What is UMF – Unique Manuka Factor

by | Jul 13, 2024 | Honey Education

What is UMF Grading System

What is UMF – Unique Manuka Factor Grading System

UMF stands for “Unique Manuka Factor” and is a grading system developed by the UMF Honey Association in New Zealand. Manuka honey produced in New Zealand can be eligible to receive a UMF certificate.

If you have ever wondered “what is UMF”, we answer all your questions related to UMF in this article. Now, let’s talk about real Manuka honey from a real Manuka honey bush.

UMF grading system

What is UMF in Genuine Manuka Honey

Unlike most honey that grows worldwide, Manuka honey comes from the Manuka tree which grows only in New Zealand.

That is also where Manuka honey is produced. Manuka flowers bloom mid-year with intense fragrance and flavor. Once they are ready, bees pollinate the flowers and do their magic.

The UMF Honey Association grants UMF licenses to Manuka honey manufacturers who meet their rigorous standards. The UMF license is what makes genuine Manuka honey.

The UMF Honey Association tests every batch of honey to identify authentic Manuka honey produced in New Zealand.

manuka flower

The New Zealand Honey Discovery

A 1981 study by researchers from the Honey Research Unit at University of Waikato discovered that a few strains of Manuka honey are very stable and possess exceptional natural properties, unlike other honey varieties.

This unique attribute is beyond all normal honey characteristic properties.

It is produced by the nectar from the manuka flowers and differs from enzymes that are commonly found in honey.

This unique attribute separates manuka honey from other natural wonders.

To better understand what UMF is, it is worth learning more about the key UMF signature markers. UMF tracks key signature markers: LeptosperinMethyglyoxal, and DHA as well as HMF.

Leptosperin is a chemical compound found in Manuka honey nectar from the Manuka tree.

The higher the content, the more powerful the anti-inflammatory effects it has. The most powerful Manuka honey exceed 200mg/kg of leptosperin. They are also the most expensive manuka honeys.

A randomized controlled trial (leptospermum scoparium species) demonstrated the antimicrobial effects of different types of honey on Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Honey is potentially effective in treating atopic dermatitis: clinical and mechanistic studies. You can read more here.

Methyglyoxal, also known as MGO is responsible for antibacterial effects. High levels of MGO are possible due to its low pH, which determines the UMF grade.

Honey Research

Research is clear on this chemical’s effectiveness in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well as in wound healing. It is considered potent and its biological activity has a significant antibacterial effect.

Not only does it promote wound healing, it also prevents wound infections.

All of these chemicals must be present in Manuka honey for it to be authentic and receive the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF).

The final number is based on all of the chemicals combined.

UMF Levels

Superior Rare High GradeUMF 24+
Ultra Premium GradeUMF 15+ to UMF 20+
Premium GradeUMF 10+ to UMF 15+
Certified AuthenticUMF 5+ to UMF 9+

Every manufacturer is required to hold a valid UMF license to obtain a UMF trademark on the label. Look for “UMF Certified” or “UMF Certificate” on the jar.

Honeys with UMF15+ is antibacterial grade and useful for skin therapy. Anything above 20 is a superior antibacterial grade, which is great for very bad wounds. UMF is a quality mark that identifies authentic Manuka honey from New Zealand.

Comvita UMF Certificate with UMF logo quality mark

What is MGO?

methylglyoxal mgo

The MGO grading system was developed by Professor Thomas Henle for MGO Manuka honey in 2008. It is quite different from the Unique Manuka Factor.

It is primarily used by the company Manuka Health.

Manuka Health is the most popular honey company using the MGO grading system. In addition, Manuka Health conducts independent research on Manuka honey to bring new standards to the Manuka world.

MGO stands for methylglyoxal, a chemical naturally occurring in Manuka honey.

According to Manuka Healthy, the “magic ingredient” in Manuka honey was discovered by one of their research partners – Professor Thomas Henle (University of Dresden).

To this day, researchers study this chemical to determine its antibacterial activity so that they can provide medical advice suited to specific health conditions.

Comparison of MGO and UMF Levels

MGOUMF Equivalent

The main difference between UMF and Active Manuka Honey is how they are measured. The rating system for Active Manuka Honey is called the MGO rating system, while the rating system for UMF Manuka Honey is called the UMF rating system.

