The Manuka Honey Grading Systems – How to Get Real Manuka Honey

manuka honey grading systems

If you want to get real manuka honey, you should know about the grading systems that exist for manuka honey.

There are three grading systems that you should familiarize yourself with before buying a jar of manuka. These grading systems were developed in order to differentiate products that are real manuka honey from counterfeit products. Yes, they do exist!

You may have noticed that manuka honey carries a higher price tag than other kinds of honey. This is because manuka honey only comes from one kind of tree that grows in New Zealand. The scarcity of this honey, as well as the unique health benefits if provides, make it a pricier honey, but definitely well worth the cost.

Let’s take a look at what the grading systems for manuka honey are, so that you can avoid counterfeits and get the best manuka honey products on the market.

The UMF Factor

unique manuka factor honey association logo

UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor and is a grading system for manuka honey that was developed by the UMF Honey Association based in New Zealand.

Producers of manuka honey that meet the standards of this grading system receive a UMF license. This is something they can then proudly display on their products. There are several brands that we will review that have this label of certification. Since manuka honey differs from other types of honey, given the unique chemical markers of the manuka plant.

UMF tests for three things:

  • Methylglyoxal (MGO) – the antibacterial compound
  • Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) – the age of the honey
  • Leptosperin – indicator of authentic manuka honey

The UMF grading system is the only one that tests for leptosperin, which can only be found in manuka honey and cannot be synthetically created.

So what does this grading system actually look like on the manuka jar? You will have to look for the acronym UMF, followed by a number. Here are the UMF ratings you will find on manuka honey products:

  • UMF 5+ means it has a minimum MGO of 83.
  • UMF 10+ means it has a minimum MGO of 263.
  • UMF 15+ means it has a minimum MGO of 514.
  • UMF 18+ means it has a minimum MGO of 698.
  • UMF 20+ means it has a minimum MGO of 829.

The higher the UMF, the more of that special antibacterial goodness it has. Just because an authentic manuka honey product has a lower UMF number doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying. As with medicine, it’s not always better to take a higher dose. The manuka honey products between the range of 5+ and 20+ have their own place and are worth buying.

The MGO Grading System

mgo manuka honey grading system

This grading system is named after MGO, or Methylglyoxal, a chemical compound found in manuka honey. This is the compound in manuka honey that is responsible for providing antibacterial effects that are so highly praised, so basically, this grading system shows you the antibacterial strength of a manuka honey product. MGO is called the “magic ingredient” in Manuka and is the main reason why you will want to get manuka honey over other varieties.

While all honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which provides provides the antibacterial properties of honey, in other forms of honey, the hydrogen peroxide breaks down, so the antibacterial benefits are largely lost. This grading system tests specifically for how much MGO is in the honey, because MGO levels in manuka honey can vary quite a lot.

Suggested UsageMGO Level (MG/KG)
Suited for a
MAINTENANCE DOSE
85 mg/kg
Minimum necessary for
MEDICINAL USE
260 mg/kg
Level necessary for
DIGESTIVE HEALTH
510 mg/kg
Ultra high levels for
WOUNDS & ORAL CARE
820 mg/kg

Spoiler Alert! MGO can actually be created synthetically and added into manuka honey, so this is not as reliable of a grading system as the previously-mentioned UMF.

The KFactor

The KFactor was developed by one of the most well-known and trusted brands of manuka honey, Wedderspoon. The KFactor is made up of five factors:

  1. Traceability from hive to home – All of these honeys are traceable back to the master beekeeper
  2. Raw and unpasteurized – These honeys are processed using a raw creaming process in order to keep all the naturally-occurring beneficial properties
  3. Free of antibiotics, glyphosate, and pesticides – Without these, this kind of honey is the free from the toxic chemicals that may be in other honeys
  4. Non GMO Project certified – All of these honeys are verified to contain zero traces of genetic modification that sometimes blow into some field from GMO-laden farms
  5. Produced and packed in New Zealand – These honeys come from the only facility in the world that meets the Safe Quality Food requirements for food safety and food quality

kfactor manuka honey

You will find a number on all Wedderspoon manuka products that looks something like KFactor 16. So what does this number mean?

  • KFactor 12 indicates that 65% of the pollen grains in the honey are definitely from the manuka bush,
  • KFactor 16 indicates that 75% of the pollen grains in the honey are definitely from the manuka bush
  • KFactor 22 indicates that 90% of the pollen grains in the honey are definitely from the manuka bush.

A KFactor of 16 is the sweet spot when it comes to this grading system, so you can’t go wrong with a product like Wedderspoon’s Raw Manuka Honey KFactor 16 Superfood

Monofloral and Multifloral

There is one more way manuka honey differs, and that is by being monofloral or multifloral.

Monofloral – This type of manuka honey comes from bees that almost solely pollinate manuka bushes. This means that it will be a purer honey given the very minimal nectar take from plants outside of the manuka bush.

Multifloral – This type of manuka honey comes mainly from the manuka bush. However, there is also more nectar from plants other than the manuka bush given the bees have flown farther to gather nectar of other varieties of plants.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it! Hopefully that clears up any confusion you may have had with the manuka honey grading systems, because it can look bewildering at first. If you are still finding it difficult to remember the difference between all of these, just look for what the UMF number is on a manuka honey product. Be careful about being fooled by rival companies and misinformed information on the internet when it comes to these grading systems. Use our guide to help you purchase a genuine manuka honey product with the benefits you are looking for. If you are looking to use manuka for a medical reason such as a wound, you will want to pay attention to all the grading systems the product has so you can get the most powerful healing possible with manuka honey.

About James 6 Articles
James is a certified researcher with an interest in horticultural method and practice. He has held interest in the field for over two decades, and has a healthy collection of the rarest species on the planet. James spends his time working with consumer protection agencies to assess the legitimacy of different products, and is one of the leading names when it comes to product testing and analysis. When he is not spending time in he lab, James enjoys listening to and making music. He has taken up talent development with various youth groups, and believes that it can be one way to change his community for the better.

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