raw honey vs manuka honey

Sometimes it feels like the world of honey needs its own encyclopedia - just down in New Zealand and Australia they seem to have hundreds of varieties, let alone the rest of the world.

One of these varieties is Manuka honey, which has become extremely popular around the world. We know that raw honey has been used for centuries in medicine, even as far back as the Greeks and beyond. However, Manuka honey claims to be one of the most potent medicinal honeys available today. Raw honey vs Manuka honey: What's the difference?

First, we need to define exactly what constitutes each variety of honey. Then we'll see if there's any merit between the difference in hype (and price!) when we choose which honey to be scooping into our tea or spreading on our morning toast.

What is raw honey?

Raw honey is not a brand or type of honey. Instead, raw honey refers to any honey that has been extracted from the honeycomb and packaged without being processed. Processing that is common in commercial honey involves filtering out yeast to avoid fermentation, and grooming it to have a smooth texture and uniform color.

While there are no "official" rules for what can be labelled as raw honey, it is generally believed to mean the honey has not been filtered to modify its content or texture, and has not been heated or pasteurized to remove impurities. It may even contain wax, pollen and proplois.

While initially something only beekeepers and farmers enjoyed, raw honey has now seen a surge in demand and is sold in many boutique supermarkets, health stores, and even some mainstream supermarkets. If you check the raw honey section of Amazon, there are many products to choose from compared to even just five years ago.

What is Manuka Honey?

Manuka Honey is a very specific type of honey produced mostly in New Zealand. Some varieties are also produced in Australia.

When bees produce honey, they extract nectar from flowers and use it to produce honey in the hive. Manuka honey is unique because it can only be produced if bees use a specific nectar for their honey, which is only found in in the Manuka flower in New Zealand. 

Not only that, the Manuka flower only blooms in specific areas in New Zealand, and only during a specific season of the year. In fact, usually the Manuka flower blooms around 4-6 weeks per year, sometimes less, and sometimes not at all.

This obviously makes Manuka honey very difficult to produce, which is what contributes to its rarity and high prices.

So why is Manuka honey in demand? Is it just because of its rarity?

Not exactly. One of the unique components of Manuka honey is it's very high in a compound called methylglyoxal, or MGO. 

MGO has very strong antibacterial properties, which not only make Manuka honey a delicious food, but a medicine as well.

In fact, in New Zealand, Manuka honey is regularly used in hospitals as a treatment for wounds, burns and infections, and is also approved by the FDA in America as a treatment for wound healing.

On top of this, many people like to use Manuka honey just for general wellness by adding it to their daily routine - whether this be in the form of a Manuka honey face wash or skin cream, or simply adding a scoop to their morning coffee.

Raw Honey vs Manuka Honey: What's the difference?

what is manuka honey

As we've seen, the difference between Manuka honey and raw honey is significant in many ways. Here are some of the main ways Manuka singles itself out from other honeys around the world:


While raw honey can technically be produced in any beehive by any bees, Manuka honey requires very specific conditions. It requires bees that have only drawn nectar from Manuka flowers, which are only found in specific areas in New Zealand during specific seasons. It also means that the area must be controlled - no other flowers can be near the hive, as this causes the honey to be tainted with non-Manuka nectar, producing a "blended" honey that can no longer be sold as pure Manuka honey.


While many honeys are thought to contain some medicinal properties, Manuka is unique in that it's been tested to have high levels of MGO, which has strong antibacterial functions. MGO has been shown in studies to be so effective, Manuka honey can now be used in hospitals for medicinal use in many countries, including America.


Because the Manuka honey industry is so lucrative, New Zealand has set up grading institutes that certify whether Manuka Honey is real or not. The UMF Association of New Zealand tests Manuka honey brands on their "Unique Manuka Factor" which determines whether a company's honey can be legally labelled as Manuka honey. This differs greatly to raw honey, as when a company puts "raw" on their label, there is no certifying body to verify it.


Manuka honey has an extremely unique flavor, unlike any other honey in the world. While sweetness and texture can differ somewhat between brands, the Manuka taste is always there. It's difficult to describe accurately, you'll need to try it!


Manuka honey is one of the most expensive honeys in the world. Raw honey by comparison is very affordable, and prices differ greatly between brands and varieties. Any variety of honey can technically be produced raw, but Manuka can only ever refer to a very specific variety of honey.

Is Manuka Honey better than Raw Honey?

It largely depends on what you are using it for. If you are using honey as a means to improve your health, we believe Manuka honey is far superior to regular raw honey. It also goes without saying that Manuka honey is superior for medicinal purposes, and many studies have shown this. 

However, if you are simply using honey as a sugar substitute, or even in cooking or baking, it's arguable whether it's worth spending the extra money on Manuka honey when regular raw honey is usually much cheaper. If you are using a recipe that calls for 2-3 tablespoons of honey, we would recommend using a quality regular honey over your expensive Manuka!

It's also worth mentioning that Manuka honey comes in different quality spectrums as well. For example, is all Manuka honey raw? No! Some beekeepers process and pasteurize their Manuka honey just like is done regular table honey. 

Overall, there is space for both types of honey in the household. Use them wisely - honey is delicious no matter what!

Interested in trying Manuka honey? Check out our list of recommended brands here.