What is NPA in Manuka honey?

Did you know that Manuka honey is not the same everywhere? Moreover, batches from one place can also be different. So, what factors vary? For this product, it’s the level of antibacterial activity. In this article we’ll consider the index that defines it.

What is NPA?

It means the non-peroxide activity of honey. This is what gives the product its special antiseptic properties. You may see the abbreviation and a number on the tags of jars. We would like to go further than just using difficult definitions and terms that mean nothing to an ordinary person. That’s why we will try to explain them first, to be as clear as possible. 

The key point is that every kind of honey has a sort of antimicrobial qualities. They are caused by peroxide activity. But manuka honey is unique because it also has non-peroxide activity (NPA) that gives it such features. To get the idea and see the difference, let’s learn more about them.

Peroxide activity

It is peculiar to almost every type of honey. The antibacterial effect is provided by low pH level, high osmolarity and mostly by hydrogen peroxide. It is produced with the help of a glucose oxidase enzyme. The agent uses glucose and oxygen to release antiseptic qualities of hydrogen peroxide. Thanks to this, honey can be used to inhibit minor infections. It doesn’t damage tissue when killing bacteria.

But the problem is that this compound is sensitive to light and heat. One more weak side is breaking down after contacting blood, saliva and serum. Due to this, antimicrobial properties are lost. 

Non-peroxide activity

This is NPA that gives manuka honey special features. It comes from containing methylglyoxal (MGO) in the nectar of this plant. The agent is generated from dihydroxyacetone (DHA) during the ripening. This quality is also used for another rating - MGO.

Methylglyoxal has an antibacterial effect as well and it is not destroyed under the influence of light, heat or body fluids. That’s why honey saves its antiseptic properties even after hydrogen peroxide is neutralized. This feature is called ‘non-peroxide activity’, which is a base for the same-name rating.

Meaning of NPA rating

This index is marked on tags as an abbreviation and a number near it that shows the strength of manuka honey. The idea is the following: the rating shows the antimicrobial effect that the product has, compared to the effect that a phenol solution of a certain concentration would have. It is measured in %. In other words, the index number is equal to the % of phenol content in water. For example, NPA 10+ means that honey has the same effect on bacteria as a 10% phenol solution.

How is it assessed? For this purpose there is used an agar well diffusion method. The product is placed in a well, made in an agar plate with microorganisms. When the diffusion starts, the researchers see to what extent the activity of bacteria is inhibited. The results are compared with the effect of a certain concentration of a phenol solution. Based on this, they make a conclusion about the strength of manuka honey.

Since NPA depends on methylglyoxal, its level is related to the MGO rating. For example, 10+ non-peroxide activity is peculiar to the honey with MGO 260+. It is supposed that significant antiseptic qualities appear when the activity is 10+. The higher the level, the stronger the product.

What causes different properties? The quality depends on a few factors:

  1. Plants - in what conditions they grow, environment, climate, etc.
  2. Bees - their age and colony health.
  3. Conditions in which the product is processed and stored. 

But the most important factor for NPA is whether the nectar was gathered only from manuka bloom or it was mixed with other species. It influences the concentration of MGO since it is present only in this kind of plant.

What is NPA? BioSota manuka honey

How to choose manuka honey

First, we would like to mention that not all kinds of this product have non-peroxide activity. Some producers add peroxide activity and NPA scores to achieve higher ratings. They do it for marketing reasons and to raise a price. That’s why read the tags more carefully. Apart from that, there are three rules:

  1. Make sure that you know what NPA means and choose your type.
  2. Ask for a certificate. To make sure that this product is genuine, request a document to check if the claimed quality is proven with the laboratory test. You can also examine it by color and smell. If it is dark brown and has a burnt or caramelized flavor, it is highly possible that the honey is old or was heated to increase NPA artificially. It’s important because after such procedures enzymes are destroyed.
  3. Read ours article about MGO - this will help you to choose the best manuka honey type.

You’ll do it with Biosota

Our honey is gathered on farms in the remote Australian forest. It helps to achieve high quality and provide products with different ratings for various needs. Every batch is properly tested in laboratories, that’s why all the NPA and MGO marks are proved with certificates. So, you can be sure that you pay exactly for what you get.

Explore the wide range of options visiting our online shop or stores.

2 comments

  • Hi James, thank you for your question. Choosing the right Manuka honey can be an overwhelming task. Whilst we don’t have the details about the production of the honey you mentioned to compare, we can advise what to look for. One of the best indicators is MGO level or rating that you can find featured on the packaging. The higher the MGO, the more potent Manuka honey is, which means its medicinal properties are more effective and may help more efficiently in treating your concerns. If you’re interested to find out more, we have compiled this comprehensive guide about Manuka, MGO and how to choose the best one for your needs in terms of strength: https://biosota.com.au/pages/manuka-101
    Another thing to be aware of is the production process, which can be hard to find because not all manufacturers are transparent. For Manuka honey to be of highest quality, it is important that it’s cold extracted, not heated at all through the process and packaged in its most natural form. Traceability of Manuka honey is also an important factor — knowing where it comes from and if its quality is guaranteed. This is often done through honey testing in independent laboratories, something we here at Biosota do with each batch of Manuka honey. We make those lab reports available on our website for full transparency. If you’re interested, you can find a few of the latest one on this page https://biosota.com.au/collections/manuka-honey-mgo-1200-to-1717/products/certified-organic-manuka-honey-mgo-1717-npa-31
    Finally, if Manuka honey is certified organic and non-GMO certified, it means the whole production has gone through a rigorous review process, focusing on the purity and quality of the honey.
    We know this is quite a bit to digest but we’re really passionate about educating our customers, so we do hope that the information provided above is helpful to you.
    Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
    Biosota team

    Biosota team
  • Is Aldi store manuka honey any good £4.75 for 250ml jar I also paid £35 for manuka honey from Holland and barrett

    James scholes

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