Medical Honey (UMF®, AAH® & MGO®)

Medical Honey (UMF®, AAH® & MGO®)

New Zealand Manuka honey is becoming increasingly popular globally as modern research indicates that Manuka honey supports a wide range of areas from digestive and immune health to our general wellbeing. Honeybees that collect nectar primarily from the brilliant white flowers of the native New Zealand Manuka tree produce Manuka honey. The Manuka shrub, or the New Zealand tea tree, is a hardy scrub-like tree that commonly grows in the drier areas of New Zealand.

The native Maori people of New Zealand have known about the antiseptic properties of the Manuka tree for centuries and used different parts of the Manuka tree for various purposes. Its leaves were particularly useful as they could be boiled and the vapours inhaled to clear the nasal passages.

More recently, attention has turned to the wide array of health benefits provided by its honey. All honeys have an antibacterial component. This is primarily due to their hydrogen peroxide content. What makes Manuka honey unique is the fact that Manuka honey has a unique antibacterial property, often referred to as ‘biological activity’, that is due to a non-peroxide activity.  

The different rating (UMF®, AAH® & MGO®) systems associated with Manuka honey are meant to inform customers on the antibacterial potency of a particular batch of Manuka honey. However, they often serve the opposite purpose by confusing customers as to what their ratings actually mean.


Here we will attempt to explain the differences between the three rating systems:


MGO® stands for Methylglyoxal, a substance that makes up just one component of what gives Manuka honey its antibacterial qualities. This means that the MGO® rating only indicates the antibacterial level of a particular batch of Manuka honey due to its Methylglyoxal content.

Therefore MGO® ratings only take into account the antibacterial activity of Manuka honey due to its Methylglyoxal content. This means that MGO® ratings ignore the other antibacterial components of Manuka honey.

MGO® ratings are also unregulated. It is up to manufacturers to decide what MGO® rating to give to their Manuka honey.

Commonly seen MGO® ratings: MGO 30+, MGO 250+ and MGO 400+ (generally, the higher the better)

UMF®, or Unique Manuka Factor, is a ratings system that is based on the antibacterial rating of a honey due to its non-peroxide antibacterial activity. This takes into account all non-peroxide activity, including MGO®, and gives you the honeys full non-peroxide antibacterial rating.

UMF® ratings are determined and audited by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) of New Zealand. Every batch of UMF® honey is monitored from the time it leaves the apiary to the processing stage and finally when it is packaged.

The UMF® rating system for Manuka honey is possibly the most highly regulated and tightly controlled in the industry. Manufacturers are not allowed to use the UMF® rating until they have met the strict criteria of the UMFHA. 

Commonly seen UMF® ratings: UMF5+, UMF10+, UMF15+ and UMF21+ (the higher the better)*

*The ‘+’ sign means the honey contains at least or above the level of UMF® indicated

The AAH® rating of a particular Manuka honey indicates its peroxide activity. Although all honeys have peroxide activity, not all honeys have antibacterial properties. Therefore an AAH® rating does not indicate for certain whether a particular honey has antibacterial properties.

AAH® ratings are not regulated, therefore,  just like the MGO® rating, it is up to the manufacturers themselves to decide on an AAH®  rating.

Commonly seen AAH® ratings:  Active 10+, Active 15+ and Active 20+ (generally, the higher the better)


Look for the rating system that best suits you!

We hope that the information above allows you to find the type of Manuka honey that best suits your needs.


Supported Research:

Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association


MGO® Manuka Honey

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