The story behind Manuka Honey
Friday, 23 October, 2020

The story behind Manuka Honey

From the hive to shelf, manuka honey is one of nature's unique gifts. Sourced from beehives in remote and pristine areas of New Zealand.

What is the Manuka plant?
The Manuka plant is native to New Zealand. It is an evergreen shrub that grows from 2 to 5 meters tall. In New Zealand, Manuka grows wild on both the North and South Islands. Every spring manuka bush gets covered with white flowers making the hills look like they are covered in snow.
The flowering only happens for 4 weeks in each region.

How was the Manuka plant used traditionally?
The Maori tribes who arrived in New Zealand over a thousand years ago were using the strong wood of Manuka for paddles and handles for their tools and weapons. A tea made by boiling the leaves was used to treat colds and fevers. In fact, the common name, “Tea Tree”, was given to Manuka back in 1769 by the British explorer, James Cook, who used the potent tea to treat skin and digestive illnesses among his crew. The inner bark was boiled and used as a sedative.
Manuka was used externally as well as internally. The bark has been used to treat burns, wounds, skin disorders, and rheumatic conditions.

When were bees introduced in New Zealand?
The honey bee was introduced to New Zealand in 1839 by European missionaries. The land provided a hospitable place for bees. Beekeeping as an industry grew steadily.

What was Manuka honey used for in the early days?
In the early days, however, in fact, up to the 1930’s, honey from Manuka bushes was considered a low quality honey and the Manuka beekeepers would give the honey away for free to dairy farmers who would, interestingly, feed it to their cows.

The story goes that the farmers noticed how cows that fed on this particular honey did not suffer from infectious diseases as much as other animals had. This was probably one of the earliest indications there was some type of special property about Manuka honey.

Is Manuka honey Organic?
MGO™ Manuka Honey comes from Manuka that grows wild in pristine, remote untouched areas in New Zealand.
To get to these areas Manuka Health’s beekeepers sometimes need to cross mountain rivers up to 20 times or to use helicopters.

Sometimes the topic comes up as to whether or not Manuka Honey is organic. Organic farming is not much of an issue in New Zealand because the agriculture is based on grassland. It is not a crop-based agriculture, so there aren’t any crops that a farmer would use herbicides, pesticides or insecticides on.

Keep in mind that Manuka grows wild in New Zealand. There are no orchards of Manuka. It covers miles and miles of hill country.

When was the science discovered?
In 2006, Professor Thomas Henle from the Technical University of Dresden, Germany discovered that very high levels of naturally occurring Methylglyoxal in Manuka honey are responsible for its unique properties.

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