Honey bioactivity levels and ratings explained

What is Manuka honey and where does it come from?

Manuka honey is made when honey bees forage on the nectar of the ‘Manuka’ bush (Leptospermum Scoparium) which is found in New Zealand. The word ‘Manuka’ is the Maori translation for this species of tree, but in Australia, Leptospermum is colloquially known as Jelly Bush. 

 

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We are fortunate enough to have over 85 species of Leptospermum that grow in abundance on the east coast, South Australia and Western Australia and recent research has shown that the nutritional and healing properties of Australian Jelly Bush honey is equivalent to, or in some cases, superior to the Manuka honey made in New Zealand.  

The honey produced from these trees is naturally antibiotic, antibacterial and generally good for you when eaten. It has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of burns, wounds, and other skin ailments such as eczema. However, in order for honey to maintain its sterility and natural enzyme levels, it must be handled correctly from hive to home.

While the nutritional value remains consistent from batch to batch, the antibiotic activity of Leptospermum-derived honeys can vary. Things like the initial collection and storage conditions and the particular species of Leptospermum all influence the honey’s antibiotic levels. Therefore, each batch of honey is individually tested to measure its bioactivity and the results are printed on the label of each jar when packaged.

How is the bioactive strength of Leptospermum honey measured?

Initially, a rating system for the antibacterial activity of Manuka honey was developed and later trade-marked in 1998 by a New Zealand research group headed by Dr Peter Molan. This Trade Mark for New Zealand’s Manuka honey is known as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF®).

As mentioned above, it has subsequently been found that other species of Leptospermum produce honeys that have antibacterial activity equal to, or even stronger than, ‘Manuka’ honey. Thus, the Unique Leptospermum Factor or ULF® was developed and seen as an equivalent to New Zealand’s UMF®.   

Why is Leptospermum honey unique?

A small molecule called methylglyoxal (MGO) was identified as one of the major components contributing to the long-lasting antibacterial activity of Leptospermum honey.  MGO is not generally found in honeys from other sources and since its discovery, the MGO number has emerged as a new indicator of the level of bioactivity in Leptospermum honey. An MGO number indicates milligrams of MGO per kilogram of honey.  

A table matching UMF/ULF and MGO rating scales looks like this:

UMF/ULF        5+        10+        15+      20+

MGO              80+       250+    500+    800+

Scientific trials have established that honeys with an activity rating of ULF13+ (equivalent to MGO level of 350+) are effective against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and super bugs such as Golden staph. As such, bioactive honeys have found medicinal applications in the treatment of minor burns, wounds and skin ailments in environments such as hospitals and veterinary clinics.

Gather By’s testing and labelling. 

Every jar of bioactive honey from Gather By has a general ULF rating 5+, 10+, 15+ and 20+ printed on each jar.  Also printed is the level of MGO present for each batch of honey. Furthermore, each batch of bioactive honey is independently tested and verified to guarantee its rating at the same laboratories used by UMF®. 

 

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