Researchers say it has as many disease–fighting compounds as New Zealand’s famous manuka honey

New research has found that Irish heather honey is choc-full of health benefits.

A study, published in the journal, Food Chemistry, found that the honey has as many disease–fighting compounds as New Zealand’s famous manuka honey.

Researchers from Dublin City University DCU and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) found that Irish heather honey has a similar level of antioxidants, known as phenolic compounds as manuka – at a snip of the price.

The study also found that multi-floral honeys produced by urban bees contained more of the compounds than their rural counterparts.

The research was led by PhD student Saorla Kavanagh and supervised by Dr Blánaid White from DCU and Professor Jane Stout from Trinity.

Antioxidants

“We found that the level of phenolic compounds – which are anti-oxidants that are associated with the health benefits in lots of fruits – were at high levels across all the Irish honeys that we sampled," said Dr White.

“They were particularly high in Irish heather honeys.

“The levels in the Irish heather honeys were comparable to the levels in the manuka honeys that we sampled as well.”

She said the findings are "very exciting" for Irish producers.

“Our research shows that Irish honey is a high-quality product and something that we should really value," she said.

“Interest in beekeeping and honey production is growing in Ireland, and we are delighted to be able to support it.”

Heather honey

Honey samples for the study were donated by beekeepers around the country, with heather, ivy, oilseed rape and multi-floral honeys all included.

Researchers compared the physical and chemical properties of the Irish honeys with international brands.

The study examined 131 honey samples were collected from Irish beekeepers in 78 locations across the country.

Honeys with a darker colour were found to generally have a higher total-phenolic content (TPC) than other honeys.

While urban honeys were found to contain more antioxidants than rural honeys, it was Irish heather honey that was found to have the highest – putting it ahead of manuka honey.

Honey is known to provide many overall health benefits due to its antioxidant, antibacterial, antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.