Different botanical sources of honey

In previous articles, we’ve introduced the topic of how different plants can be used in honey production, and that honey produced from differing plants will have differing nutritional compositions, potentially providing us with different tastes, health or medicinal benefits. Table 1 below display a small selection of some of the more popular plants used for honey making in Australia.

Table 1: List of Popular Plants Used for Honey-Making in Australia
Type of Honey Plant Source Common Plants Used in Australia
Eucalypt Nectar exclusively from Eucalyptus plants Box Eucalypt, Stringybark Eucalypt, Red Gums, Jarrah
Lavender Nectar exclusively from Lavender plants English/French Lavender
Manuka Nectar excusively from Leptospermum Manuka Tea Trees

So, how do these different honey products differ nutritionally?

Eucalyptus honey is among the most commonly observed honey product in Australia. This can be credited to the very large variety and number of Eucalyptus plants within the Australian ecosystem, and the fact that bees are partial to using their nectar for creating honey. In a natural setting, the stingless bee is often the key insect involved in creating Eucalyptus honey, though commercial entities tend to use the Western Honeybee in their operations. As with other honey varieties, Eucalyptus honey is quite a fascinating composition that features:

  • Antioxidants and other beneficial molecules, such as “monoterpenes” (Machado et al., 2020)
  • Volatile (or “odor-emitting”) molecules that are characteristic of the Eucalypt fragrance (Machado et al., 2020)
  • Antibiotic properties (Irish et al., 2011).

More information on the medicinal potential of Eucalyptus honey can be seen here.

Lavender honey is another honey product sold in Australia, with English & French lavender varieties being used as nectar sources for bees. Lavender is less commonly produced within Australia, due to the lack of “wild” lavender plants in Australia (as compared to plants such as in the Eucalyptus family). However, it does have some very interesting nutritional properties, including:

  • Volatile compounds such as coumarin, which promotes a vanilla scent (Machado et al., 2020)
  • Antioxidants (Irish et al., 2011).

More information on the medicinal potential of Lavender honey can be seen here.

Manuka honey is a well-known product sold in Australia, often as a medicinal or therapeutic supplemental product. Manuka honey is often created following bee interaction with Leptospermium (Tea Trees), such as the Manuka Tea Tree and the Jarrah. Given the large variety of Tea Trees observed in Australia, Manuka Honey tends to be variable in its composition; however, often displayed in Manuka Honey are compounds such as:

  • Many important and different classes of antioxidant molecules, including caffeic acid (Alvarez-Suarez et al., 2014)
  • Potentially therapeutic molecules such as leptosin, which may be involved in how the body deals with bacterial disease (Alvarez-Suarez et al., 2014)
  • Other molecules that display antibiotic activity (Irish et al., 2011).

More information on the medicinal potential of Manuka honey can be seen here.

  • Irish J, Blair S, Carter DA. The antibacterial activity of honey derived from Australian flora. PLoS One. 2011 Mar 28;6(3):e18229. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018229. PMID: 21464891; PMCID: PMC3065476.
  • Machado AM, Miguel MG, Vilas-Boas M, Figueiredo AC. Honey Volatiles as a Fingerprint for Botanical Origin-A Review on their Occurrence on Monofloral Honeys. Molecules. 2020 Jan 16;25(2):374. doi: 10.3390/molecules25020374. PMID: 31963290; PMCID: PMC7024207.
  • Alvarez-Suarez JM, Gasparrini M, Forbes-Hernández TY, Mazzoni L, Giampieri F. The Composition and Biological Activity of Honey: A Focus on Manuka Honey. Foods. 2014 Jul 21;3(3):420-432. doi: 10.3390/foods3030420. PMID: 28234328; PMCID: PMC5302252.

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