Long before superfoods were considered health-and-beauty must-haves, there reigned a queen of natural elixirs touted widely for its wound healing and skin-softening properties – and, of course, its taste. But now, as the latest in food fads come and go, manuka honey continues its steady rise in popularity.
What is Manuka Honey?
Manuka, a medicinal-grade honey, is produced by European honey bees that feed on uncultivated manuka bush or tea tree plants in New Zealand and southeast Australia. It is adored by celebrities and everyday consumers alike thanks to its antibacterial properties; a result of its high enzyme levels, which are far exceeded in manuka honey than the regular supermarket variety.
Actress Scarlett Johansson is just one Hollywood beauty who was quoted singing the praises of this Down Under wonder, keeping good company with age-defying celebrity counterparts Gwyneth Paltrow and Kylie Minogue, who have also relied on the exilir, which can be taken straight from the teaspoon, mixed in smoothies and cereals or applied to the skin or hair.
What Makes It So Good For You?
So, what makes manuka honey so popular? The honey’s oft-reported antibacterial properties that can calm inflammation and soften skin and hair is what makes it so special. Highly graded unique manuka factor (UMF) manuka honey is also said to be excellent for treating microscopic bacteria that can cause a host of skin issues, from rashes such as eczema to infections such as athlete’s foot.
While everyday honey varieties can claim amino acids, B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc in their nutrient profiles, what they can’t advertise is being rich in hydrogen peroxide, dihydroxyacetone and methylglyoxal – the components that constitute the UMF – an industry standard that highlights Manuka honey’s antibacterial strength.
How To Know Which One To Buy?
This UMF factor isn’t applicable to all manuka honey, however. Common manuka varieties only boast the hydrogen peroxide antibacterial property, making it less desirable as a health helper or as a beautifying ingredient.
While the manuka honey industry has been hurt by some companies falsifying ingredients, there are traditional guidelines to follow if you want to know your manuka from the mainstream varieties. The minimum UMF rating of Manuka honey may be five, but this factor isn’t considered the most beneficial, with antibacterial properties generally not detectable at four and less.
It’s UMF 10+ and above that is revered most for antibacterial activity, while UMF16 and upwards indicates higher quality and a higher price tag.
Buying manuka honey from a reputable, ethical keeper is crucial to ensure bee populations continue to thrive. It’s also important that you know what you’re promised on the label is actually what you’re getting in the jar.