Honey is a thing of wonder. According to some estimates, honey has been used as a food and medicine throughout 8,000 years of human history and culture, from the ancient Egyptians and Greeks to practices of the Ayurvedic and TCM systems. As one of the longest standing ingredients in the arsenal of holistic human health, honey has a lot more to offer than a simple refined sugar substitute (though it’s perfect for that too!).
Honey has been used for its unique biochemical composition by the likes of Cleopatra in her skin routine and the ancient Sumerians to bandage wounds. In modern science, honey’s magic can largely be traced to the presence of hydrogen peroxide.
An antiseptic that kills bacteria by destroying their cell walls, hydrogen peroxide naturally forms in honey when the bee adds glucose oxidase, its stomach enzyme, to the nectar. The resulting chemical reaction breaks down the glucose in the honey, creating hydrogen peroxide.
With each busy bee making less than a tablespoon of honey in its life, honey’s unique composition of over 200 natural amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes is a personalized cocktail of the plants and botanicals that a bee spent its life collecting. When it comes to honey for holistic uses, it should come as no surprise that there is none so special or sought after as the honey made from the rare nectar of New Zealand’s manuka flower.
Used traditionally by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, manuka honey is harvested in the remote regions of New Zealand from a wildflower that blooms for less than 20 days per year.
Like champagne or parmesan, manuka honey must meet a few criteria to be considered genuine.
True manuka honey comes from the manuka plant, native only to New Zealand. While manuka honey has been used for thousands of years, it reached global notoriety when the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO) was discovered by renowned New Zealand biochemist, Dr. Peter Molan. MGO is a unique, naturally occurring compound with bacteria-fighting properties.
While all honey has hydrogen peroxide in it, manuka honey is unique. Its high levels of methylglyoxal make it the “queen bee” of all honey. These compounds have led those interested in natural beauty and health to supplement manuka into their routines, from naturally humectant manuka facemasks to soothing manuka honey added to cold season tea and beyond.
Like all natural food commodities, manuka honey fraud can be a big problem.
If you’re looking to use honey as a natural alternative to chemically-based products, it’s important to make sure you are buying honey with the compounds the product is boasting, or else you shouldn’t be surprised when you aren’t seeing the results you expected. Fortunately, due to manuka’s higher price tag than most honey (largely due to the very short and remote nature of harvest), much attention has been given to fraud in the manuka industry. Thanks to third-party certification like the those with the UMF logo as seen on Flora’s 100% traceable Manuka Honey line, you can rest assured that the unique properties and MGO levels labeled on the outside of the bottle have been tested and are present within your jar. Can you say the same about regular honey? Nope. Available in a range from MGO 30+ blend to a rich MGO 515+, Flora’s completely traceable and accountable line of manuka honey is the perfect honey to switch out for the regular staple. From the honey your natural skincare routine was missing to your cold season BFF, there’s no better honey that packs a holistic punch than Flora Manuka Honey.
Hillary Eaton is a Los Angeles based food and travel writer whose work has appeared in such publications as VICE, Food & Wine, Refinery 29, Complex and Los Angeles Times.