New Zealand kanuka honey has double the levels of bug-killing manuka factor according to work recently published by Crown Research Institute Industrial Research Limited.
Medical researcher Professor Shaun Holt said that the results were an exciting development in his work to make pharmaceutical products from New Zealand honey. “Recently published research has shown two things. Firstly, manuka factor is important and will approximately double the anti-microbial effects of honey. And secondly, kanuka honey contains around double the amount of the main compound that comprises the manuka factor than most of the potent manuka honeys available” he said.
Scientists were surprised to find that honey made from kanuka, the lesser known cousin of manuka, contained such a high level of manuka factor. Professor Holt suggests “that with the ongoing success of manuka honey, few people were interested in whether there might be even better honeys out there”.
“We have launched what we believe is by far the biggest programme of clinical trials on the medical uses of honey in the world, initially looking at eight conditions. Each one is a promising potential pharmaceutical in a billion dollar market. Everyone knows about the problems with antibiotic resistance, the World Health Organization say that it is one of the planet’s biggest health risks, and for skin conditions the evidence suggests that honey may well be an answer.”
Professor Holt said that his focus was on research for skin conditions and that, although most people had spoonfulls of manuka honey for health reasons, there was no good evidence at all that eating honey was good for health, but there was strong evidence that it was effective when applied to the skin. He also said that the industry in New Zealand spent a fortune on advertising, and some money on laboratory work, but no-one else was focused on proving how honey can be used medically in clinical trials in people.
He has ambitious plans to create the next GlaxoSmithKline in HoneyLab, a company he has co-founded to develop pharmaceutical medicines based on kanuka honey. He said that whilst other companies looked at levels of chemicals in honey, his work was focused on whether pharmaceutical honey actually helped people with medical conditions, and the early results were that it is very effective.