What is MGO?

Honey has been used in traditional medicines for centuries for a variety of ailments thanks to its antimicrobial properties. It is until only recently (2006) that this unique property of honey has been studied further, with the findings suggesting that Manuka honey has higher antimicrobial properties, all thanks to a little compound called MGO.

MGO definition

MGO stands for ‘Methylglyoxal’. MGO is a unique naturally-occurring chemical compound found in Manuka honey that gives it its unique antibacterial properties and make it one of the most sought after and rarest honeys in the world.

A study in 2008 by researchers at Waikato University found that the ‘non-peroxide’ antimicrobial activity (NPA) in Manuka honey (i.e. it's antibacterial properties) was directly correlated with its MGO levels. So, the higher the MGO, the higher the NPA or antibacterial properties of Manuka honey. 

Make sense? Great. But where does MGO come from?

Where does MGO come from? 

MGO is a naturally occurring compound in Manuka honey but what makes it special, other than being antibacterial, is that it develops over time from another unique compound in Manuka honey called DHA.

A 2009 study identified that MGO forms from a naturally occurring compound called dihydroxyacetone (DHA for short) over time. DHA is found naturally in the nectar of flowers from the New Zealand-native Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium) and varies in potency from Manuka tree to Manuka tree.

The study found that freshly produced Mānuka honey contained high levels of DHA and low levels of MGO. But when this honey was stored or aged “at 37 degrees celsius [this] led to a decrease in [DHA] and a relative increase in [MGO]”. 

This might sound complicated, but in a nutshell, MGO = DHA + time.

The higher the initial levels of DHA in fresh Manuka honey can result in higher levels of MGO when the honey is aged correctly and, therefore, higher antibacterial (or ‘non-peroxide’) activity. 

This is why beekeepers seek remote Manuka forests to place their hives near so they can get potent Manuka nectar (high DHA) which will mean potent Manuka honey (high MGO).

It is this unique property of Manuka honey that means MGO is one of the key markers in UMF testing (read more about What is UMF here) alongside Leptosperin.

So, how do I know the amount of MGO in my Manuka honey?

As MGO is such an important compound found in Manuka honey and gives its unique antibacterial properties, we feel it’s important to clearly identify the MGO levels in our Manukora Manuka honey. This is why you’ll find the MGO level in large numbers on the front of our labels.

Manukora Manuka Honey

We’re also a member of the UMF association (Member 2228) which is why you can also find a UMF rating on most of our labels. A simple guide of MGO vs UMF is below.

MGO rating

UMF rating

MGO 50+

UMF 2+

MGO 100+

UMF 4+

MGO 600+

UMF 16+

MGO 850+

UMF 20+

MGO 1123+

UMF 24+

MGO 1200+

UMF 25+

How do I know my Manuka honey is authentic?

Because authenticity and traceability are so important to us, we’ve implemented a special traceability system that allows you to trace your jar of honey back to it’s source location and it even displays the lab's test results for your jar of honey. Simply scan your jar of honey with your phone.



2008 study: Adams, Christopher.J., Boult, C.H., Deadman, B.J., Farr, J.M., Grainger, M.N.C., Manley-Harris, M. , Snow, M.J. Isolation by HPLC and characterisation of bioactive fraction of New Zealand manuka (Letospermum scoparium) honey. J. Carbohydr. Res. 2008, 343, 651-659

2009 study: Adams, Christopher.J., Boult, C.H., Deadman, B.J., Farr, J.M., Grainger, M.N.C., Manley-Harris, M. , Snow, M.J. Corrigendum to "Isolation by HPLC and characterization of the bioactive fraction of New Zealand manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey"[Carbohydr. Res. 2008, 343, 651-659]. Carbohydr. Res. 2009, 344(18):2609-2609 

Analytica labs 

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Manukora Mānuka honey