New Zealand’s Unique Mānuka Honey

New Zealand’s Unique Mānuka Honey

Honey has been valued and the collecting of honey honoured by civilisations for millennia – but authentic New Zealand mānuka honey is widely recognised and highly sought after for its exceptional properties around the world.
Science behind Mānuka Honey Reading New Zealand’s Unique Mānuka Honey 7 minutes

What is Mānuka honey?

Mānuka honey truly is the golden standard against which other honeys are compared. Discover the uses, benefits, and UMF™ quality certification of Aotearoa New Zealand’s own superfood.

Delicious, thick, and with a characteristic dark cream to dark brown colour, mānuka honey has long been admired as an exceptional honey with a distinct, complex flavour and rich aroma unlike any other honey in the world.

Mānuka honey is produced from the characteristic nectar from the sweet-smelling flower of the mānuka tree. Rich in amino acids, Vitamins B & C, antioxidants, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and bioactive compounds, mānuka honey is a superfood and at the forefront of natural health sciences. No other honey has the volume or complexity of natural components at work like New Zealand mānuka honey.

What Makes Mānuka Honey Special?

It starts with the special mānuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium) and its remarkable flowers.

Research from the University of Waikato published in New Phytologist has revealed that the nectar-producing parts (or ‘nectaries’) of the mānuka flower produce an unusual nectar that bees transform into mānuka honey.

Mānuka trees are capable of photosynthesis not just in their leaves as other plants do, but their nectaries too – producing the nectar sugars and other valuable ingredients that give mānuka honey its unique potent properties called the ‘Unique Mānuka Factor™’ or UMF™.

Through the Mānuka ID project the UMFHA led research that identified more than 2000 natural components in manuka honey indicating it is significantly more complex than 11 other well known kinds of honey. Among those components identification and understanding of the potential methylgloxal and leptosperin are progressing rapidly.

Mānuka Performance is undertaking its own research into specific properties of Mānuka honey.

The remarkable properties of the mānuka tree and its nectar have been understood by New Zealand’s indigenous Māori population for almost a millennia. The importance of mānuka features in the role it has had for centuries a traditional remedy and its importance is even recognised in Māori creation stories.


Consuming and Using Mānuka Honey

Consumed in at least 60 countries around the world, New Zealand mānuka honey lovers have created their own ways of incorporating mānuka honey into their routines to support a healthy lifestyle.

Most popular may be enjoying it straight off the spoon closely followed by adding a spoonful to a favourite tea or even hot water.  It is used as a natural sweetener, particularly for a healthy cereal topping, added to smoothies, or anytime you want a delicious boost to your breakfast.

Mānuka honey is used in many countries as a natural skincare either directly on the skin, blended into a natural skin cream or as an ingredient in a store bought skincare product (always look for the UMF™ quality mark).

Whether sucking on a lozenge, a lollipop or savouring a dollop on the tongue mānuka honey is well recognised for soothing sore throats.

Research into the potential applications for mānuka honey is ongoing with hundreds of published scientific papers on record.

Initial research identified early its development the potential applications for mānuka honey to support wound care.  Research has led to a category of products in this area that ranges from ointments to bandages infused with mānuka honey.

Research has progressed and the role of the compounds methylgloxal (MGO) and leptosperin in particular have attracted attention in laboratory research.

We know that when consumed, leptosperin crosses the gut into the bloodstream confirming the potential for it to be a natural support for health and wellness.

Laboratory Research 

Three areas of particular interest with researchers are:

  1. The antibacterial potential of MGO and the non-peroxide action of New Zealand Mānuka Honey
  2. The initial identification of anti-inflammatory potential in laboratory research
  3. The antioxidant action identified during in-vitro trials and in large scale reviews of mānuka honey research

Key Uses

Mānuka honey products

The UMF Honey Association certifies the quality and rating of mānuka honey used in a growing range of products with applications for people focussed on leading a natural, healthy, lifestyle.

Whether being applied to the skin or hair, chewed, sucked or digested, knowing that the mānuka honey in any product is UMF™ certified will give you confidence that the manufacturer is committed to delivering you the best product possible.

History & Origins

New Zealand’s mānuka honey is, we think, the finest in the world – and it starts with New Zealand’s unique mānuka tree.

“Ranginui (sky father) and Papatūānuku (earth mother) were locked in an eternal embrace. Their children became frustrated with the cramped conditions and decided to separate their parents — Tane Mahuta (god of the forests) lay on his back and forced his parents apart. He adorned Ranginui with the sun, moon and the stars. He also cloaked his mother with trees. Tane Mahuta had a union with Tawake-toro which gave rise to Mānuka. Tane Mahuta also introduced all our native tree species, native birds, and insects. Tane Mahuta also breathed life into the first female giving rise to humankind.”

Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand


Māori used a range of traditional methods to deal with illness, and plants such as kawakawa, harakeke (flax), kōwhai and mānuka were all important for healing. Today rongoā – Māori medicine – is seeing a resurgence of interest.

Mānuka bark infusions were historically used as a sedative, to treat stomach ailments, and to bring relief from urinary problems. Balms were made of the ash and gum to treat scalds and burns. The vapour of the boiled leaves was used to treat coughs and colds.

Māori regard mānuka as a taonga, or ‘sacred treasure’ – and so do we. In modern times the mānuka tree is also recognised as giving life to the forest, because it provides low cover under which the giants of New Zealand’s bush become established and then grow to become the home of our famous birdlife.

When Europeans arrived on Aotearoa’s shores, they too were quick to discover the uses of mānuka. On Captain Cook’s voyages his crew boiled its leaves to make tea. They even brewed mānuka beer, described as “exceedingly palatable and esteemed by everyone on board.”

Today, essential oils from mānuka leaves are found in all sorts of health and wellness products; and our authentic mānuka honey is enjoyed across the world.

Founding the Modern Mānuka Honey Industry

In 1997, leading New Zealand mānuka honey producers, marketers, and researchers came together to pioneer the science of mānuka honey. Engaging specialist scientists and building a network of global partners, they sought to better understand the compounds, benefits, and mechanisms that make our mānuka honey truly remarkable.

Today the UMFHA continues to strive for excellence. As an independent organisation, working with specialists around the world, we uphold standards for mānuka honey and certify the unique compounds and quality in every batch of mānuka honey that carries UMF™ certification.


** The content above is shared directly form the UMF™ Honey Association's website.

Mānuka Performance is a proud member of UMFHA.

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