Though we mostly think about it as a sweetener today, honey has been used for thousands of years (1). Manuka Honey is a unique type of honey native to New Zealand and southern Australia. Manuka honey’s high levels of methylglyoxal (MGO) may contribute to its potential health benefits (2).
While each brand of Manuka honey varies in terms of potency, texture, and flavor, it is generally pretty high in natural sugars. In addition to being used as a sweetener, some folks take advantage of Manuka honey by using it topically to treat wounds. (3) (4) Manuka honey’s antibacterial nature may also make it an effective treatment for oral health and sore throats. (5) (6)
When shopping for Manuka honey, you may notice that each label has a variety of numbers and claims related to its strength including MGO. With so many Manuka honey options on the market, it’s important to know how to distinguish between their key features.
Best Manuka Honey
- Best Manuka Honey: Kiva Raw Honey
- Best Manuka Honey for Spreading: Manuka Health Manuka Honey
- Best Premium Manuka Honey: New Zealand Honey Co. Raw Manuka Honey
- Best Value Manuka Honey: Wedderspoon Monofloral Manuka Honey
- Best Manuka Honey for MGO Rating: 100% Raw Australian Manuka Honey
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. Individual needs for vitamins and minerals will vary.
Best Manuka Honey
Kiva’s 15-plus UMF score translates to an MGO rating of 514 plus, meaning there are 514 milligrams of MGO per kilogram of this honey. Each batch is independently tested for purity and quality, and no ingredients are added to this raw honey. This particular Manuka honey has a strong floral smell paired with a rich sweetness. Every single serving of one tablespoon packs 60 calories and 15 grams of sugar.
Kiva’s small black container of raw Manuka honey packs a very flavorful punch. Recognized by New Zealand third-party tester Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), this is raw Manuka honey with no other ingredients.
Who Should Buy Kiva Raw Honey
- Those who value independent testing for purity and quality.
- People who desire a notable floral smell, sweet taste, and bright golden color.
- Folks who want to avoid added ingredients beyond the honey itself.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Kiva Raw Honey
- Anyone looking to keep their spending on honey low.
The price tag is the only reasonable knock against Kiva. At over $40 per jar of 12 servings, it can be a bit heavy on the wallet. Outside of that, though, it checks all the boxes for a top-tier pick and still ranks highest on our list.
[Related: Could Baking Soda Be The Best Workout Supplement You’ve Never Tried?]
Best Manuka Honey for Spreading
Each one tablespoon serving of this Manuka honey contains 12 grams of sugar. With a rating of MGO 400-plus, this is a moderate source of MGO, the active ingredient that gives Manuka honey its unique antibacterial properties, this honey is thick, amber-colored, and spreads quite easily. Manuka Health touts its relationship with the New Zealand beekeepers they work with and claims to use independent testing on every batch of honey it produces.
Manuka Health’s Manuka honey offering has a rich amber color and is a bit thicker than some of the other honey we looked at. Though not quite as sweet as some of the other varieties we looked at, this honey spreads easily and has a moderate amount of MGOs, at 400 milligrams per kilogram.
Who Should Buy Manuka Health Manuka Honey
- Those looking for a Manuka honey to spread on food rather than to mix in drinks.
- People who value independent testing on each batch.
- Folks who appreciate their honey being raw and GMO-free.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Manuka Health Manuka Honey
- Anyone who wants sweeter-tasting honey.
- Those who need to spend less per jar — this is on the more expensive end of the market.
[Related: The Best Types Of Supplements For Performance, Weight Loss, And Health]
Best Premium Manuka Honey
At 24-plus UMF and 1,122-plus MGO, New Zealand Honey Co. produces one of the most potent Manuka honeys on the market. Each batch of New is independently tested for purity and has a thick consistency that could work nicely as a spread. The smell it generates is strong and floral without overwhelming the taste buds. Due to its high levels of MGO, this is one of the most expensive Manuka honeys on the market, but should still be a high consideration for anyone with a heavier purse seeking thicker honey.
