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The Canadian Therapeutic Honey Project

posted Jan 27, 2016, 7:54 PM by Margarita Spirichin   [ updated Jan 27, 2016, 7:54 PM ]

Brock University’s Department of Biological Sciences undertakes a large amount of research into biotechnology, biochemistry and the biomedical sciences. The research interests of Katrina Brudzynski have focused on the potential uses of honey and other naturally occurring beehive substances. The Canadian Therapeutic Honey Project was one of several ongoing, multi-disciplinary research projects undertaken by the Department of Biological Sciences in the interests of biotechnology and agronomics.

The Canadian Therapeutic Honey Project was undertaken by Katrina Brudzynski at Brock University as part of her research into pharmacologically active molecules naturally occurring in beehive substances. The project looked into the potential value added aspects of implementing honey for pharmacological uses. Following the success of Manuka Honey in New Zealand as a pharmacological agent, the project specifically focused on the anti-bacterial molecules present in Canadian honey. As well, antioxidant compound presence and how those compounds may be implemented in therapeutic treatment were examined during the project.

The project sought to identify the specific pollen source plants which yielded the highest rate of anti-bacterial compounds in the honey. 178 honey samples were taken from across Canada and examined to identify both the compounds present in the honey and relate that to their pollen sources. The findings of these inquiries noted a significant difference between samples as they related to regions and pollen sources. Specifically the honey sourced from the pollen of clover (Trifolium sp.), buckwheat (Fagopryum esculentum), and Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.). Plants were identified and categorized based on the highest occurrences of anti-bacterial compounds present in the sample honey. Following this baseline inquiry a number of peer-reviewed publications were released in an attempt to check and complement data sets across the fields of biological interest.

The findings of the baseline study were used to compile the second phase of the project, which worked closely with the University of Western Ontario’s Clinical Microbiology Lab in testing the anti-bacterial compounds in a clinical setting. Patients were chosen who were exhibiting a resistance to conventional anti-bacterial treatments and were administered controlled doses of the different anti-bacterial honeys. The findings of the clinical inquiry were very encouraging. Honey samples taken from six different varieties of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) coming from different geographical regions in Canada and two varieties of clover (Trifolium sp.) were found to treat the bacterial infection more efficiently than the conventional treatment using penicillin and tetracycline. Indeed, the buckwheat was found to produce results similar to those seen in the Manuka Honey.

With the resounding success of the field examinations and clinical trials of the domestically produced therapeutic honey, the project began seeking out ways of producing and regulating the honey as a therapeutic agent. In particular a project scale industrial test was needed in order to fully understand the industrial implications of refining and producing the honey. The project began simultaneously seeking out a pharmaceutical company to work with on these production and regulation issues.

The project connected Professor Brudzynski with industry members, including a company located in British Columbia. Unfortunately the processing aspect of the project was not taken up by the company in spite of the clinical success in the honey production process. There was also a pharmaceutical company from the United States that had also approached Professor Brudzynski regarding the potential industrialization of her findings. However, ultimately the company opted to work with Manuka Honey due to its more advanced stage of production and industrial implication testing.

The project was completed in March of 2009 and has led to several new projects relating to the findings. Particularly, there is continued interest into determining the shelf-life of the honey as a therapeutic agent. As well, there is ongoing research into the antioxidant properties contained in sample honeys as they relate to the various pollen sources.

The project has been widely felt to have been very successful in its findings on both the sources of the honey and its usefulness as an antibiotic agent. There have been wide ranging implications for the project in the beekeeping and honey producing industry in Ontario and Canada. The project has had a firm partner in the beekeepers of Ontario; who delivered samples for the project free of charge and were very helpful throughout the project. Other partner organizations and stakeholders in the project of note were the University of Western Ontario’s Clinical Microbiology Lab, Ontario Beekeepers Association, Canadian Honey Council, and various Canadian bee research organizations.

The Role of the Agricultural Adaptation Council:

Brock University applied for funding to the AAC shortly after the project’s inception on the recommendation of the Ontario Beekeepers Association (OBA). Professor Brudzynski had been in contact with several beekeeping groups through visiting the OBA’s annual meetings. At the time of application the project had completed the initial investigations into potential antibacterial compounds and had identified the specific compounds within the honey as they related to the specific pollen sources. The early stages of the project were funded primarily by Health Canada and resulted in the publication of a major paper in 2006. The project was approved for funding by the AAC in August of 2007.

The AAC had a substantial impact on the project’s outcomes. Professor Brudzynski has indicated that she believes the project would not have gone ahead without the assistance of the AAC.

This project was funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Adaptation Programming and administered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

For more information contact:
Nadine Armstrong
Communications Manager
Agricultural Adaptation Council
Ontario AgriCentre, Suite 103, 100 Stone Road West
Guelph, ON N1G 5L3
P: 519-822-7554 F: 519-822-6248