Updated: Jan 21, 2020

MethylGlyOxal (MGO)

MGO develops naturally in the Manuka nectar (Leptospermum scoparium). This compound is well established as the main active ingredient identified in the manuka honey potency. It is a quantifiable measurement obtained only from the International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) Accredited Laboratory. It is a grading system to measure the quality and purity in the New Zealand Manuka honey.

Some of the medicinal application of honey is well researched and documented for its antimicrobial properties. All pure raw honey, regardless of their origin, contains excellent health benefits due to the varying levels of the Glucose Oxidase Enzyme (GOE). This GOE catalyses the oxidation of glucose to hydrogen peroxide . If used on minor infections, this enzyme displays antibacterial activity when oxygen and glucose are present, releases antiseptic properties of Hydrogen Peroxide effectively into infections sites; inhibiting and killing bacteria without damaging body tissue.

However, most healthcare professionals use Manuka honey (MGO or UMF) for treating different diseases and infections such as wounds treatment, Gum diseases, and viral infections. In some vitro and animal studies shows that Manuka honey has anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcer effects. Small studies in humans suggest its benefits against gingivitis and inflamed nasal sinuses. Manuka honey with high levels of MGO has been shown to have an antibacterial effect on bacteria commonly present in infected tissues such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE). Part of this resistance may be through its osmotic effects.

Manuka honey is monofloral honey and is amber in colour. Its composition consists of carbohydrates, minerals, proteins, fatty acids, phenolic and flavonoid compounds. Manuka honey is unique in that, in addition to containing Hydrogen Peroxide Activity (PA) available in all raw honey, it also includes a particular compound called non-peroxide activity’ (NPA).

The cause of this NPA available in Manuka Honey was less understood for many years. Then, in 2008, a scientist in Germany Professor Thomas Henle of University of Dresden demonstrated in his research for the first time that Manuka honey’s NPA was closely related to the unique features that occur only in the Manuka honey.

The cause of this ‘non-peroxide activity’ (NPA) available in Manuka Honey wasn’t well understood for many years. Then, in 2008, a scientist in Germany Professor Thomas Henle of University of Dresden demonstrated in his research for the first time that that manuka honey’s ‘non-peroxide’ antimicrobial activity (NPA) was closely related to the unique features that occur in Manuka honey,

"Manuka honey should be one of the few food items for which a health-promoting property beyond the basic nutritional function can be clearly documented. Health claims require significant scientific consensus, and I think from a scientific point of view, the data concerning the Methylglyoxal-induced antimicrobial properties of Manuka honey are very promising to fulfill the requirements" Professor Thomas Henle

Here at Happy Beekeeping we believe that only the New Zealand's Manuka Honey can be authenticated to contain high and stable levels of MGO that are known to have a strong antibacterial and antiviral activity.

How do you apply honey for wounds?

Althought Manuka Honey has antibacterial effects, if you have a wound or burn that won’t heal, it’s important to check with a doctor before using honey on the wound.

For severe wounds, it’s best a doctor or wound-care nurse shows you how to apply the honey the first time. This is because the amount of honey and the way the dressing is applied can impact how effective the wound-healing will be.

Check our previous article for Tips for applying honey on wounds

The number shown in the opposite picture of the Manuka honey, the MGO 820+, is the measure in mg per every kg of the most important counpound contributing to the special activity level of anti-bacterial and anti-fungals properties of the Manuka Honey. The number between brackets (20+), is the corresponding special activity rating in other meauremnet (NPA or UMF).

To help our customers chose right Manuka Honey, we've compiled a summary of the area of application depending on the MGO value, from boosting your immune system to major wounds.

At HBK Ltd, all our honey is raw, hand-harvested and laboratory tested. Manuka honey is tested for its unique methylglyoxal (MGO) and the resulting NON PEROXIDE ACTIVITY (NPA) levels.

Sample of Honey Test results for MGO reading

this is a sample of the laboratory test results when we send our honey to be independently verified.

The test measures the three main threer concentrations, of

DHA (dihydroxyacetone),

MGO (methylglyoxal), and

HMF (5-hydroxymethylfurfural) in honey.

The NPA results in Manuka honey with the presence of MGO are then converted into the activity rating system characterised by a number e.g. 5+, 10+, 15+. see opposite table.

Both NPA Manuka honey and UMF Manuka honey are tested in the same way i.e. presence of MGO

To meausre the manuka honey authenticity, monofloral mānuka or multifloral mānuka, we also send our honey samples for testing, as shown opposite.

As of December 2017, Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI) have enforced a set of requirements for testing of honey for export that is packed and labelled as a monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey. 

The definition consists of five attributes which include four chemical markers (MPI Mānuka Chemical Markers) and a DNA marker from mānuka pollen (MPI Mānuka DNA Marker).

All five attributes need to pass MPI’s definition for the honey to be labelled as mono-floral Mānuka, or multi-floral Mānuka, for export. 

In order to be classified as either a monofloral mānuka or multifloral mānuka the honey must meet minimum levels for all components of the MPI 5 Attributes test including both the chemical and DNA markers. 

Dr Isaac Flitta

Did You Know that Raw Manuka Honey Helps Protect Your Teeth? check it out here


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