We help sort the good from the bad when choosing the best manuka honey
Most people never give much thought to the type of honey they buy. Honey is honey, just as marmalade is marmalade. But there’s a whole world of honey from which you can choose, including rooftop honey, raw honey, chunk honey, orange blossom honey and – of course – manuka honey. Manuka, in particular, has been the cause of much excitement, hailed as a superfood with antibacterial properties and the best manuka honey can be as delicious as it is good for you.
Unfortunately though, what many people aren’t aware of is that cowboy manufacturers will often combine it with cheaper varieties of honey, therefore diluting it and removing any kind of benefits. You need to consume a lot of the best manuka honey for any kind of benefit, so dilution is definitely something to look out for when buying.
If you want the real deal – the best manuka honey to soothe sore throats and more – then our guide to choosing the best manuka honey will tell you everything you need to know about this naturally sweet treat. If you’re already clued up on manuka, scroll on to find our manuka honey recommendations below.
How to choose the best manuka honey for you
What is manuka honey?
Manuka honey is a certain type of (more expensive) honey from New Zealand and is derived from bees that feed off the manuka bush. Studies have shown that its health-boosting and antibacterial properties are far superior to other types of honey.
But isn’t all honey good for your health?
All honey has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Throughout history, it’s been used for medicinal purposes – notably treating skin infections and wounds – with impressive and proven results. Honey also contains prebiotics, which helps feed the good bacteria in our stomachs – great for maintaining gut health. But it is believed that manuka honey has extra special health-boosting and antibacterial properties, with claims that it could work 100 times more effectively than regular honey.
In particular, there are scientific claims that manuka honey’s antibacterial activity surpasses that of normal honey, enabling it to survive the digestion process in a way that isn’t possible with regular honey. Not only has it been found to be wound healing, but it’s believed that manuka honey can help in the treatment of coughs and colds, painful gums, mouth ulcers and indigestion. There are claims that it can even fight the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.
READ NEXT: The best hayfever treatments
How can I be sure it isn’t just hype?
Some scientists claim manuka honey’s additional powers are grossly exaggerated and that there isn’t enough conclusive evidence about its superiority.
Remember, too, that most of us don’t apply honey to the skin – we eat it – and many scientists aren’t convinced that the manuka honey’s antimicrobial activity can survive the digestion process any better than other types of honey.
There’s also the argument that honey is a sugar, which means we should limit how much we consume, and that there are plenty of other wholesome foods such as vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices with antibacterial compounds.
Can manuka honey come from outside New Zealand?
In 2017, the UK trademark registry granted the New Zealand Manuka Honey Appellation Society a certification mark, which means buyers in the UK are guaranteed that ‘manuka honey’ from New Zealand contains certain properties. Much to the Aussies’ disgust, manuka honey produced in Australia doesn’t come with this guarantee.
READ NEXT: The best ear wax removal treatments to try
What letters and numbers should I look out for?
They refer to different grading systems, while the numbers refer to antibacterial action levels (the higher the number, the greater the action).
UMF: the “unique manuka factor” is an international quality trademark used by New Zealand producers. Look for a UMF rating of at least five, which is adequate, while ten is good and over ten is excellent.
NPA: the “non-peroxide activity” is the same as UMF testing.
MGO: sometimes known as MG, the “methylglyoxal” rating is the measure of the antibacterial strength of manuka honey. It’s a little like measuring the honey’s horsepower. It’s measured from 83 in a UMF 5+ and up to 829 for UMF 20+.
A or TA: “active” and “total activity” refer to the total amount of antibacterial action and are a different grading system to UMF and NPA.
How do I use manuka honey?
You can use it, in the same way, to sweeten foods or drinks (although be aware it’s slightly more bitter than regular honey). It can also be consumed from a spoon as a supplement and you can apply it directly to heal wounds and burns.