MGO stands for methylglyoxal, a naturally occurring compound in honey. The higher the MGO rating, the higher the level of methylglyoxal in the honey.

The UMF rating measures the concentration of leptosperin, HMF, DHA, and methyglyoxal. These compounds are found in all Manuka honey, but they are present in higher concentrations in some types of Manuka honey than others.

The MGO and UMF rating systems are both used to measure different aspects of Manuka honey, so it’s important to know which one you’re looking at when you’re buying Manuka honey.

The Health Benefits of Methylglyoxal

The MGO rating shows the methylglyoxal content. That means an MGO 100+ Manuka honey will have at least 100mg of methylglyoxal per kilogram.

What separates Manuka honey from regular honey is that the MGO levels can go up to 100 times higher. This is why many call it a superfood.

Research shows that the most potent variety of Manuka honey can have antibiotic properties. Talk about super bees!

Recently, there have been successful studies on the efficacy of Manuka honey against skin bacteria and viruses. This can greatly help with acne.

It is also a natural antioxidant with a very powerful effect on wrinkles, which makes it an anti-aging solution.

Natural honey is known to be highly nourishing and a great moisturizer. Hence, many like to use this golden nectar as a face mask or face cream. This is precisely why we love Manuka honey.

The higher the MGO content, the higher the antibacterial activity. This makes Manuka honey perfect for soothing conditions such eczema or psoriasis.

Wedderspoon KFactor

What is KFactor?

KFactor is a grading system created by the New Zealand company Wedderspoon. KFactor is used by the Wedderspoon company.

It is another Manuka honey grading system that is different from the Unique Manuka Factor.

The label follows New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries guidelines. MPI develops standards for Manuka honey in New Zealand.

The KFactor standard ensures you are getting the following:

– raw and unpausterized honey

– free of antibiotics, glyphosate and pesticides


– traceability from hive to home

– comes from New Zealand

On top of that, there are two main varieties of Wedderspoon’s Manuka honey: KFactor 16 and KFactor 12.

KFactor 16 is a monofloral Manuka honey that is “wholly or mostly” made from the Leptospermum scoparium (Manuka) plant.

This means this honey is more of a single-plant extract.

KFactor 12 is a multifloral Manuka honey, that is more of a “blend” of nectars and other floral types.

Manuka Markers

The most common marker for Manuka honey is MGO (methylglyoxal).

It is a natural compound with antibacterial properties and is measured in the UMF and MGO grading systems.

However, the UMF grading system also measures NPA (non-peroxide activity) which represents the industry’s standard phenol disinfectant.

The NPA marker relates directly to the overall UMF rating. If a Manuka honey has an NPA of 18 then it will be UMF 18+.

  • Leptosperin is naturally found in Manuka honey and is also measured in UMF. Leptosperin uniquely identifies Manuka. If it doesn’t have Leptosperin, it’s not Manuka.
  • DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is also present in the UMF grading system. It is the precursor for methylglyoxal and determines the overall MGO levels.

The KFactor grading system is quite different than UMF and MGO.

Interestingly, it does not measure MGO, NPA, or leptosperin levels.

Please find the chart below for a comparison of UMF, MGO and KFactor systems and the markers they measure.

MGO (methylglyoxal)MGO (methylglyoxal)Purity
LeptosperminLive enzymes
DHAPollen count (70% and higher)
PH levels
Antioxidant levels
Phenolic compounds

How To Compare The Different Grading Systems?

The UMF and MGO grading systems measure one common marker: MGO.

The concentration of MGO (methylglyoxal) ranges from 0mg/1kg to 1000mg/1kg. Anything above 100mg/1kg is considered antibacterial.

This makes it easy for consumers to understand that a MGO 100+ Manuka honey contains at least 100mg of methylglyoxal.

The UMF rating corresponds directly to the NPA levels.

Dr. Peter Molan from Waikato University discovered the unique property of NPA.

Please go to the table below to compare NPA, UMF, and MGO.


What Are Different Grades of Mānuka Honey Best For?

The UMF values start at UMF5+ and can go as high as UMF30+ in rare Manuka honeys.

