Manuka Honey is honey made when bees forage on the nectar of the flowering Manuka tree, which is native to, and grows mainly in New Zealand. Manuka honey has been termed a "superfood" for its overall health and wellness properties (click here for benefits and research). Research performed in New Zealand & in Germany in the 1990s identified a unique and potent antibacterial property of Manuka honey, methylglyoxal (abbreviated MG or MGO) which stimulated worldwide interest and markets. Active Manuka honey contains varying degrees of dietary methylglyoxal.
Historically, until the early 1990's Manuka honey was just one of many really nice honeys produced from flowering native New Zealand trees. Enter Dr. Peter Molan of the Waikato University in New Zealand, who through his research discovered a very unique and special property of Manuka honey. Dr. Molan was studying the health properties of honeys which are normally attributed to a natural mild hydrogen peroxide antiseptic released when the enzyme glucose oxidase produced by the bees as a preservative in the honey comes in contact with moisture in the body.
However, this "peroxide activity" is easily destroyed by exposure to fluids, heat and sunlight. The discovery that Dr. Molan made was that Manuka honey had a different property, what he termed a "non-peroxide activity" (NPA), which was more potent and stable, opening up the possibility of a wide range of uses. The term "Unique Manuka Factor," or UMF was coined (and trademarked) to describe this property which varied in strength as measured from different batches of Manuka honey produced in various parts of New Zealand.
Professor Thomas Henle at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany set out to isolate what it was in Manuka honey that was producing this more potent and stable non-peroxide activity. The compound, methylglyoxal (MG or MGO), was isolated as having a direct correlation to the NPA or UMF rating of Manuka honey. Testing for MG levels has become the industry standard way to gauge the special properties of Manuka Honey. NPA and UMF ratings are correlated to an actual MG test result.
Find out more about testing and how to read a Manuka honey label: