Total Activity (TA)

Jarrah honey’s anti-microbial quality is measured by the term “Total Activity (TA)”. The TA is like a bacteria killing scale; the higher the TA the greater the antimicrobial strength. The anti-bacterial activity of honey is derived via natural enzymes and chemicals in the honey. A description of the method used to determine the Activity of honey is included in this paper by Rob Manning. Any honey with a TA of greater than 10+ may have beneficial antimicrobial properties, and these properties are more effective as the TA level increases. Note that the UMF value on Manuka honey is essentially the same as a TA value, but the antimicrobial activity is generated by different chemical processes.

Total Activity is the combination of Peroxide Activity (PA) and Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA). In Jarrah honey, nearly all of the Activity is PA, and results from a reaction between an enzyme placed in the honey by the bees called Glucose Oxidase and glucose. This reaction, which starts when the honey is diluted, results in the gradual production of a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide is a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent when operating in conjunction with honey’s other antiseptic properties, but is gentle on human tissue and the digestive system.

NPA results from any other chemicals in the honey that have an  antibacterial effect.  In Manuka honey, in which nearly all TA is NPA, the active chemical is Methylglyoxal (abbreviated to MGO). The MGO forms over time in the honey from the interaction of a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which originates from the nectar of the Manuka flower, and other naturally-occurring proteins and amino acids in the honey. MGO is cytotoxic (toxic to cells).

Manuka producers have adopted two methods to describe the activity of Manuka honey that have vastly different values for the same honey. The UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) is a trademarked term to describe the NPA, and typically ranges from 5+ to 20+. More recently, an MGO value, which is the assayed methylgloxal content in mg/kg, is being used by some producers. MGO values range from about 100 to 1,000. The table below shows approximate equivalent values.

UMF comparable to TA* Minimum MGO
20+ 829
15+ 550
10+ 263
5+ 100

*Please note that UMF in Manuka measures non peroxide activity- it has very little peroxide activity. TA measures measures total activity

All Fewster’s Farm Jarrah honey is tested for TA in the Eurofins laboratory located in Waikato University, New Zealand.

*Please consult your health care professional before using honey for medicinal purposes.