Grades between UMF 5 and UMF 10 are low-grade Manuka honey. Honeys in this lower range are safe for daily supplementation.

Mid-grades of UMF 10 to UMF 15 are therapeutic. They fight bacteria and have anti-inflammatory features. They can be very helpful in fighting many illnesses.

High-grade of UMF 20+ (going up to 25 and 30 in rare cases) is considered medical grade which is some of the best manuka honey you can get.

Manuka honey with UMF24+ has very high peroxide activity, MGO over 1200mg/kg, and leptosperin over 200mg/kg. This kind of Manuka honey has the highest antibacterial properties.

They can fight serious bacterial infections.

Any honeys from UMF15 to UMF20 are Medicinal Grade for serious health conditions.

The are rare cases of UMF30+. Those are hard to find and can get very pricey.

That being said, Manuka honey with UMF over 25+ has been shown to fight staphylococcus aureus, killing bacteria in the biofilm.

Manuka, honey of this magnitude, can have unmatched antibacterial effects in skin care and skin therapy.

The Minimum Requirements For UMF

The minimum requirement for a UMF 5+ Manuka honey is

  • MGO 83mg/kg
  • Leptosperin 100mg/kg

UMF is tested in independent laboratories to verify that the product is genuine and comes from New Zealand.

Only the UMFHA can grant the UMF quality mark. The UMF quality trademark is issued only for products tested, packed and labeled in New Zealand.

It is also guaranteed to meet the rigorous New Zealand Government’s MPI standards, which is essentially an extra layer of quality control.

After all, that Manuka bush grows only in New Zealand.

Manuka Honey Grade Levels

Lastly, let’s look at the final comparison chart to get an idea of the uses of Manuka honey at different grade levels.

Please refer to the chart below on how to choose Manuka honey.

Very high antibacterial activity.
Superior healing properties.
High antibacterial activity.
Good healing properties.
Medium level activity.
Suitable for maintaining good health.
Low level activity.
Comparable to normal honey.

Bonus – Manuka Honey Grade Levels Infographic

Manuka Honey Grade Levels Strength Chart Info


1. Is a higher UMF better?

The UMF value shows the amount of MGO in the honey. This value can range anywhere between UMF 5+ to UMF 28+. Higher ratings mean more antibacterial activity, higher NPA levels.

2. Is Manuka honey better than raw honey?

Most honey can have positive effects on health. Research shows that Manuka honey has higher antibacterial properties than raw honey. Non-peroxide activity is significantly higher in UMF honey.

3. How do I know if I have real UMF honey?

Look for the UMF logo on the jar. You can also scan the QR code to verify the authenticity of your honey.

4. What is UMF Manuka honey?

It is honey tested for purity and certified by the UMFHA.

5. What is Manuka honey UMF rating?

UMF rating stands for Unique Manuka Factor and is a system that measures active compounds in Manuka honey.

6. How to convert MGO to UMF?

Please refer to the chart above in this article.

7. Where to buy UMF Manuka honey?

You can read the reviews about pure Manuka honey with UMF on our website here.


You May Also Like…

What is Monofloral Manuka Honey and Why Does it Matter?

What is Monofloral Manuka Honey and Why Does it Matter?

Are you tired of constantly searching for natural remedies for your health concerns? Look no further, because monofloral manuka honey may be the answer you've been looking for. In this article, we will explore what monofloral manuka honey is and why it has become...

How To Buy Medical Grade Manuka Honey

How To Buy Medical Grade Manuka Honey

Are you tired of buying overpriced honey that claims to have health benefits but falls short? Look no further, as this article will guide you on how to purchase authentic medical grade Manuka honey. With increasing concerns about fake products, it's important to know...

Why Does Honey Crystallize?

Why Does Honey Crystallize?

Did you know that your jar of delicious, golden honey may eventually turn into a solid, grainy block? This may seem concerning, but rest assured, it is a completely natural process. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating science behind why honey...

What Is Manuka Honey? – The Sweet Superfood

What Is Manuka Honey? – The Sweet Superfood

Manuka honey, also known as the "sweet superfood," is a type of honey produced in New Zealand and Australia by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush. It has been used for centuries by the indigenous Māori people for its medicinal properties and has recently gained...