TRADITIONAL IRISH heather honey has been found to possess similar antioxidant properties to New Zealand's much-vaunted Manuka honey.
The more expensive and sought-after of the two, Manuka honey has become an increasingly popular choice among health food fanatics thanks to its reported medicinal benefits.
It's all because of the honey's notably high Total Phenolic Content (TPC).
High TPC levels are commonly associated with high antibacterial, antidiabetic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Researchers from Dublin City University and Trinity College Dublin found Irish heather honey not only has the highest TPC of all Irish single-origin honey but also a level comparable to, if not better than, Manuka.
A total of 131 Irish honey samples were taken and compared with other varieties from around the world. 124 of the Irish samples were multi-floral honey.
Of the remainder, three were heather honey, two were ivy and a further two were oilseed rape.
Saorla Kavanagh, a Ph.D. student at the DCU School of Chemical Sciences, led the study, which was published in the academic journal Food Chemistry.
"My findings show that Irish honey has a high phenolic content," she said.
"Really interestingly, the research shows that the content in Irish heather honey is comparable to Manuka honey, and in some cases, Irish heather honey had a higher total phenolic content than Manuka honey."
The research also revealed urban multi-floral honey had a higher TPC rate than rural multi-floral honey.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Blánaid White, from DCU spoke of the potential for honey production in Ireland.
"Our Irish honey is a high-quality product and something that we should really value," Dr White said.
"Interest in beekeeping and honey production is growing in Ireland, and we are delighted to be able to support it."
The full study was published in Food Chemistry.