In order to understand the label, it helps to know a bit about Manuka honey first.
What is Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey comes from New Zealand and Australia and is harvested from the hives of bees that buzz around the wild Manuka bush, which is also known as tea tree.
What are the benefits of Manuka Honey?
All honey has an anti-bacterial effect, but scientists have found that Manuka honey’s anti-microbial activity is far more potent than normal table honeyi. Studies have shown that medical Manuka honey can heal wounds fasterii when applied directly to skin and it can have a positive effect on sore throats, skin conditions and digestion.
How does Manuka honey work?
All honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which provides anti-bacterial action. However, in normal honey the hydrogen peroxide breaks down meaning the anti-bacterial benefits are lost. Manuka honey contains additional anti-bacterial properties, including methylglyoxal, which continue to work even after the hydrogen peroxide disappears. This is called Non-Peroxide Activity.
What do the letters and numbers mean on a Manuka Honey Label?
The varying sets of letters on a Manuka honey label refer to different quality grading systems and the numbers refer to the level of anti-bacterial action compared to phenol (a disinfectant) in water: the higher the number, the greater the action.
UMF® stands for Unique Manuka Factor, which is an international quality trademark that can only be used by licensed New Zealand producers who make natural, unmodified Manuka honey. For Manuka honey to receive the UMF® grading it has to pass independent tests to show:
- Non-Peroxide Activity
- The presence of compounds found in Manuka:
- MGO / MG (methylglyoxal), which provides additional anti-bacterial benefits
- DHA (Dihydroxyacetone), which helps to make MGO
NPA refers to Non Peroxide Activity and is a measure of anti-bacterial action in addition to that of hydrogen peroxide. NPA is unique to Manuka honey, therefore it is the same as UMF® testing, but without the logo.
Active (A) or Total Activity (TA)
Active and Total Activity refer to the total amount of antibacterial action in the Manuka honey. The numbers represent both peroxide and non-peroxide activity, so it is a different grading system to UMF and NPA.
Methylglyoxal, or MGO, is used to measure the anti-bacterial strength of Manuka honey. There is a clear link between MGO and UMF®/NPA, so you may often see both MGO and NPA on the label:
|MGO Level||UMF/NPA Grade|
How Much Does Manuka Honey Cost?
|Grading System||What does it measure||Example Values||Budget|
|UMF® – Unique Manuka Factor||Non Peroxide Activity||5+: low levels of antibacterial activity, but good as a nutritional supplement
10+: low to medium antibacterial activity, which helps maintain good health
15+: high antibacterial activity
20+: very high antibacterial activity
|NPA – Non Peroxide Activity||Non Peroxide Activity||5+, 10+, 15+, 18+, 20+||£££|
|Active / Total Activity||Peroxide and non-peroxide activity||12+, 15+, 18+, 20+, 24+||££|
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