Powdered manuka honey could boost earnings

A Te Awamutu company, Manuka Health NZ Ltd, says it has found a way to boost tenfold the potential earnings from each kilogram of biologically active manuka honey, which is already a $100 million export industry.

The company said today that its next generation of manuka honey products would use patented technology to deliver the active ingredient in forms such as powders in capsules, more like pharmaceutical products than jars of honey.

The products will use cyclodextrins -- compounds made up of sugar molecules bound together in a ring -- to enhance solubility, stabilise, control release rate, and increase bio-availability and absorption, said Manuka Health chief executive Kerry Paul.

The initial product range will include throat lozenges with an active ingredient from the honey, methylglyoxal, and would be encapsulated within cyclodextrins as a powder, Mr Paul told the annual NZBIO biotechnology conference.

A wide range of applications such as eye drops, nasal sprays, topical creams and oral capsules would become practical without the disadvantages of delivering the active ingredient in honey - such as acidity, taste and odour,

"CycloPower moves us a long way from a pot of honey," he said, "improving bioactivity, easy of use and convenience, and with a presentation consistent with medical applications".

"From a commercial perspective it increases the multiples earned per kilogram of honey by around 10 times.

"It opens up new frontiers, mid-way between natural health and pharmaceutical products."

Mr Paul said Manuka Health was collaborating with international cyclodextrin expert Professor Keiji Terao, of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, a director of the International Cyclodextrin Society.

Prof Terao, two Japanese colleagues, and Manuka Health filed an application with the World Intellectual Property Organisation in April to register a way of mixing methylglyoxal or products containing it -- such as biologically active manuka honey -- with cyclodextin. The mixes maintained the anti-bacterial activity seen in the honey, according to the inventors, who were listed as Prof Terao, Kyako Jo, and Daisuke Nakata, all of Japan.

The powdered compounds could be used in foods, drinks, dietary supplements and other nutritional products, or even medicines, in addition to disinfectants, surgical wipes, bandages, dressings, and cleaning solutions.

Manuka Health research manager Dr Lynne Chepulis told the conference that antibacterial studies being carried out by Auckland University using reference strains of common bacteria had found significant differences in growth, with the honey-cyclodextrin powder showed significantly higher rates of bacterial inhibition raw manuka honey.

Further studies were planned using different bacteria, including those responsible for sore throats, stomach ulcers, pneumonia and respiratory diseases.

Dr Chepulis said cyclodextrin compounds were used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, such as beauty creams with encapsulated Vitamin C, and in an dietary supplement coenzyme Q10.

Oral delivery of manuka honey's active ingredient methyglyoxal made it possible to standardise the product delivery methods that meant lozenges with small amounts of methylglyoxal could replace the big doses of honey necessary to counter dilution in the gut.

The honey compounds could also be stabilised to provide a slower rate of methylglyoxal release in the lower gut, allowing it to work for longer.