best manuka honey

How to Choose the Best Manuka Honey

Last modified on April 11th, 2023

When you want to choose the best manuka honey, there are a lot of options out there. Some brands are more reputable than others, and there are key features you should look for when choosing this health-boosting honey.

Key Takeaways

  • Manuka honey has antibacterial properties
  • Manuka honey also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral benefits
  • When choosing the manuka honey, there is a grading system to be aware of
  • The grading system indicates quality and can also help you figure out which is best for your particular goals

What is Manuka Honey?

Before exploring the specifics of choosing manuka honey, why is it so popular and in-demand?

Manuka honey comes originally from New Zealand. It’s the product of the New Zealand scrub plant.

When bees pollinate from the scrub plant, it creates more potent honey than the standard honey bee.

This is due to the concentration of something called methylglyoxal or MGO.

One big differentiator between manuka honey and traditional honey is its antibacterial properties. It is probably the MGO in manuka honey that provides antibacterial benefits.

Manuka honey has also been used traditionally to help with sore throats, to prevent tooth decay, for wound healing, and to help with digestive problems.

The Benefits

Specific and research-backed benefits of manuka honey include the following.

Antiviral Properties

We’re getting into cold and flu season, and COVID-19 is still very much present. That leaves many people focused on antiviral supplements, and manuka honey may have an impact on viruses.

In general, manuka honey potentially helps with flu and cold symptoms.

If you start taking a teaspoon or so a day as soon as you notice symptoms, it may reduce the severity of your symptoms and shorten the length of your sickness.

Some studies show honey and manuka honey, in particular, has an inhibitory effect against the influenza virus.

Honey is a potential alternative for the drug acyclovir for the treatment of herpes simplex virus 1. Honey has also shown an antiviral effect against the varicella-zoster virus.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Public health England has guidelines recommending honey as a first-line treatment for acute cough caused by an infection of the upper respiratory tract.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved bandages with manuka honey for prescription and over-the-counter sales because of their antiviral and antibacterial properties.

The more MGO honey has, the more powerful it is in terms of being antiviral and antibacterial.


Manuka honey has antibacterial properties as well. Manuka honey has properties that may attack bacteria leading to symptoms like a sore throat. Manuka honey may also reduce inflammation.

If you have a sore throat from a bacterial infection, manuka honey not only has the potential to kill the bacteria itself but can also coat the throat’s inner lining.

In one study of patients who were receiving chemo for head and neck cancer, researchers found a significant decrease in one type of bacteria responsible for sore throats after study participants had manuka honey.

Dozens of bacteria species are believed to be susceptible to manuka honey, including Clostridium difficile, which is often acquired in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

Manuka honey is thought to attack infections that form a biofilm, a thin layer of bacteria. Once an infection forms a biofilm, it’s considered treatment-resistant, which is why manuka honey is so interesting in terms of being antibacterial.

Wound Healing

Most types of honey and especially manuka, can help with wound-healing. This is probably because honey is acidic, which promotes healing.

The acidity also blocks enzymes that break down peptides and proteins your body needs for self-repair.

Honey has been used since ancient times to help with burns, wounds, and sores.

In 2007, the FDA approved manuka honey as an option to treat wounds in the U.S.

Along with having antioxidant and antibacterial properties, honey also creates a protective barrier and a moist wound environment to prevent the wound from becoming infected.

Studies have found manuka honey can improve wound healing, help with the generation of new tissue, and reduce pain.

Oral Health

Around 50% of Americans have some form of periodontal disease. Manuka honey can help reduce oral bacteria leading to plaque. Manuka honey can also help reduce tooth decay and gum inflammation.

Studies have shown that when people use manuka honey after meals several times a day, it can reduce plaque and bleeding of the gums.

Digestive Health

Many people suffer from digestive disorders. One example is irritable bowel syndrome, characterized by symptoms like irregular bowel movements, diarrhea, and constipation.

Having manuka honey regularly may help reduce these digestive symptoms. This is likely because it is an antioxidant, and it can reduce inflammation.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition leading to lung damage. It can also affect other organs and the digestive system. Cystic fibrosis can affect the mucus-producing cells. It can lead to abnormally sticky, thick mucus that can clog airways and make it hard to breathe.

Someone with cystic fibrosis may be more prone to upper respiratory infections.

Manuka honey has shown some promise in this area because it can combat bacteria causing upper respiratory infections.

Acne and Skin Health

Acne can be caused by diet, stress and bacteria that grow in clogged pores. Since manuka honey has antimicrobial effects, it might help combat some acne.

Along with helping reduce skin bacteria, manuka honey is an anti-inflammatory which can help with acne.

How Do You Choose the Best Manuka Honey?

One of the big differentiators when it comes to choosing manuka honey is the grade. There is low and high-grade manuka honey.

The higher the grade of the honey, the more effective.

When you’re starting your search, think about what you want to use it for, which will help guide some of your decision.  

Grading Systems

When you’re choosing honey, you’ll see something called UMF. UMF is representative of the quality of the honey. It’s also a grading system that was developed to help consumers choose the best product for them.

UMF5 is the minimum. In most of the research cited above and in general, the honey is UMF12 and above.

If you’re looking for wound care, you should choose medicinal-grade honey.

All UMF honey is packed in New Zealand, and each batch is tested.

Also, active manuka honey is not the same thing as UMF manuka honey. The word active doesn’t indicate any special quality, and it’s just used as part of marketing and packaging.

As a honey’s UMF grade goes up, it will have more MGO, which is the active ingredient that makes manuka so unique.

UMF ratings go up to 20+ and again, the higher level, the higher the concentration of beneficial compounds.

High UMF-level manuka tends to be darker in color.

When honey has a UMF certificate, it means the following:

  • The honey is made, packed, and labeled in New Zealand
  • The honey is tested for purity and to identify its source
  • The honey maker is regularly audited
  • The manuka honey is authentic and has passed all required testing

Since UMF describes the levels of MGO in manuka honey, the scores mean the following:

  • A UMF of 0 to 4 means an undetectable level is present
  • A UMF of 5 to 9 indicates low MGO levels are present
  • A UMF of 10 to 15 means useful levels of MGO are in the product
  • A UMF of 16 or higher means high-grade levels of MGO are present, and it’s considered a superior manuka product

Medical Grade

Any certified UMF manuka honey with at least a 10 rating is considered medical-grade and could be useful for skin health.

If you were going to compare the amount of MGO or the “magic” ingredient in manuka to its UMF, it might break down like this:

  • MGO 83+= UMF 5+
  • MGO 250+= UMF 10+
  • MGO 700+= UMF 18+
  • MGO 1000+= UMF 22+

If you have an active infection, you should aim for a UMF 15+ or higher. If you’re going to dilute manuka honey, you should also get a higher grade because that will weaken some of its antibacterial potency. For example, mixing the honey with other ingredients rather than just taking it on its own is considered diluting it.

If you’re using manuka honey for a digestive issue, aim for UMF 20+. This is because just consuming manuka honey, even without another substance, can be diluting. Your digestive fluids dilute the manuka in your stomach.

You may notice when you’re looking that some will use terms like “bioactive” in their labeling. This is NOT the same as the UMF certification, and it can be very misleading.

Top Brands on Amazon

If you’re thinking about buying manuka honey on Amazon, you need to be careful. You’ll notice a lot of what’s available on there isn’t UMF certified. The following are a few examples of some that are, however

  • 100% New Zealand manuka honey
  • Premium certified UMF 15+
  • MGO 514+
  • One of the number one providers of manuka honey since 1974
  • Top-rated manuka honey brand on Amazon
  • UMF 15+
  • Sustainably sourced
  • New Zealand Honey Co. has been providing manuka honey since 2006
  • Certified UMF 20+
  • MGO 850+
  • 8 ounces
  • Product of New Zealand
  • Each batch is independently tested and verified
  • UMF 20+
  • MGO 830+
  • Industry-leading traceability system from hive to hand
  • Natural, non-GMO product
  • Produced entirely in New Zealand

Final Thoughts

Manuka honey has some potentially amazing health benefits, including antiviral and antibacterial properties. When you’re comparing and looking for manuka honey, by far the most important factor is the UMF certification and rating. The higher the number, the more powerful the medicinal qualities of the honey.

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