Amongst the remote coastal regions of New Zealand can be found a native bush plant, the Manuka tree, flourishing and growing wild. Honey made from Manuka is becoming widely recognized throughout the world for not only its delicious earthy flavor but also its healing properties. However, the Manuka honey’s humble journey to popularity began well before then.
Maori (the native people of New Zealand) were the first to use the wood and bark of the beautiful Manuka shrub and recognize it for its health and healing properties. They used the redwood to craft paddles, weapons, spears and for buildings. The bark had a great range of uses from water containers and waterproofing for roofing to providing health remedies. Most commonly, internal health benefits were from boiling the inner bark and using the liquid as a mouthwash and also boiling the leaves and inhaling the vapor to get rid of common colds. Externally, the ash from the bark was used to treat skin diseases and to treat burns.
The History Of Manuka Honey In New Zealand
It wasn’t until 1839, hundreds of years later, when honeybees were brought into New Zealand that the production of Manuka honey began. Since then Manuka honey has grown in popularity and today New Zealand has over 320,000 beehives that produce on average 10,600 tons of honey each year. The demand for New Zealand Manuka honey, internationally, means that around 9,000 tons of this delicacy are being exported.
Due to the large demand of Manuka honey, there are organizations now in place to protect this amazing product unique to New Zealand. Currently, the supply cannot keep up and many exporters are under immense pressure to satisfy the needs for those who want the honey for medicinal and culinary uses. The market is expected to grow further as people gain an understanding that the way honey is made in New Zealand is unlike anywhere else in the world, allowing it to be completely natural and therefore highly sought after.
Making Manuka Honey
New Zealand’s isolation and natural farming practices, as well as the way the bees are cared for, is the reason Manuka honey is so desirable. In many other countries where honey is produced beekeepers use antibiotics for treating bees with a disease, however not in New Zealand, they have the most disease-free bees in the world.
The honey bees collect the nectar from the flowers of the Manuka tree and from there turn it into honey. To do this they dry off the moisture and add natural enzymes at the same time. These natural enzymes are what give honey the specific health benefits it is so widely known for and its soft, silky-smooth texture.
Manuka Honey: More Than Just A Spread
It is delightful to know that when using this deliciously creamy honey in cooking it is not only adding a touch of sweetness but also providing your body with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes that support the immune system and other aspects of general wellbeing. So have a go at using honey instead of other refined sugars in smoothies, dressings, and baking to boost the nutrient content. Otherwise, for something quick and easy spread a small amount of Manuka honey on a piece of sourdough toast and enjoy with a cup of tea.
Other ways Manuka honey benefits your health is by the high levels of antibacterial activity that helps fight infection. This wasn’t highly recognized until around the 1990’s when the qualities and benefits of Manuka honey were explored in more detail. They also found it anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce swelling and relieve pain. There is now a grading system, UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) that assures the purity and quality of Manuka honey by appraising the natural markers found in it and making it a superior choice.
With such incredible properties and varied uses, Manuka honey is definitely a positive addition to your diet and lifestyle. Whether you are dolloping some on your toast or rubbing some on a wound, the benefits you gain from the small amount are well worth it. Remember, a small amount goes a long way so no need to go overboard – let’s keep this gift from nature around for many years to come.
Jenny Barrow is based in the beautiful Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. Through her own health journey, Jenny developed a passion for food and nutrition and loves sharing this with others. She is passionate about eating plant-based, seasonally and sustainably as a way of not only nourishing the body but also supporting local farmers and producers. After working in a variety of fields and then completing more study Jenny is now settled in what she describes as her dream job, working in the Wellness Industry with Janesce Skincare and Bestow Beauty. Blessed with a job that brings her joy, Jenny also fills her soul with family, friends, nature and travelling. She is working towards living a ‘slow and simple’ life.