With the various standards, international misleading and confusion around Manuka honey, in 2019 MPI (New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries) decided to put a clear definition on what can be called 'Multi-Floral' and 'Mono-Floral' Manuka honey. See here for more on the exact definitions.
Multi-floral, meaning it has the properties of Manuka but it is mixed with the nectar of other various flowers to a degree at which it isn't 'pure' Manuka.
Mono-floral then is pure Manuka, it may have traces of other pollen from other sources but it is so highly concentrated with Manuka pollen and nectar that it is considered to be pure Manuka honey. This is usually about a 'UMF 10+' or higher.
So then, what is this 'UMF'?
The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) was established in New Zealand to essentially govern the way Manuka is labelled, and ensure everyone is on the same page and standard. There is a lot of Manuka sold on 'pollen count', 'active' and other labels such as X,Y or Z 'Factor'. These don't at all relate to the quality of the Manuka, and in fact some would barely be able to called multi-floral Manuka, let alone Manuka! They could contain only 1% of Manuka honey!
The UMF number relates to its potency, as an equivalent of Phenol, a powerful disinfectant. What is phenol?
So for example, a UMF 20+ means it is at least a 20% equivalent to phenol. That's some strong stuff! Especially for a natural (and delicious) product!
So what are the elements that determine the UMF?
In the nectar of the Manuka flower, is a chemical compound called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). The honey bee collects the nectar, and through dehydration and adding of enzymes make honey. The DHA in the honey is then chemically transformed into Methylglyoxal, or 'MGO'. Our Manuka now has a DHA rating as well as an MGO rating. The higher the DHA number, the higher the MGO will be.
As this is a process from one chemical compound into another, it takes time. Which means, like a fine wine, the Manuka honey improves over time. The MGO rating increases to a maximum, and then will begin to decrease again. That is the reason Manuka honey has an expiry of around 5 years (honey can remain edible almost indefinitely).
So MGO, along with a few other factors, make up the 'UMF' number. Another common form of labeling the honey is by 'MGO' number. It essentially means the same thing, but just different numbers and a different label, just as displayed here.
These are the two important numbers you want to consider when purchasing your New Zealand Manuka Honey, again, the higher the number, the more potent it is and the more beneficial too. We like to adopt the 'Have Me', 'Help Me', 'Heal Me' phrase.
Have Me; relates to Multi-floral Manuka. This is your daily eating Manuka, this goes on your bread, with your platter and in your hot drinks and includes UMF 5+ or up to about MGO 85+.
Help Me; relates to Mono-Floral Manuka. This is your UMF 10+ to UMF 15+. (MGO 250 - 520). This is Manuka used in aid of helping with sore throat, mouth and stomach ulcers, immunity and used orally as a mask, to draw moisture into the skin.
Heal Me*; this is the high end stuff. UMF 20+ and higher. This can be used to help aid burns, eczema, cold sores and help fight off infections.
*Remember, Manuka is not a medicine and should not be used in lieu of proper medical advice. Studies have shown it's benefits across a wide range of conditions and we suggest to use it in aid of proper medical advice for serious conditions.