Manuka honey is a mono-floral honey that comes from the nectar of the Manuka tree. It’s a small tree native to New Zealand and eastern Australia. It’s also known as the tea tree or jelly bush.
Manuka is unique among other kinds of honey because it’s known for its exclusive antibacterial properties— specifically, its non-peroxide antibacterial activity (NPA).
Manuka honey is most commonly used as a topical treatment for wounds and burns. Its antimicrobial properties can help fight off dangerous strains of bacteria like MRSA and E.coli.
What does MGO mean in Manuka Honey?
The term MGO stands for methylglyoxal, a natural compound found in Manuka honey. It’s responsible for many of Manuka’s therapeutic properties, such as wound healing, epithelial regeneration, and ulcer treatments.
Research has shown that the Methylglyoxal found in New Zealand manuka honey comes from dihydroxyacetone. Manuka honey contains up to 100 times more Methylglyoxal than conventional honey.
Researchers discovered that this special compound has the ability to prevent biofilm formation. Biofilms are slime that bacteria build around themselves to protect them from environmental stressors like antibiotics and disinfectants. They’re difficult for these agents to penetrate and kill, which makes them a serious problem for those who are trying to treat wounds or infections with these medications.
While the UMF rating is still an important way of judging manuka honey quality because it measures total NPA activity, many brands now also include MGO ratings on their labels. MGO is a measure of only one active ingredient—methylglyoxal content—and does not take into account other types of activity that could be present in your honey.
In 1981, Dr. Peter Molan from the University of Waikato in New Zealand was the first to create a rating system for measuring methylglyoxal content in Manuka honey. He called it the “Molan Gold Standard” at that time.
Methylglyoxal content varies from brand to brand and even variety to variety. MGO testing is usually performed by the company that makes the honey, rather than an independent agency like UMF. If a honey’s label says MGO 263+, that means the honey contains 263mg of Methylglyoxal per each kilogram of product.
Good quality manuka has an MGO rating above 263—and that’s the kind you want! The higher the MGO rating, the more potent your honey will be.
Studies have found that methylglyoxal can eradicate methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from colonized wounds. It’s also shown to inhibit MRSA by interrupting cell division and increasing fibroblast activity.
Plus, Methylglyoxal inhibits the growth of clinically-relevant pathogens and biofilms found in wounds, so it can help with acne, boils, and other types of infections. It’s also good for Streptococcus pyogenes and gram-negative strains including E. coli.
Gastrointestinal pathogens and oral infections have also shown a susceptibility to methylglyoxal.
Which MGO Manuka Honey is Right for You?
Depending on what you’re looking for, we recommend the following MGO levels:
If you’re looking for a honey that is good for everyday use, MGO 83+ would be a great choice. It’s great for cooking and baking, and has all the vitamins and minerals your body needs—plus it tastes delicious! Some of the most commonly found grades in this range include MGO 83+, MGO 90+, MGO 100+, MGO 120+, MGO 150+, and MGO 250+.
If you want a little bit of medicinal power but don’t want to go above and beyond with the antibacterial properties, then we recommend the MGO 263+ variety. The most common grades in this range are MGO 263+, MGO 300+, MGO 302+, MGO 400+, and MGO 500+.
If you’re looking for something that packs a one-two punch against bacteria and other pathogens, we suggest MGO 514+. This honey has high levels of both antibacterial activity and medicinal properties. Some of the most common grades in this range are MGO 550+, MGO 600+, and MGO 800+.
Finally, if you’re looking for the ultimate punch against bacteria and other pathogens, we suggest MGO 829+. This honey has superior levels of both antibacterial activity and medicinal properties. MGO 850+, MGO 900+, and MGO 950+ are among the most common grades in this range.
What is the Highest MGO in Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey with a MGO value greater than 1,700 is difficult to find. Some manufacturers produce manuka honey with a higher MGO but it’s expensive and hard to source. New Zealand Honey Co., for example, sells its 1282+ variety online, Manukora sells its 1123+ variety on their website and also through Amazon, and Manuka Doctor sells its 1025+ variety on its website.
One manufacturer of manuka honey, Manuka South, claims to have rare 1835+ MGO scores. However there has been no independent third-party verification—so this claim cannot be considered authoritative.
Manuka honey has unmatched health benefits. However, to enjoy these qualities, you must invest in a pure batch of Manuka honey, which can be identified by its UMF and MGO grading scales.
The most reliable rating system for Manuka honey is UMF, but MGO labels are also authentic. Meanwhile, brands that claim to be “active” or have a high “total activity” rating on their label are vague and unverifiable—so it’s best not to invest in these kinds of products if you’re looking for the real thing.