey is fine for minor ailments, but don’t try to treat an infection or other more serious condition on your own using this product. Consult with your doctor for advice. Make sure you have researched the product and grading system before purchasing any Manuka honey.

Avoid products containing Manuka honey if you are allergic to bees. It could cause a reaction, according to a 2015 review.

If you have diabetes, ask your doctor before you try Manuka honey. The high sugar content could raise your blood sugar level. Do not give children under 12 months of age raw honey of any kind.

Manuka honey can sometimes interact with certain medicines, including chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer. Let your doctor and pharmacist know about all the drugs, supplements, and alternative remedies you take to avoid possible interactions.

Manuka honey was once rarely available in the United States, but now it’s easy to find in both health food stores and online. Before you buy this type of honey, look for the UMF label on the bottle. That label is a sign that the product is real and potent enough to have an effect.

As with any natural remedy you buy, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first. Ask whether Manuka honey is safe for you and if it could interact with any other medications or supplements you take.