READ NEXT: The best laxatives to relieve constipation
The best manuka honey from £18
1. Comvita Manuka Honey UMF 10+
Price: £30 | Buy now from Comvita
Comvita claims that every batch of its honey is independently laboratory-tested to guarantee ratings, and all come with a scientific certification of origin. Also, impressively, every batch can be traced back to the original hive, helping to reassure that this is the real deal. The plastic pot is of a generous size, and you’ll be hit by the magnificent smell of the butterscotch-coloured honey contained within as soon as you open the lid. Sensationally sweet, we thoroughly enjoyed this honey on sourdough toast for breakfast.
Key details – NPA: 10+; Volume: 500g
2. Tiptree Manuka Honey 10+
Price: £54 | Buy now from Amazon
With a prominent royal crest on the label, you’d expect this to be good – and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s up there with the best in terms of high leptosperin and germ-attacking MGO levels and has outperformed more expensive manuka honeys in tests. Its colouring is darker than most manuka honeys we tried, with pale speckling, and neither is it as thick. Nevertheless, it still has the gooey, syrupy consistency associated with manuka – and it’s sweet without tasting too sugary. If you like your honey mixed with lemon in a drink then this is a real treat, while also tasting great with all the usual suspects of toast, porridge and so on.
Key details – NPA: 10+ Volume: 340g
3. Steens 15+ UMF Manuka Honey
Price: £36 | Buy now from Amazon
Don’t expect glamorous packaging with Steens’ product, but rest assured this raw honey is top quality, with high enough levels of leptosperin and MGO to confirm it comes from manuka bushes. Levels aren’t as high as some manuka varieties, which has led the Daily Mail to claim that it’s possible the bees have collected nectar from some other plants too. Steens claims its unique cold-process extraction means natural properties are maintained, with traceability possible “from home to hive”. Taste-wise, this honey is thick, tasty and luxurious – so much so that we were tempted to eat it right off the spoon.
Key details – NPA: 15+; Volume: 340g
4. Sainsbury’s Manuka Honey 10+
Price: £17 | Buy now from Sainsbury’s
In the world of manuka honey, this is a steal for just over £15 – particularly since it has super-high levels of leptosperin (a chemical found only in the nectar of manuka plants) and bacteria-fighting MGO – both are well beyond the minimum required to prove an individual honey’s health benefits. In fact, the levels here surpass those found in far more expensive manuka honeys. When it comes to flavour expect real depth, with a rich, concentrated sweetness that lends itself perfectly to porridge or spread thinly over toast.
Key details – NPA: 10+; Volume: 340g
5. Cartwright & Butler’s Manuka Honey 10+
Price: £30 | Buy now from Cartwright & Butler
With a 10+ antibacterial potency and a slightly bitter and earthy flavour, this will appeal to people who like their honey a little less on the sweet side – although it still has the trademark sugary taste you’d expect from manuka honey. We love the colour too, with rich blood orange tones, while the texture is thick, glossy and gooey, but easy to spread. The signature Cartwright & Butlers Kilner-style jar with airtight clip lid is both practical (keeping the honey fresh between uses) and aesthetically pleasing (making it a great gift).
Key details – NPA: 10+; Volume: 280g
6. Tahi Manuka Honey: Best luxury manuka honey
Price: £208 | Buy from Selfridges
Like a lot of small business imports, Tahi’s manuka honey comes with a hefty price tag, but it also boasts one of the highest UMF factors available, with a rating of 20+. However, Tahi’s impressive antibacterial properties aren’t the only things that’ll make you feel good about buying this honey. The New Zealand brand is also one of the more sustainable manuka honey options currently available in the UK. It’s not only marketing itself as carbon-neutral, but is putting a portion of the profits of its honey towards conservation projects.
Be warned though, this isn’t for those who prefer a sweeter-style honey. Instead, it has a more intense, savoury flavour due to its high UMF rating. If you don’t mind things more on the bitter side, it’s a worthwhile splurge for the unique taste and proposed antibacterial benefits.
Key details – NPA: 20+; Volume: 250g