What does MGO stand for in Manuka honey? And what’s happened to UMF and NPA?
Find the answers to these questions & discover the natural health benefits of Manuka honey right here – buzzing!
Manuka honey is a special type of honey that comes from New Zealand, but you can also find it in Australia.
The discerning little bees who make Manuka honey collect most of their nectar (the base of all honey) from the Manuka bush (Leptospermum Scoparium).
The Manuka bush is where this premium honey gets all its unique properties, including its rich flavour and associated health benefits – we’ll get into these below!
Manuka honey is used for all sorts of things. We've listed the top 3 benefits below:
All types of honey are known for their antibacterial properties, but Manuka honey takes it to a whole new level! The special ingredient? MGO.
MGO aka methylgloxal, is where Manuka honey get’s all its antibacterial power from.
In regular table/runny honey, the hydrogen peroxide activity breaks down in processing/storage, meaning a lot of the anti-bacterial benefits get lost.
However, Manuka honey has MGO up its sleeve, so its antibacterial properties remain even after the hydrogen peroxide has broken down.
Does a cough or cold have you reaching for your favourite mug and pot of honey?
Turns out that hot tea and honey isn’t just an old wives’ tale!
Honey can really help soothe your throat – especially if it’s Manuka honey.
Can’t find your usual sore throat relief? When over-the-counter cold and flu medicines run low, why not try Manuka honey to soothe sore throats and help support your immunity. Our range is 100% natural, pure, and certified.
Highly moisturising, antibacterial and 100% natural – sounds like a skincare product, right?
Well it turns out Manuka honey can do wonders for your skin on the outside as well as nourish your body from the inside!
Its antibacterial properties can help to combat bacteria binding to irritated skin, which ultimately helps the healing process.
And it will leave your skin feeling lovely and soft too.
Why not try out these 5 Manuka honey face masks and see for yourself?
First things first, you should find out if your Manuka honey is what it says it is – there are a lot of fakes out there.
We’ve always insisted on seeing documentation proving Manuka honey sold in Holland & Barrett stores is genuine. The New Zealand government has now brought in more strict legislation around Manuka honey and how it’s labelled, and all Manuka honey exported from New Zealand must now be laboratory-tested to prove it’s authentic.
The tests check for:
All the Manuka honey we sell carries authenticity stamps, which shows that the honey has passed these stringent lab tests.
The best Manuka honey will be both genuine and strong.
Now you know how to distinguish a dud Manuka honey from a genuine product, the next thing you want to look at is the MGO/UMF/NPA strength.
Manuka honey is usually graded by MGO, UMF, or NPA.
All of these grading systems are ways to demonstrate the antibacterial properties, quality and potency of each batch of Manuka Honey, so you know exactly what you’re buying.
Each rating differs slightly but what they are measuring is largely the same, which is why they are often interchangeable on labels, e.g. a 140 MGO Manuka honey would have a 6+ UMF. Find out more about each below.
MGO, or methylgloxal, is the magic ingredient in Manuka honey, with well-documented antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
All natural honey has some antibacterial effects, but scientists have discovered that Manuka's effects are much more potent, thanks to MGO.
The antibacterial properties of honey are provided by hydrogen peroxide. In normal table honey, the hydrogen peroxide activity breaks down, meaning the anti-bacterial benefits are lost.
But in Manuka honey, thanks to MGO, the antibacterial properties remain even after the hydrogen peroxide has disappeared.
Manuka honey comes in a range of MGO ratings. The higher the number on the label, the better the health benefits and anti-bacterial properties are.
A lot of Manuka honey is graded by the UMF grading system set up by the ‘Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association’ in New Zealand.
The Unique Manuka Factor looks at 2 main components of this honey:
The honey is then given a number from UMF 5+ to UMF 20+. The higher the UMF raring, the more antibacterial activity the honey has and the more potent it is.
NPA stands for the Non-Peroxide Activity of honey, which is another way to classify the potency and quality of Manuka honey.
This classification came to be in 1981 when Dr Peter Molan started researching the peroxide activity in honeys from around the world.
He wanted to find out what happened when he deliberately destroyed the Hydrogen Peroxide Activity (HPA) in honey.
He found that most types of honey without HPA experienced a decline in antibacterial activity, but Manuka honey retained strong antibacterial activity.
It totally depends what you’re looking for in your Manuka honey. The general rule is: the higher the rating, the stronger the antibacterial properties.
At Holland & Barrett, we've simplified the Manuka honey that we sell. This means you will only see MGO ratings on our labels and not UMF or NPA. If you've previously bought UMF or NPA-rated Manuka honey, then here is a simple chart that shows you the corresponding MGO level.
|MGO Level||UMF number / NPA grade|
That’s for you to decide!
At the end of the day, if you want a high-quality honey with unmatched antibacterial properties, you are probably going to have to spend more money than you would if you went for your average run-of-the-mill table honey.
Whether it’s worth the price tag is totally up to you.
Yes, in fact, eating Manuka honey raw is the best way to reap all the benefits of this golden treat.
Try eating it by the spoonful straight from the jar for unrivalled freshness or mixing it into a smoothie/yoghurt /cereal/salad dressing to maintain its purity.
However, if you’re taking Manuka honey for a cold and don’t fancy it a la spoon, try mixing it into hot tea with a squeeze of fresh lemon to soothe that scratchy throat.
Need some more Manuka inspiration. Check out 10 ways to supercharge your day with Manuka honey.
Most large supermarkets and health food stores will stock Manuka honey. However, if you’re looking for a range of strengths and brands to peruse, take a look at our selection here at H&B.
Handpicked article: 10 of the best manuka honey products of 2021
Last updated: 25 January 2023
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.