Is Kanuka Honey a Better Option Than Manuka Honey?

When it comes to honey, the difference between Manuka and Kanuka honey can be a source of confusion for many people. Both types of honey come from native New Zealand bushes, but there are notable differences in their properties, uses, and the plants they come from. In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between these two types of honey to help you decide which one might be the better option for your needs.

kanuka honey vs manuka honey

A Tale of Two Honeys

Before diving into the differences between Manuka and Kanuka honey, let’s briefly discuss the similarities between these two indigenous New Zealand plants.

Origins and Relationship

Manuka honey is derived from the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium), while Kanuka honey comes from the Kanuka tree (Kunzea ericoides). Both plants belong to the Myrtaceae family and are native to New Zealand. Despite their genetic differences, they are often found growing side by side in the wild, which explains the confusion in distinguishing between the two.

Limited Production

New Zealand has a limited number of Manuka trees due to its small landmass. As a result, Manuka honey is valued highly because of its unique properties and limited production.

The Unique Properties of Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is famed for its healing and antibacterial properties, scientifically confirmed by numerous research studies. It is widely recognized for its natural healing and antibiotic capabilities, which can inhibit bacterial and yeast pathogens, including multi-drug-resistant bacteria.

MGO: The Key to Manuka’s Healing Properties

One key difference between Manuka and Kanuka honey lies in the presence of Methylglyoxal (MGO) in Manuka honey. MGO forms from another compound, Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), found in the Manuka plant’s nectar. Due to this, only Manuka honey contains significant levels of MGO, which accounts for its unique properties.


Certification and Quality Assurance

When purchasing Manuka honey, it’s crucial to check for UMF certification or the MGO level grading. Authentic, high-quality Manuka honey is either UMF-certified or has its MGO content clearly labeled on the packaging. Be cautious of producers who claim high pollen content in their honey, as honey is made from nectar and not pollen.

The Emergence of Kanuka Honey

While Manuka honey has garnered much attention for its healing properties, Kanuka honey is rapidly gaining popularity due to recent research findings.

Potential Benefits and Applications

Kanuka honey has shown promising results as a topical treatment for a variety of skin conditions, thanks to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found that Kanuka honey from New Zealand effectively treats rosacea and is even efficacious in the treatment of cold sores when used in its medical-grade form.

However, in comparison to Manuka honey, Kanuka honey is not UMF-certified and has fewer proven health applications so far. Research into its benefits is still in the early stages and requires more exploration to establish its full potential and therapeutic outcomes.

Kanuka Honey for Actinic Keratosis (AK)

One particularly notable discovery is the effectiveness of Kanuka honey in the treatment of Actinic Keratosis (AK), a skin condition with a clear immune component evident in its etiology. The immunomodulatory attributes of Kanuka honey are rooted in its rich concentration of arabinogalactan proteins. These proteins potentiate the release of cytokines and modulate the generation of reactive oxygen species from neutrophils.

Distinguishing Between Manuka and Kanuka Plants

The honey from Manuka and Kanuka plants has distinct differences in their chemical properties and benefits. Beekeepers work diligently to distinguish between the two plants, as their unique characteristics have a direct impact on the quality of honey produced.


Leaf Differences

Manuka leaves are large, oval, hard, and grey in color. Kanuka leaves, on the other hand, are thin, long, soft, and olive green.

Flower Characteristics

Manuka flowers bloom before Kanuka flowers, measuring around 10-12mm. They are generally white, occasionally pink, and have a subtle scent. Kanuka flowers are smaller, at around 4-5mm, cream-white, and fragrant, growing in clusters.

These differences are crucial in positioning hives and removing them at the right time, ensuring the production of pure, high-quality Manuka honey.

Comparing Manuka and Kanuka Honey

It is important to understand that while Manuka and Kanuka honey have distinguishing factors, truly monofloral honey may be difficult to obtain. Honey labeled as Manuka, Kanuka, or a Manuka-Kanuka blend is common, as the two plants often grow side by side in the wild. Laboratories use chemical testing, such as measuring MGO levels, to accurately identify the type and quality of honey produced.

Kanuka honey is characterized by its antibacterial properties, primarily due to its high hydrogen peroxide levels. This makes it distinct from Manuka honey, which, aside from containing hydrogen peroxide, also exhibits non-peroxide activity due to the presence of compounds like Methylglyoxal. Ultimately, the choice between Manuka and Kanuka honey boils down to individual taste preferences and personal health requirements.

Final Thoughts

Both Manuka and Kanuka honey provide distinctive properties and potential health advantages. As of now, further research is essential, particularly in exploring the medical applications of Kanuka honey. It’s important to acknowledge that Manuka honey has a more established and proven track record of benefits to date.


When choosing which honey best suits your needs, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Specific needs and preferences
  • Ensuring you purchase authentic, high-quality honey
  • Opting for reliable sources

By doing so, you will be able to make an informed decision and take full advantage of the unique benefits each honey has to offer.

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