Manuka honey: The celebrity superfood that could keep you healthy this autumn

A spoonful of honey is just the tonic for today’s celebrities – certainly if it’s the Manuka variety.

From singer Ed Sheeran whose tour rider is said to include a jar of the stuff through to Kourtney Kardashian (who swears by its beauty benefits too) and Wimbledon Champion Novak Djokovic, many are devotees of the most famous superfoods in the world.

Even Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle enjoys Manuka honey for breakfast. According to Harper’s Bazaar, the Duchess chooses to start her day with ‘steel-cut oats with bananas or other fruit topped with Manuka honey and bee pollen, washed down with a hot water and lemon’.

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Made in New Zealand from bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, it has more intense anti-microbial activity than other honeys. Which means it can be used to help a range of health conditions from soothing sore throats to boosting immunity right through to being an effective wound dressing used by hospitals.

In fact it’s now so popular that the New Zealand Government recently discovered more Manuka being sold in the UK than was actually being exported – which meant that non-authentic products were evidently being sold under the Manuka label. As a result, they have tightened up their laws to ensure that all Manuka honey leaving the country is tested for four naturally occurring chemical markers – so you can be sure you’re buying the genuine article.

YOU.co.uk asked Dr Adrian Charlton, research scientist at government Lab FERA, and New Zealand Bee Expert Dr Young Mee Yoon just what you need to know about Manuka this winter.

1. Check the label before you buy

“If the Manuka honey has undergone the New Zealand tests then it should say so on the packaging,” says Dr Charlton. “Look for the words monofloral (meaning the bees have foraged for nectar mainly on Manuka bushes) or multifloral (which means the bees have foraged on Manuka bushes as well as collecting nectar from further afield) as this will indicate the honey has been through the proper Manuka testing.” An MGO rating shows the level of methylglyoxal, the substance in Manuka that provides its anti-microbial properties. The higher the number the stronger the Manuka is. Buying from a retailer like Holland & Barrett ensures the product has been tested from hive to home.

2. It’s simple to store

“Manuka honey has a thicker consistency than normal table honey. It is an incredibly durable substance too, so doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated after it’s been opened. Just try and keep your Manuka away from direct sunlight as this can alter some of the naturally occurring chemical markers over time,” says bee expert Dr Young Mee.

3. Taking it is easy

According to Holland & Barrett, most people simply take a teaspoonful of Manuka every day. It’s the easiest way to get the health benefits. And because Manuka is a natural honey with no additives, it mixes very well into teas, smoothies and other drinks, as well as being delicious on toast.

4. What are the health benefits?

“Because Manuka is anti-microbial it can help with a host of health conditions,” says Dr Young Mee. Customers have found it beneficial for sore throats, colds and sickness and general wellbeing. And it works for all ages, from children aged 1 year or more, right through to people in their 90s.

5. What strength do you need?

‘The numbers on the label identify the potency of the methylglyoxal (MGO) in the honey – basically, the higher the number, the higher the anti-microbial effect. Honey with an MGO level of between 40 and 100 is used for daily maintenance, while honey with an MGO of above 100 is good when you want a real health boost,’ says Dr Young Mee.

6. It’s sustainably and ethically sourced

Don’t worry, you’re not stealing food. Healthy bees in colonies can produce two to three times more honey than they need if they’re given enough storage space. It’s totally natural behaviour that the bees would pursue even if humans didn’t exist. In fact, archaeologists examining an Ancient Egyptian tomb found a cache of 3,000-year-old-honey. And it was still edible.

7. Which brands should you buy?

To ensure you are getting certified Manuka, look for a brand made and packed in New Zealand, like Manuka Doctor (www.manukadoctor.co.uk), or buy from a reputable retailer like www.hollandandbarrett.com Holland & Barrett’s new range of certified New Zealand Manuka starts from £26.99

Morning boost Manuka honey smoothie

Smoothies are a delicious way to start your day. This chia, raspberry, blueberry and Manuka Honey recipe is packed with berries for vitamins and antioxidants, protein powder, chia seeds which are a rich source of Vitamin B. A little Manuka honey provides a touch of sweetness as well as a health boost.

1-2 tbsp chia seeds
250ml / 1 cup water or coconut water
250g / 2 cups raspberries
100g / 1 cup blueberries
2 scoops protein powder
1-2 tbsp Manuka Doctor Active Manuka Honey

1. Soak the chia seeds in 5 tbsp of water for 15 minutes.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth.
3. Check the smoothie for sweetness and add a little more honey if you wish. If the smoothie is too thick, add a little more water or coconut water. Serve immediately.

Feature by Rosalind Lowe