Most people have heard of Manuka honey at some point, as news articles on the apparent wonder-product have been rampant over the past few years. The honey, which is technically native to New Zealand, is known to hold outstanding antibacterial qualities, as well as the ability to defend the body against possible infections.
Expensive, famous, but highly disputed, it’s no wonder that Manuka honey is repeatedly under scrutiny for the potency of its medicinal qualities. Not only are there disputes over the worth of using Manuka honey, there’s also controversy over the origins and legitimacy of the brand. Is Manuka even a brand? Can several honey types have the same effect? Should honey from non-New Zealand bees be bestowed with the honour of the Manuka name?
To be counted as official ‘Manuka’ honey, bees must be producing monofloral honey. This means that their nectar is sourced from one species of plant or tree only. In this case, it’s the Manuka tree. Although widespread across New Zealand in particular, there are some Manuka trees dotting the Australian countryside for example. Would you trust honey from Australian Manuka trees the way you’d trust the New Zealand brand, assuming that the bees were sourcing the good stuff from just these trees alone?
The UMF Honey Association doesn’t think we should. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor, and the association rates all honey jars claiming to come from the Manuka tree with its relevance on the UMF scale. The group wishes to trademark the term ‘Manuka Honey’ to New Zealand-based honey products alone. This would prevent Australian producers from benefitting from the recognisable Manuka name.
This kind of grab for control has been criticised by Australia, of course. Beekeepers claim that the tree grows naturally in Australia, and there’s no legal reason they can fathom that should prevent them from operating under the Manuka name.
The usefulness of various Manuka honeypots is also disputed. Some honey batches don’t have the same level of methylglyoxal content, the chemical compound that some researchers say is the key to the antiseptic strength of Manuka honey. For this reason, a different scale has been developed outside of the UMF scale, which specifically measures the methylglyoxal (MGO) levels.
As a result of the oft-conflicting scales and rating systems, and the fact that the UMF Association do in fact benefit financially from the success of New Zealand-only based honey, it can be hard to know what benefits we’re really getting from Manuka.
Protecting Your Health
Myths, rumours and misinformation can be harmful if not challenged, as some people believe that this honey can be substituted for mainstream medicine. Although Manuka honey can be helpful in fighting off bacteria on minor burns and cuts, as well as reducing inflammation in the oesophagus etc., it can’t be used for serious injuries. Although medical grade level Manuka honey is reportedly used in hospital situations, these cases involve professionals applying highly-sterilised and filtered honey on medical dressings and bandages etc. When in doubt, go to your doctor!
In Ireland, Boyne Valley has its own Manuka product, rated according to the ‘Active’ scale. This scale is once again different from other systems of measurement like the UMF and MGO scales, and for this reason, the levels of antibacterial properties should be always be investigated thoroughly instead of consumers relying solely on labels.
Although reports have been carried out on the health benefits, it’s important to hear the real-life stories of Manuka honey, whether they’re positive success stories or not! Let us know what you think on our Facebook page, Twitter profile, or simply comment below!