For thousands of years honey has been known for its special properties. Particular honeys have a greater range of attributes than others, and the honey that comes from certain varieties of the New Zealand Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) happens to be one of these.
How is modern day Manuka Honey made? Put simply, Mānuka Honey is produced by introduced honey bees feeding on the Mānuka (or Jellybush in Australia) which grows uncultivated throughout New Zealand and South Eastern Australia. Due to the massive mark-up (combined with fervent demand) on Manuka Honey globally, there have been lots of cases of fraud reported where the honey hasn't actually been as strong as what is stated on the label.
To attempt a prevention of such instances, a New Zealand group by the name of Active Manuka Honey Industry Group (AMHIG) are tasked with formalising the measurement of the honey. There are 3 units of measurement used to determine the strength of the Manuka honey:
- UMF (Unique Manuka Factor): Indicates the level of non-peroxide enzyme activity. Each batch strength is verified by an independent lab based in New Zealand
- Active: Relates predominantly to the peroxide enzyme activity (can be 95%+)
- MGO: (or MG ) Refers to methylglyoxal; the naturally occurring compound identified as the active ingredient primarily responsible for the unique antibacterial action of Manuka Honey.
Each of the honey types contain peroxide and non-peroxide enzyme activity to varying degrees. Active Manuka Honey is pre-dominantly peroxide activity, but, a UMF Manuka Honey will always show a rating using a non-peroxide activity, discounting any peroxide activity rating. Both have healing qualities but the non-peroxide activity is the more potent of the two.
Sounds complicated but essentially, a UMF Manuka Honey is always going to be stronger - sometimes by 50% more - than an Active Manuka Honey. The only one officially and stringently controlled, is the UMF rating. So to be safe, we'd recommend using this as your main unit of measurement. Due to the aforementioned dodgy operators out there, make sure you you check out whether the brand of Manuka Honey you're about hit 'buy now' on, is licensed to use the UMF rating (see: www.umf.org.nz/licensees).
In terms of UMF scaling, here is the most consistent numbers we've found to date:
- 0 - 4: Not detectable
- 5 - 9: Low levels
- 10 - 15: Useful levels
- 16+: Superior high grade levels
Here's a good conversion chart for MG level to UMF to have at hand:
|Methylglyoxal Level||UMF® Grade|
There's a tonne of great material online about Manuka but the most interesting is how the UMF rating came about: www.manukahoney.com/what_is_umf_.cfm