The medicinal benefits of honey

The medicinal benefits of honey

10 ways honey works medically

Here's a fun fact I have just read: That the root of the word medicine is medu which also means mead, that lovely honey drink. Not sure quite how true that is, I can't follow the links far enough back on the interwebs, but wouldn't that be a cool connection?

Because, the thing is, honey is an amazing medicine, and has been for millennia. Manuka honey is particularly special, but manuka honey has only been around for a century and a half. Other honey has lots of medicinal benefits too.

How do bees make honey?

How do bees make honey?

How do the bees turn nectar into honey?

Honey has some amazing health and keeping qualities that have been specifically created by the bees. So how do they do it?

In a nutshell (well, in a honey comb), they collect nectar, add enzymes which change it chemically, and remove excess water, then store it in honey comb. That sounds easy, right?

Let's look at the steps that happen on the way to the finished product:

What is medical grade manuka honey?

How do you grade honey?

After quite a deep search on the interwebs, I would have to say, the answer is not readily forthcoming.

There seems to be several factors that are measured with manuka honey:

1. MGO

MGO is methyl glyoxal, which is a long lasting antibacterial enzyme, that's not known to occur in any other honey in the world.

All honeys contain hydrogen peroxide, which gives them antibiotic properties, but MGO gives manuka honey antibacterial properties as well.

What's the difference in antibacterial and antibiotic? Google reveals this"
"Antibiotics are a broader range of antimicrobial compounds which can act on fungi, bacteria, and other compounds. Although antibacterials come under antibiotics, antibacterials can kill only bacteria."

2. UMF

UMF is Unique Manuka Factor. Overseen by the UMF Honey Association UMF factor is a measure of leptosperin, DHA and MGO.

3. DHA

(don't you love all these 3 letter words?)
DHA is dihydroxyacetone. Which is present in the nectar of manuka flowers. Manuka honey starts out with high DHA and low MGO. Over time DHA in the honey interacts with various naturally-occurring proteins and amino acids and creates MGO. So manuka honey matures, and reaches peak maturity at about 18 months age.

4. Molan Gold Standard

Named after the pioneer of manuka honey research, Professor Peter Molan MBE, this internationally recognized standard certifies authentic manuka honey. Check out

5. Medical grade manuka honey

Medical grade manuka honey is used topically to treat wounds and ulcers, in medical situations.
To be medical grade honey, it seems (although I can't find the 'bible' on this, and I have looked heartily) it needs to be (I think) UMF 9.5+, microbe level < 500 somethings, and moisture < 20. Plus a range of tests for contaminants - these need to be below the relevant thresholds, so hygiene and straining for impurities and such comes into play. Might be other things as well.

Why the confusion?

Well, it turns out that honey is just honey, and has been for millennia. It's only now that scientists are thinking about quantifying and measuring these things. MPI, our government department that likes to control these things, has only just established an interim guide for labeling manuka honey, in 2014 (yesterday, right?). And they are involved in a study of how to define monofloral manuka honey, due to be released late 2016. So it is all new new science. Check them out here MPI.

How to learn stuff

We're going to the Apiculture NZ annual conference this weekend. And it looks like the speaker programme is heavily loaded with some of the scientists involved in all this research. Which I am tremendously looking forward to. Isn't it so great to be at the beginning of interesting science? 

Honey is, of course, still honey. And the old timers know how great it is, and have been self treating with all sorts of bee products all this time. It's just the rest of us that need to catch up.

New Season Honey

Here it is! One of our first off the production line - a lovely pot of new honey. Most of our honey goes off to the wholesaler for sale by others. But we've kept some back to put in these lovely pots as part payment to our excellent farm hosts. So the crew have their work cut out to produce a few hundred of these. 

I wrote a couple of blog posts ago about my brother's honey, and the rata v kamahi, which got me to do you tell? I think it must be one of those things like wine tasting or cheese experts, an acquired taste developed over decades, which would apply for my brother. But not me, so I can't tell what is in this honey, but anyone who receives one, feedback welcome!

It needs fresh homemade sourdough bread to go with it of course, see

this blog post

 or you could use it to sweeten sugar free muesli,

see this blog post

Ancient Roman Honey Cake Recipe

This gluten free organic honey cake recipe comes from my friend Judith in America (thanks Judith :-)). Looks super easy, and as soon as I get honey from my hive I'll give it a whirl.

Ancient Roman Honey cake   (Sacred Sciences recipe)

"Honey was thought to be magical in the world of the ancient Romans. Aside from its value as a beloved sweet treat in its honey comb form and as a sweetener in cooking, honey was also used to dress wounds and to lift the spirit. The Romans made a wine called Mulsum from honey which they believed was good for digestion and promoted long life.

Many Romans made replica statues and funerary masks using bees wax which were believed to protect them. According to the legendary Roman poet, Ovid, these statues also functioned similarly to voodoo dolls in that harming the figurine could also inflict harm on the human it represented." (Sacred Sciences)

1 1/2 cups organic spelt flour
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup wild local honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup goat’s milk
1 egg

• Preheat oven to 180 C
• Beat all liquid ingredients together in a small bowl.
• Mix all dry ingredients separately in medium mixing bowl.
• Add liquid ingredients gradually to dry ingredients and beat well.
• Bake for 35-40 minutes in greased round cake pan.
• Serve with a drizzle of honey, a dollop of whipped cream or yogurt
and some fresh berries.

The meaning of Honeymoon

The term Honeymoon came from the old custom of giving newlyweds mead (an alcoholic drink made from fermented honey) for the first 30 days of their marriage (a 'moon').


Te Ara Encyclopedia

And if you think that this might be a feature, here is a company that makes mead, and that does courses for how to make it too.

Haewai Meadery.

 Their next course is 20 January in Wellington, NZ.