This is one of the most clearly labeled and potent Manuka honey on the market. Including both the UMF and MGO scale on their jar of honey, New Zealand Honey Co. offers floral-tasting honey that’s packed with MGO.
Who Should Buy New Zealand Honey Co. Raw Manuka Honey
- Anyone who values third-party testing for purity.
- People who appreciate a potent smell without an overbearing taste.
Who Shouldn’t Buy New Zealand Honey Co. Raw Manuka Honey
- Those who are unable to spend a lot on honey.
- Those looking for a more viscous or versatile Manuka honey.
[Related: Intermittent Fasting 101: A Guide To Benefits, Muscle Gain, And More]
Best Value Manuka Honey
This raw and unpasteurized Manuka honey provides 16 grams of sugar per serving alongside 70 calories. It has a golden color, flows nicely, and has a bright taste. Each jar is non-GMO certified, free of pesticides, and comes at a fairly reasonable price point compared to the rest of the market. One factor to be aware of is Wedderspoon’s use of the K Factor rating to determine the quality of its honey. According to the company’s website, K Factor 16 means that this honey is “wholly or mostly” from the Manuka plant. While this rating system is recognized by the government of New Zealand, it makes it difficult to compare this honey’s MGO levels to its competitors.
Available at a pretty competitive price point, Wedderspoon’s raw Manuka honey has a golden color and smooth taste. This non-GMO honey is sourced and packaged in New Zealand, and boasts that each bottle contains honey that can be tracked from its original beehive.
Who Should Buy Wedderspoon Monofloral Manuka Honey
- Folks who want a Manuka honey that is raw and unpasteurized.
- Anyone who values honey free of GMOs and pesticides.
- Those looking to keep their spending low.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Wedderspoon Monofloral Manuka Honey
- People who want to be sure that their honey comes entirely from the Manuka plant.
[Related: Best Macros Calculator For Tracking Muscle Gain And Fat Loss]
Best Manuka Honey for MGO Rating
With an 820-plus MGO, this is one of the highest MGO ratings of any Manuka honey available on the market. 100% Raw Australian extracts their honey using a cold process so it is considered raw. Each tablespoon single-serving provides 12 grams of sugar and appears as a darker color than most of the competitors on our list. Additionally, this Manuka honey has a texture that is less dense and flows quite easily.
This Manuka honey is one of the most potent Manuka honeys available, in terms of MGO. Harvested from the east coast of Australia, this honey is gathered using a cold extraction process, keeping much of its potential medicinal qualities intact.
Who Should Buy 100% Raw Australian Manuka Honey
- People who want a Manuka honey with a very high MGO rating.
- Those who want their Manuka honey to be raw.
- Folks looking for smooth, easy-flowing honey.
Who Shouldn’t Buy 100% Raw Australian Manuka Honey
- Those who want sweeter honey to use as a spread.
- Anyone who needs to keep costs down — this option is a bit pricey per ounce.
[Related: Nutrition For Bulking: 10 Tips For Intelligent Muscle Gain]
What To Consider Before Buying
If you’re accustomed to buying honey out of a bear-shaped squeeze bottle, Manuka honey can be a bit intimidating. With so many different qualifiers on the label, making a decision can be overwhelming. Here are a few key things to consider before investing in a jar of manuka honey.
Where’s It From?
Manuka honey is most commonly found in New Zealand, though Australia has a few producers of this unique sweetener as well. If you come across honey that’s labeled as Manuka but not from New Zealand or Australia, it’s probably best to steer clear. It is the Manuka bush in particular that gives Manuka honey its unique antibacterial properties.
Manuka Rating Systems
Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is a widely recognized independent rating system in New Zealand (7). Any Manuka honey brand with a UMF rating on its label has been vetted and third-party tested for purity by the UMF Honey Association. These numbers range from five-plus to 20-plus, with a higher number indicating a greater amount of methylglyoxal (MGO) per unit. For example, a five-plus UMF contains 83 MGO while a 20-plus UMF contains 829 MGO, measured by milligram per kilogram of honey.
