Why Manuka Honey Might Be the Next Key Addition to Your Pantry

Manuka honey is packed full of good-for-you compounds. Learn why this sweetener might even upstage your beloved local honey.

Manuka honey is all the rage these days, topping food trend charts as a must-add to your daily routine. But what about this magical sweetener makes it so popular? How is it different from regular honey, and is it worth adding to your pantry lineup? Read on for everything you need to know about manuka honey.

Spoonful of Manuka honey

KPS / Getty Images

What Is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey is produced by bees collecting nectar from the flowers of the manuka bush, which they then convert into honey. The manuka bush can only be found in the southern hemisphere, specifically in New Zealand. This bush has a mere two to six week harvesting period, with its flowers open for a maximum of twelve days within that window. This limited nectar harvesting window, combined with the distance manuka honey must travel to get to us in the United States, means this type of honey yields a significantly higher price than your run-of-the-mill supermarket honey. Still, demand for manuka honey skyrocketed in the early 1990s and remains high today, and manuka honey is prized for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties

The nutrition profile of manuka honey is incredibly similar to that of standard honey. Per one tablespoon, both varieties provide approximately 60 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrate, and no fat or protein. Many of the health benefits between manuka honey and regular honey (particularly raw honey) are also comparable, but manuka honey tends to be more potent.

The Benefits of Manuka Honey

Honey has been utilized by humans for thousands of years, with evidence of its use dating as far back as 8,000 years ago. Ancient civilizations used the sticky stuff to help fight off infection, boost immune health, and heal wounds. But when it comes to manuka honey, specifically, the benefits go even further. 

Manuka honey is loaded with active compounds, most notably methylglyoxal (MGO), which is largely responsible for the potent antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties manuka honey is known for. While most honeys have some MGO, the compound is much more concentrated in manuka honey—up to 100 times more than conventional honey, effectively intensifying the associated health benefits to the same degree. Manuka honey is also full of phenolic compounds, which can be powerful anti-inflammatory agents throughout the body. These compounds are extracted from the manuka bush and intensified during the bees’ honey making process. Between the high concentration of MGO and the presence of anti-inflammatory phenolic compounds, manuka honey can lead to substantial dietary benefits.

One review of multiple studies published in Current Drug Metabolism found manuka honey to be an effective antimicrobial agent and immune modulator, and showed that it sped up both wound healing and tissue regeneration. Manuka honey has even been found to be effective against bacteria that exhibit drug resistance. These antibacterial benefits have also been shown to be especially beneficial to oral health, helping to eliminate the harmful bacteria that can cause plaque, tooth decay, and inflammation of the gums.

Manuka honey is also super effective at healing sore throats. Its extra thick consistency helps to coat the throat to relieve symptoms, while its antimicrobial properties can help target the bacteria or virus causing the sore throat in the first place. One study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology showed that honey can help to target Streptococcus, the bacteria to blame for many sore throats.

Manuka honey can also be soothing and healing for our gut, as honey is a prebiotic food. Prebiotics are a kind of indigestible fiber that feed our healthy gut bacteria, helping to build a well-functioning gut microbiome.

There are quite a few health benefits of manuka honey that are still being researched. These include its ability to potentially help suppress cough and induce cancer cell death. Seeing as research is still developing to prove causation for these health impacts, take these additional benefits with a grain of salt.

How to Fit Manuka Honey into Your Routine

With all these impressive benefits of manuka honey, should you make the investment in this costly—but beneficial—food? If it fits into your budget, manuka honey is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. However, if the cost is prohibitive, raw honey will provide many of the same benefits, but with less potency. (Be sure to choose raw honey, as the high heat required to produce pasteurized honey effectively destroys the compounds and enzymes that are charged with these incredible benefits.)

When looking to buy manuka honey, you may see a few claims on the label you’re not familiar with, including MGO, NPA, and UMF levels. MGO relates to the amount of aforementioned methylglyoxal the honey contains. NPA refers to the non-peroxide activity of the honey, while UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor. All three numbers speak to the potency of the manuka honey—the higher the number, the more concentrated the health-boosting compounds.

Manuka honey can be added to your daily routine in the same ways as normal honey, whether that’s stirred into tea or hot water with lemon, drizzled over oatmeal, or even just taken by the spoonful. One cautionary note is that manuka honey is high in sugar, so if you have diabetes or other metabolic concerns, approach therapeutic use with care.

Was this page helpful?
Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Eteraf-Oskouei T, Najafi M. "Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review." Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences.

  2. "Both Manuka and Non-Manuka Honey Types Inhibit Antibiotic Resistant Wound-Infecting Bacteria." Antibiotics. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics11081132

  3. Albaridi, Najla A. "Antibacterial Potency of Honey." International Journal of Microbiology. doi: 10.1155/2019/2464507

  4. "Phenolic Compounds in Honey and Their Associated Health Benefits: A Review." Molecules. doi: 10.3390/molecules23092322

  5. Niaz, K., Maqbool, F., Bahadar, H., & Abdollahi, M. "Health Benefits of Manuka Honey as an Essential Constituent for Tissue Regeneration." Current Drug Metabolism. doi:10.2174/1389200218666170911152240

  6. Brown, H. L., Metters, G., Hitchings, M. D., Wilkinson, T. S., Sousa, L., Cooper, J., Dance, H., Atterbury, R. J., & Jenkins, R. "Antibacterial and Antivirulence Activity of Manuka Honey against Genetically Diverse Staphylococcus pseudintermedius Strains." Applied and Environmental Microbiology. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01768-20

  7. Schmidlin, P. R., English, H., Duncan, W., Belibasakis, G. N., & Thurnheer, T. "Antibacterial potential of Manuka honey against three oral bacteria in vitro." Swiss dental journal.

  8. Eick, S., Schäfer, G., Kwieciński, J., Atrott, J., Henle, T., & Pfister, W. (2014). "Honey - a potential agent against Porphyromonas gingivalis: an in vitro study." BMC oral health. doi: 10.1186/1472-6831-14-24

  9. Nassar, H. M., Li, M., & Gregory, R. L. (2012). "Effect of honey on Streptococcus mutans growth and biofilm formation." Applied and environmental microbiology. doi: 10.1128/AEM.05538-11

  10. Anand Mohan, Siew-Young Quek, Noemi Gutierrez-Maddox, Yihuai Gao, Quan Shu, "Effect of honey in improving the gut microbial balance." Food Quality and Safety. doi: 10.1093/fqsafe/fyx015

  11. Oduwole, O., Udoh, E. E., Oyo-Ita, A., & Meremikwu, M. M. (2018). "Honey for acute cough in children." The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007094.pub5

  12. Martinotti, S., Pellavio, G., Patrone, M., Laforenza, U., & Ranzato, E. (2020). "Manuka Honey Induces Apoptosis of Epithelial Cancer Cells through Aquaporin-3 and Calcium Signaling." Life (Basel, Switzerland). doi: 10.3390/life10110256

Related Articles