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The Great Manuka Dispute


Manuka honey in Australia is derived from the Leptospermum Scoparium, also known as the Teatree. The Leptospermum species is comprised of 86 recognised subspecies, of which only two are found outside of Australia. One, Leptospermum recurvum is found in Sabah, Malaysia, and Sulawesi, Indonesia. The other is the Leptospermum scoparium which is found in New Zealand and is the exact same one that occurs in Tasmania.

Evidence suggests that Leptospermum scoparium originated in Australia and moved to New Zealand through long-distance dispersal events sometime during the last 20 million years. This transfer of seeds was likely caused by strong winds and cyclones. This theory arises from understanding that the Teatree possesses fire-adaptive traits, which are better suited to Australia’s climate. It is believed that the presence of the Teatree in New Zealand was fairly limited, until the arrival of Polynesian people. Polynesian fire and forest clearing practices then allowed the plants to thrive.

At the end of the day, Leptospermum scoparium is found in both Australia and New Zealand. Same plant, same flower, same honey! Allowing us at the Tasmanian Honey Company to produce Manuka honey in Australia for all to experience.

MGO vs UMF explained


The first to appear was the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor). This term appeared at a time that no one really knew exactly what it was that gave the Manuka honey its non-peroxide Activity (all honeys produce varying degrees of Peroxide Activity or TA = Total Activity).

In 1981 A professor at the New Zealand Waikato University by the name of Peter Molan set about researching properties in Manuka honey. After all, Tea Tree oil was already known to have healing qualities.

His research led him to discover that there was in fact this anti-bacterial quality about Manuka honey which in turn the “Unique Manuka Factor” brand was born.


This information was kept close to only those involved so in 2006, Professor Thomas Henle of Dresden University of Technology (Germany) discovered what the actual “magic” ingredient was; Methylglyoxal or MGO as we now know it.

Methylglyoxal holds the antibacterial agent in Manuka honey which is why it has been used for years by professionals to treat wound healing, oral health, gastric ulcers and improve digestives symptoms.

So now we have 2 different trademarked terms that, in their own right have made exceptional discoveries that both show the amazing qualities of Manuka honey and why you see either UMF or MGO on labelling. Some have taken these studies and run with the marketing of Manuka honey almost like a game!


Total Activity is a measure of both Peroxide Activity (PA) as well as Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA). UMF or MGO ratings refer to Methylglyoxal and is a measurement of only NPA found in Manuka honey.


Enter Leatherwood Honey……

At the completion of harvest, we have all our production tested by a specialist independent laboratory to assess the presence of compounds that give the honey a Total Activity (TA) rating. These compounds generate Hydrogen Peroxide that equates to a hospital grade Phenol disinfectant. We have registered the term Active Leatherwood Factor (ALF) to designate honey that has this special characteristic.

We believe Leatherwood honeys health benefits is as effective if not more than Manuka honey. Below is a statement from one of our staff members.

“The Active Leatherwood is what I have personally used for all cuts and wounds for the whole family as well as livestock on the farm and pets.

Every cut that I have applied Active Leatherwood to nearly vanishes when it heals. Working with roofing sheets one day here, I cut the top of my hand deeply. In amongst the emergency of patching the cut together I thought ‘what a good opportunity to test Manuka MGO500+ against the Active Leatherwood on the open wound’. So, 2 band aids, 2 types of honey…

The cut started from the Manuka side and ran deeper all the way across to the knuckle… The side of the cut that we applied Leatherwood too should have had stitches, but I opted to just apply the honey, pull the skin together, and use the band aid to hold it all together. You could also see the beginning of the Active Leatherwood side where the Manuka honey was over applied and leaking across to the Active Leatherwood side of the cut.

The Manuka worked great, but the Active Leatherwood just goes that extra mile and has been consistent with every cut I have applied it too.”

Comparison Chart

NPA, non-peroxide activity, equivalent New Zealand UMFMGO (Methylglyoxal mg/kg)ALF, Total Activity (TA) (NPA + Phenol)
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