Manuka honey's medicinal properties stole the show at the first Manuka Honey Seminar held in Masterton.
While growing manuka on marginal land was the main theme, most speakers expounded on medicinal properties and the demand for the limited supply of manuka honey.
Waikato University's Professor Peter Molan brought along a graphic slide show depicting wounds that had been healed by the application of manuka honey-infused dressings.
Prof Molan said that historically, honey had been used for infected wounds and other problems like sores, throat and eye infections. It took a back seat when penicillin was developed, but this was now changing.
"We're at the stage now that an antibiotic that is prescribed has a 50 per cent chance of working or not working. It's getting worse."
Honey, particularly manuka honey, was being rediscovered as the "antibiotic era" was ending, Prof Molan said. In New Zealand, manuka honey had a reputation for being antiseptic as well as antibacterial.
"With all honeys, the bees add an enzyme which converts the glucose in the honey to hydrogen peroxide - that's a long-used antiseptic. I wondered if manuka honey had something extra."
During his research into a variety of honeys, he added an enzyme that destroyed hydrogen peroxide. "All the other honeys lost their activity, but the manuka honey kept its activity."
Other tests involved finding the minimum concentration of honey needed to stop bacteria growing.
He discovered that honey was "at least 10 times more potent than it needs to be to completely stop the growth of bacteria notoriously resistant to antibiotics".
Manuke honey products have been registered in North America, Europe and other countries, with interest growing elsewhere. Other research at Otago University Dental School showed "statistically significant results" in the treatment of infected and sore gums, Prof Molan said.
Manuka honey was also being used to treat stomach ulcers or as an aerosol for the treatment of sinus and lung infections. Veterinary science was also looking at it for treating animals.
However, while more uses were being found for manuka honey, the amount produced by New Zealand remained the same, which was why more land was needed to grow manuka, he said.
Prof Molan was one of 11 speakers at the seminar, including Scion assistant research leader Dr Simeon Smaill, who talked about improving yield through plant nursery management and stock selection relevant to marginal areas to be planted with manuka.
Kaiaka Consulting's Victor Goldsmith said manuka honey was the most expensive honey in the world, with people paying premium prices and wanting more of it. He did not want to see pressure on the resource nor on landowners, especially Maori who were keen to grow manuka to create jobs.
- The Southland Times