Frequently asked Total Activity Questions
Total Activity (TA) is like bacterial and fungal killing scale, the bigger the value, the more bacteria (and fungus) the honey can potentially kill. Values above TA10 deliver beneficial properties, while values of, or above TA30+ are exceptional and have great health benefits.
TA is the sum of two types of antibacterial power in Honey: Peroxide Activity (PA) and Non Peroxide Activity (NPA). .
TA =PA + NPA
What is PA and NPA you ask…
-Peroxide Activity (PA) is the natural antimicrobial and antifungal power that bees have developed over millions of years of evolution to protect their honey in the beehive. The Activity is produced from a bee enzyme (Glucose Oxidase) that forms hydrogen peroxide in honey when the honey contains free water.
-Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA) includes all of the antimicrobial power in honey that is derived from chemicals in the nectar that bees collect from flowers. Trees produce many chemicals to protect themselves from bacterial infection and other purposes, and some of these chemicals can be present in the nectar. When the bees convert the nectar to honey, the chemicals become much more concentrated and Active. PA is activated as the nectar ripens to honey and stops when the honey has formed. But it starts again if the honey is diluted with water.
YES! When we eat the honey, or apply it to a wound on our skin, the honey absorbs water and the PA reaction starts again. It results in a gradual production of a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide, a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent, which becomes more powerful when operating in conjunction with honey’s other antiseptic properties. However, it is gentle on human tissue and the digestive system, so it can be used as an antiseptic drink (diluted or raw), and topically (but always consult your GP before using to treat large wounds).
PA is measured by Well Diffusion Phenol Equivalent test and is non-toxic and has no adverse effect on the taste of the honey.
The most powerful chemical is Methylglyoxal (MGO). A few members of the Leptospermum family (also called Manuka or Tea Tree) have high concentrations of the chemical dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which converts to MGO. The MGO forms over time in the honey from the interaction of DHA, which originates from the nectar of the Manuka flower, and other proteins and amino acids in the honey. MGO has a bitter taste, and is cytotoxic (toxic to cells), but is a very powerful antiseptic.
Manuka producers use three methods to describe the Activity of the honey: UMF, NPA and MGO.
UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) is a trademarked term to describe the NPA, and typically ranges from 5+ to 24. These values are determined by the Well Diffusion Phenol Equivalent test.
The Activity in Manuka honey is mostly NPA (PA is near zero), so the UMF/NPA value is equivalent to the TA value for Eucalyptus honeys such as Jarrah, Marri and Karri.
Therefore, in Manuka honey UMF or NPA = TA in Jarrah, Marri and Karri honey .
If Manuka honey has a MGO value on the label, this is the assayed Methylglyoxal concentration in mg/kg, and values typically range from 100 to 1,000.
The PA and NPA (UMF) of honey are determined by an analytical test called Well Diffusion Phenol Equivalent (2). In this test, a sample of honey diluted with water (a ratio of 1:1 to 1:3) is placed in a hole (well) cut into a thin layer of Agar hosting a common bacteria (eg, Staphylococcus aureus). The diluted honey slowly diffuses out into the agar and inhibits the growth of the bacteria. The width of the inhibitory zone after 24 hours is compared with the zone width produced by Phenol (a strong organic antiseptic and disinfectant). Honey with TA 10 has 10% of the Phenol power.
The adoptions by Manuka producers of two methods to describe the Activity of Manuka honey that have vastly different values for the same honey can be confusing. The table below shows approximate equivalent values of UMF and MGO.