If you have ever wondered why Manuka honey costs upwards of £30 for a small jar it is because it has unique antibacterial properties. This ability to fight pathogens is becoming increasingly important as microbes gain resistance to manufactured antibiotics and Manuka is widely used in the health care industries. Ordinary, unheated honey has long been used as a wound dressing due to it’s mildly antibacterial properties and it’s ability to stimulate healing. However Manuka honey, principally from New Zealand and made by bees feeding of the Manuka bush, and Tualang honey, a Malaysian multifloral jungle honey made by bees nesting in Tualang trees, have been found to have particularly strong medicinal properties. Both contain high levels of anticeptic phenols.
Now scientists at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, have found that honey produced by bees in certain Scottish coastal regions has similar antibacterial properties. The honey has been named Portobello honey after a small sea-side town a few miles out from Edinburgh.
Although Manuka honey had 10 times more polyphenols than Portobello honey, it was found that both honeys were equally as effective at killing three penicillin resistant bacteria. Dr Lorna Fyfe, Head of Microbiology and Immunology at Queen Mary’s is leading the research to identify the active components. It is believed that the antibacterial qualities are derived from chemicals manufactured by the plants on which the bees feed, in order to create their own bacterial resistance. Dr Fyfe believes that the most active honeys come from robust plants living on poor soils in tough environments. Blossom honeys are a lot less medically active than heather honeys. Tests will now be made on the honey’s effectiveness against super bugs and those that cause food poisoning.