Research at Australia’s Sunshine Coast has found a local variety of the manuka or tea-tree bush may produce more potent medicinal honey than the species which grows in New Zealand.
The finding was revealed in a segment screened on the high-profile and popular ABC Gardening television show last month.
Titled Honey for Health, the segment featured the work of the university of the Sunshine Coast’s Simon Williams.
Williams is a chemist whose research involves collection and analysis of nectar samples from the 84 different species of leptospermum that are native to the Australian bush.
He has found that the leptospermum juniperinum variety, which grows wild close to the university campus, has very high levels of the chemical - dihydroxyacetone (DHA) naturally occurring in its nectar.
DHA turns into a substance called methylglyoxal (i.e. MGO) in manuka honey, and MGO is the main component of manuka honey’s anti-bacterial potency.
According to Williams this means honey made by bees foraging nectar from the leptospermum juniperinum bush could well be more potent than any NZ manuka honey.
Williams said that New Zealand has only a single variety of leptospermum bush – leptospermum scoparium – which also grows widely in Victoria and Tasmania.
But he said, to date, there has been little research identifying which of the many leptospermum varieties found in Australia are capable of producing the much sought after anti-bacterial manuka honey.
Williams research and his findings are noteworthy not just in a scientific sense, but also in the context of the ongoing battle over the marketing of manuka honey generally.
The battle has become increasingly bitter with the New Zealand government recently announcing a $NZ6million finance package to help the local industry with their efforts to get a Chinese trademark.
Highly dubious tactics are also being employed in the battle with New Zealand’s UMF Honey Association recently publishing a remarkable 2 page ‘fact sheet’ on manuka honey.
The document includes a number of remarkable allegations about Australian manuka honey, including a claim that “elevated levels of 2-methoxybenzoic acid [which] is universally found in Australia leptosperum honeys”
This acid is apparently a well-known bittering agent used in food manufacturing which explains why, allegedly, “the standard consumer response to consuming Australian leptospermum honey is one of distaste.”
All Australian honeys also contain some level of honey from eucalypts, according to the document, which “ïs readily detected by consumers through taste.”
Regrettably, the document provides no evidence, or references to evidence, scientific or otherwise, to back up these highly contestable assertions.
And the fact is that with demand for manuka honey still apparently growing strongly, Australian manuka honey producers have already indicated they will continue to oppose the NZ campaign.
Capilano, for example, released a media statement in response to the news that NZ taxpayers are contributing towards the costs of the Chinese trademark application.
It said the company was committed to committed to protecting Australia’s rights to market our Manuka honey in Australia, and the rest of the world.
Capilano’s statement can be found at
The UMF Honey Associations fact sheet can be downloaded from
The ABC’s Honey for Health segment from its Gardening Australia can be accessed at