Take note, Mary Poppins: let’s try a spoonful of honey, not sugar. Recent Australian research by the national body Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) was released last month, revealing a new benefit to local honey that’s good news for IBS sufferers.
From localized honey working wonders for hay fever to Cleopatra reportedly bathing with milk and honey as a beauty secret, honey has always been versatile for health.
More than just a sweet satisfaction for the sweet tooth, honey has many medicinal benefits as well, with some claiming its health benefit from everything for burns treatment to athletes’ foot. Unlike refined sugar, which goes through the process of depleting the cane sugar plant of most of its nutrients, honey is a natural sweetener with no need for any numbers or preservatives to extend shelf life. In fact, this liquid gold was considered so precious to ancient cultures that pots of honey were discovered in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs; thousands of years old, yet still preserved.
We are still learning about this intriguing and immune boasting sweet treat with the recent study discovering the presence of probiotics in natural Australian honey. Probiotics are an important factor in restoring gut health and flora. Yet, before there were ever supermarkets selling us tiny bottles guaranteeing billions of ‘good bacteria’, there was wisdom from ages gone past. Simple, wonderful, passed on wisdom that didn’t necessarily need to come from a factory bottle. Kefir, natural yoghurt, sauerkraut and miso are all fermented ‘living’ foods which contain the benefit of prebiotics.
Now, Australian honey can feature on that list too. Particularly, it’s Australian eucalyptus honey, with the study including natural honey that came from the Jarrah, Red Stringybark, Spotted Gum and Yellow Box eucalypt tree species.
“Australian eucalypt honeys have prebiotic qualities at levels that could help improve gut health,” tells Dr. David Dall from the RIRDC. This is through the prebiotic nature of these kinds of honeys, which stimulates growth of “good” gut bacteria and helps reduce overgrowth of unwanted gut bacteria caused by antibiotics.
“Prebiotic foods are not digested by human enzymes, but reach the large intestine intact and act as a food source for beneficial bacteria including bifidobacteria and lactobacilli,” tells Dr. Dall. For those with medical conditions, this honey could be a welcome sign.
“There is increasing evidence that the gut microbiota is intrinsically linked to our metabolic health and a number of gastrointestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity have been linked with a degradation of beneficial gut microbiota,” says Dr. Dall.
With these findings, the RIRDC is excited at the new opportunity for the Australian honey industry to “better compete with other natural and artificial sweeteners for dietary use”, as well as establish Australian eucalypt honeys on the crowded honey market for a piece of the pie currently taken by international competitors. Currently, the Australian honey industry is worth an estimated $92 million dollars but with these new findings, it may significantly increase.