New Zealand may have retained the Bledisloe Cup after a record 18th straight win over Australia but it can no longer claim to produce the best manuka honey, according to a new study.
While honey has been used therapeutically for hundreds of years, the growing global crisis of antibiotic resistance has revived interest in its clinical use.
University of Technology Sydney researchers have found Australian manuka honey is as powerful against bacteria as the more commonly known NZ variety.
Study lead author Nural Cokcetin said this was ‘‘very exciting’’ and could be a game-changer for the more than 12000 local beekeepers because Australia had more than 80 types of the manuka tree growing across the country compared to NZ, which has only one species.
The researchers studied more than 80 honey samples from NSW and Queensland flowering manuka (Leptospermum) trees and found the nectar-derived chemical that gave NZ manuka honey its anti-bacterial properties was also present in Australian varieties.
The research, funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and published in journal PLOS ONE, also found the anti-bacterial properties of honey remained unchanged for several years when stored properly.
All honeys have different flavours and medicinal properties, depending on the flowers bees visit for nectar.
What makes manuka honey so special is the exceptionally high level of stable anti-bacterial activity, arising from a naturally occurring compound in the nectar of manuka flowers.
It’s this ingredient that acts against golden staph infections and other ‘superbugs’ resistant to current antibiotics.
NZ is the primary source of medicinal honey but the country grows only one Leptospermum species, and its honey bee population is threatened by the parasitic varroa mite.
Australia is home to 83 of the 87 known Leptospermum species and is free of the varroa mite.
‘‘Our study provides the proof for what we’ve long assumed — that this compound, methylglyoxal, is present in high levels in Australian manuka honeys,’’ Dr Cokcetin said.