Similarly, MGO is a measure of how much methylglyoxal, measured by milligram per kilogram, is in each type of Manuka honey. There’s not a standard third-party MGO organization, and so it’s ultimately up to the company itself to measure its honey and report accurately.
K Factor is another type of rating system. This system is recognized by the New Zealand government and takes into account purity, enzymes, and pollen count, but curiously leaves out MGO.
Manuka honey has seen an increase in popularity in the last few decades. A lot of companies have started making their own Manuka honey, using unique and sometimes confusing ratings. Some brands try to pass off adulterated or synthetic Manuka honey as the real deal (8). The UMF Honey Association was formed over twenty years ago to try to ensure that Manuka honey on the market is, in fact, Manuka honey. While it’s hard to be 100 percent certain of the purity of any Manuka honey, brands with UMF ratings are probably among the most trustworthy.
[Related: The Lifter’s Guide To Magnesium: What This Nutrient Does For Strength]
The difference between the affordable, common honey you’re probably accustomed to and raw honey is in pasteurization. Raw honey has not been pasteurized, meaning it was simply strained from the source to remove unwanted bits from nature, such as dead bees, and put them into a container. Pasteurized honey, on the other hand, was likely heated up to remove impurities and create an even consistency.
Multifloral vs. Monofloral
This is another term that’s specific to the honey market. Monofloral refers to honey that was sourced from one type of plant, while multi-floral means that multiple types of plants were involved in the creation.
Authentic Manuka honey can be much more expensive. However, you can still figure out how to get the best bang for your buck by dividing the total cost of a jar by the number of ounces it contains.
[Related: The Actual Pros And Cons Of The Paleo Diet]
Manuka honey may have some intriguing uses, particularly with regard to healing wounds. However, there’s no conclusive evidence it’s effective at wound treatment, especially compared to conventional treatment, and it’s advisable to consult with a medical professional before replacing your medicine cabinet with a few jars of honey. If you’re going to invest in Manuka honey, try to make sure you’re getting a true authentic bottle — look for a UMF rated version.
Authentic Manuka honey is prized for its unique chemical profile. While you can likely find copycats and imitators on the market, if you can afford genuine, authentic Manuka honey, it may make a great addition to your kitchen to be mixed into drinks, spread on toast, or drizzled over oats or yogurt.
Eteraf-Oskouei T, Najafi M. Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences. 2013;16(6):731-742.
Carter DA, Blair SE, Cokcetin NN, et al. Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016;7.
Niaz K, Maqbool F, Bahadar H, Abdollahi M. Health Benefits of Manuka Honey as an Essential Constituent for Tissue Regeneration. Current drug metabolism. 2017;18(10):881-892.
Yaghoobi R, Kazerouni A, Kazerouni O. Evidence for Clinical Use of Honey in Wound Healing as an Anti-bacterial, Anti-inflammatory Anti-oxidant and Anti-viral Agent: A Review. Jundishapur journal of natural pharmaceutical products. 2013;8(3):100-104.
Eick S, Schäfer G, Kwieciński J, Atrott J, Henle T, Pfister W. Honey – a potential agent against Porphyromonas gingivalis: an in vitro study. BMC oral health. 2014;14:24.
Sela M, Maroz D, Gedalia I. Streptococcus mutans in saliva of normal subjects and neck and head irradiated cancer subjects after consumption of honey. Journal of oral rehabilitation. 2000;27(3):269-270.
UMF | Honey Association. Umf.org.nz. https://umf.org.nz/. Published 2019.
Ministry for Primary Industries. Fines totalling $372,500 imposed in landmark mānuka honey fraud case. Govt.nz. https://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/media-releases/fines-totalling-372500-imposed-in-landmark-manuka-honey-fraud-case/. Published June 28, 2019.