Abu Dhabi -Researchers at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) in Al Ain have found that Manuka honey effectively inhibits the growth of cancerous tumours in the breast, skin and colon.
In a study carried out over five years, using animal skin tumour cells, the researchers administered manuka honey intravenously in conjunction with chemotherapy.
The results showed an improvement in the overall survival of the animal.
Honey has long been known for its medicinal properties, particularly as an anti-bacterial agent, to heal wounds and soothe many skin conditions.
"Manuka honey has been recognised for its anti-bacterial and wound-healing properties for many years. However, the potential effect of manuka on cancer cells has not been investigated in detail," said Basel Al Ramadi, professor and chairman of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the UAEU.
Al Ramadi said the team used three different cancer cells -- breast, skin and colon. The study demonstrated that the addition of small amounts of manuka honey, as little as one percent can stop the growth of cancer cells by up to 70 percent.
The researchers then carried out a series of experiments to uncover the molecular basis of manuka's anti-cancer activity.
"Our findings provided conclusive evidence that manuka acts directly by inducing apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells," said Al Ramadi.
Apoptosis is a physiological process that all multicellular organisms use to balance their need for new cell generation with the elimination of old unwanted ones.
This process is tightly regulated so that, in adult tissues, cell death exactly balances cell division.
The research also highlighted honey's potential property of reducing toxic side effects associated with chemotherapy treatment.
Manuka honey is produced by honeybees that feed on the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium), which grows indigenously throughout large parts of New Zealand and Australia.