What is UMF – Unique Manuka Factor

by | Dec 4, 2023 | Honey Education

What is UMF
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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 ever wondered “what is UMF”, in this article we answer all your questions related to UMF. 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 all over the world, Manuka honey comes from the Manuka bush that 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.

Every batch of honey is tested by the UMF Honey Association 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 varieties of honey.

This unique attribute is beyond all normal honeys characteristic properties.

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

This unique attribute separates manuka honey from other natural wonders.

In order to better understand what is UMF, 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 chemical compound found in Manuka honey nectar that has anti-inflammatory properties.

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

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

Honey is potentially effective in the treatment of 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 also determines the UMF grade.

Honey Research

Research is clear on this chemical’s effectiveness in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well as for 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 Grade
UMF 24+
Ultra Premium Grade
UMF 15+ to UMF 20+ and above
Premium Grade
UMF 10+ to UMF 15+
Certified Authentic
UMF 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 has been developed by Professor Thomas Henle for MGO Manuka honey in 2008. It is quite different from Unique Manuka Factor.

It is primarily used by the company Manuka Health.

Manuka Health is the most popular Manuka honey company that uses 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 which is a chemical that naturally occurs in Manuka honey.

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

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

Comparison of MGO and UMF Levels


The main difference between UMF and Active Manuka Honey is the way in which 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, which is a naturally occurring compound found 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.

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 anti-aging solution.

As natural honey is known to be extremely nourishing it is also a great moisturiser. Hence many like to use this golden nectar as a face mask or face cream.

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

The Health Benefits of Methylglyoxal

The MGO rating shows the methylglyoxal content. That means a 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. This is the reason many call it superfood.

Research 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 anti-aging solution.

As natural honey is known to be extremely nourishing it is also a great moisturiser. Hence many like to use this golden nectar as a face mask or face cream. This is exactly 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 than 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)
Live enzymes
Pollen count (70% and higher)
PH levels
Antioxidant levels
Phenolic compounds

How To Compare The Different Grading Systems?

Well, the UMF and MGO grading systems measure one common marker which is MGO.

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

In turn, 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.

The unique property of NPA was discovered by Dr. Peter Molan from Waikato University.

Please go to the table for a comparison of 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 with many illnesses.

High-grade of UMF 20+ (going up to 25 and 30 in rare cases) is considered medical grade.

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 in order 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 labelled 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 for 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 honeys 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 to 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 stand for Unique Manuka Factor and is a system tha 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.



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