Hint: It doesn’t just taste better—it’s also a superfood.
From healing wounds and alleviating hacking coughs to assuaging hangovers, honey has long been touted for its health benefits. The all-natural sweetener may also cause fewer spikes in your blood sugar levels than other sweeteners, thanks to its lower glycemic index. And with more than 300 varieties, including acacia, clover, eucalyptus, orange blossom, and wildflower, there’s a flavor profile that suits pretty much everyone. However, there’s one in particular that the wellness world particularly favors: Manuka honey. The aromatic and earthy raw syrup is considered a natural superfood that’s packed with more benefits than its counterparts.
If you’re curious about Manuka, read on for our honey crib sheet. It’s pretty sweet.
Before we extol the benefits of this buzz-worthy buy, let’s nail down all the basics. For starters, Manuka honey is mainly sourced from New Zealand. Named for the Leptospermum scoparium (AKA the Manuka bush), an upright evergreen shrub with needle-like leaves and white flowers that bloom two to six weeks a year, the honey is made when bees pollinate said flower. “It is known to be rich in bioactive compounds that provide its unique health benefits,” says Julie Upton, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist based in Northern California. “Manuka honey has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.”
A mainstay for the Māori people, Manuka became popular across New Zealand and the surrounding region after Peter Molan, a professor at Waikato University in New Zealand released his studies on its antibacterial properties in the 1980s. Now it lines natural food store shelves and is set apart by the presence of three distinct compounds: The naturally occurring plant compound leptosperin, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), and the antibacterial component methylglyoxal (MGO), which can collectively help stave off infections.
A better question might be what aren’t the benefits? Seriously, Manuka honey has numerous science-backed pluses:
For all the good that Manuka honey can do, it does have a couple of downsides. For starters, it is, well, sugar. “If you have high blood sugar levels or have type 2 diabetes, be sure to enjoy honey in moderation and before, during, or after exercise when your body is primed to metabolize the carbohydrates provided by it,” suggests Upton. Also of note: If you are allergic to bees, raw honey may give you a reaction.
Specialty grocery stores, natural food stores, and some general supermarkets carry Manuka honey. You can also find it online through direct retailers, like Comvita. Since it’s pricier than other varieties, it’s worth knowing that counterfeit Manuka honey exists. To avoid these, look for UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) on the label. This signifier, which was established by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA), is a grading system that appraises natural markers found in Manuka honey to both purity and quality. “It is an indicator of the active ingredient methylglyoxal (MGO),” says Bonci. “The higher the UMF, the higher the antibacterial activity.” Consider Comvita Manuka Honey the gold standard—every jar is Certified UMF, Non-GMO Project Verified.
Now, all that’s left is for you to try the sweet stuff!


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