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What is so special about Manuka honey?

What is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey is an iconic New Zealand honey harvested by bees from the nectar of the indigenous manuka shrub, Leptospermum scoparium, that grows wild throughout the country's most remote and pristine area. Manuka flowers for only 2–6 weeks each year, given its short flowering season, it takes immense skill, planning, and resources to harvest Manuka Honey, which is why we never take a single, precious drop for granted.

Manuka honey is sweet and delicious, with a distinctive taste and colour that intensifies with higher purity and levels of beneficial compounds. Like a good wine, manuka honey grows in flavour and potency and darkens over time.

How is Manuka honey different from other honeys?

Manuka honey is chemically more complex than other honey types. It contains a broad array of bioactive micronutrients including proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals and plant-derived polyphenolic compounds. Micronutrients support our immune system, energy production and is key to our body's growth and development. New Zealand manuka honey contains over 2000 individual compounds which is more than 20-fold higher than pasture honey such as clover.

Antimicrobial activities of Manuka honey

All honeys are antimicrobial to some extent. The high sugar, low pH and low water content of honey creates an environment which is unfavourable for bacterial growth (Molan 1992a, Bogdanov 2004). Most honeys also release hydrogen peroxide when diluted which kills bacteria. This hydrogen peroxide is generated by the enzyme glucose oxidase, which is added by bees to nectar during the honey-making process.

Manuka honey has a unique non-peroxide antimicrobial activity that distinguishes it from the other honey types. In comparison to the peroxide-based antimicrobial activity found in other honey types, the non-peroxide antimicrobial activity of manuka honey is highly stable, making manuka honey excellent for antimicrobial uses such as wound care.

Manuka honey also carries an abundance of other bioactive plant-derived compounds such as phenolic acids and flavonoids (Russell 1990, Stephens 2010). Phenolic acids and flavonoids are well-known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities (Gutiérrez-Grijalva 2016) which may explain some of the health-benefits reported for manuka honey.