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What Is Manuka Honey and Why Is It Special?

Manuka honey is a monofloral honey that is predominantly produced in certain areas of New Zealand. It is different from all others types of honey because the bees source the pollen and nectar almost entirely from the flowers of Manuka Trees (Leptospermum Scoparium). These trees are closely related to the Tea Trees; and occur naturally throughout New Zealand and southeast Australia but are particularly common in high densities in the drier eastern coastal area of the North Island of New Zealand.

Like all other honey varieties, Manuka Honey demonstrates anti-bacterial properties resulting from the presence of hydrogen peroxide and the natural acidic pH. Some batches of the honey have demonstrated additional anti-microbial activity unique to Manuka variety; this additional trait has been termed the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). This UMF has been Manuka Honey’s claim to fame. High quality honey that demonstrates this special trait is considered medicinal grade honey and has been shown in laboratories tests to kill even antibiotic resistant microbes.

Regular versus UMF Active Honey

Not all Manuka Honey possesses the special UMF trait. A sample of each batch of the honey must undergo rigorous laboratory testing to determine if that batch demonstrates any antiseptic properties over and above those attributed to the peroxide and acidic pH. Only about 10% of all the batches produced are found to be UMF active. A batch produced in an area in one season may be UMF active and a batch produced in the same area the next year may not be UMF active. It is not clear why only some batches in some seasons develop the special UMF activity. All batches of honey that do show UMF activity are termed UMF Manuka Honey or Healing Honey while those batches which do not develop any UMF activity are termed regular honey. It is important to understand this distinction when purchasing this special honey for therapeutic use.

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