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, this ancient nature-made remedy continues its steady rise in popularity, along with its premium price tag.
Manuka honey, produced by European honey bees that feed on uncultivated Manuka bush or tea tree plants in New Zealand and South East Australia, 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 that the regular supermarket variety.
Actress Scarlett Johannsen was just one Hollywood beauty who was quoted singing the praises of this Down Under wonder, keeping good company with age-dyfying celebrity counterparts Gwenyth 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.
“It really adds an amazing glow and your skin is so soft afterwards. It pulls out the impurities—and it’s a nice foundation, especially if you are going to a big event where you want a great glow,” Johannsen said.
What she was refering to—whether she knew it or not—was the honey’s oft-reported antibacertial properties that can calm inflammation and soften skin and hair. Highly graded 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.
What she was refering to—whether she knew it or not—was the honey’s oft-reported antibacertial properties that can calm inflammation and soften skin and hair.
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 consititute the Unique Manuka Factor or UMF—an industry standard that highlights the honey’s anitbacterial strength.
This UMF factor isn’t applicable to all Manuka honey, however. Common Manuka varieties only boast the hydrogen peroxide antibacterial property, making it less desireable as a health helper or as a beautifying ingredient.
How to know Manuka from the Mainstream
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 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.
When choosing Manuka honey, it’s important to keep an eye out for the following four defining guidelines:
– A UMF trademark will be shown on the front of the pot;
– It will be labelled in New Zealand and produced by a New Zealand UMF licensed company;
– The label will be printed with the UMF company’s name and license number;
– It must contain a rating of five to 16+. Without this, it’s not genuine Manuka.
Buying Manuka honey from a reputable, ethical keeper is crucial to ensure bee populations continue to thrive. It also helps you to know what you’re promised on the label is actually what you’re getting in the jar.
Ethical brands such as Watson & Son assign codes to each batch of their honey so customers can easily see which region of New Zealand the honey was harvested, while also conducting extensive lab testing to ensure quality control.
MANUKA HONEY FACE MASK
Try this skin-smoothing, blemish-healing mask once you’ve thoroughly cleansed your face with an all-natural cleanser.
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon of UMF 5+ (or highter) Manuka honey, warm water
- Leave the skin slightly wet after cleansing;
- Evenly apply one tablespoon over the face and neck (add more honey if you choose to do the décolletage as well);
- Leave on for 20 minutes to half an hour;
- Rinse all honey off with warm water and pat dry;
- Moisturise with pure rosehip oil.
Manuka Honey Therapeutic Guide
4-9 A maintenance level with general honey health benefits
10-14 Supports natural healing and bacterial balance
15+ Superior levels of highly therapeutic phenols, but shouldn’t exceed more than one tablespoon at a time