Our natural honey products could be used against the bane of teenagers everywhere - acne - in major findings which open up a market potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to New Zealand.
In new research being presented to a dermatology conference today, a kanuka honey formulation has been independently proven to help treat the skin condition, which affects most adolescents in the western world.
The study, carried out by the independent Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ), assessed the effectiveness of the product Honevo in addition to using Protex, an anti-bacterial soap widely used for acne.
Over 12 weeks, the 135 teenage participants all washed with Protex twice a day, while half of the sample also applied Honevo twice daily and then washed it off.
The teens reported improvements in their acne after two weeks' treatment with Honevo, with further improvements over the following weeks.
The study investigators also found that twice as many of the participants had an improvement in their acne after using Honevo compared with those who did not use the product.
Dr Shaun Holt, science director of pharmaceutical company HoneyLab, which markets Honevo and commissioned the study, said he wasn't surprised by the results.
"Acne is caused by bacteria and we know that kanuka honey is antibacterial - honey also reduces inflammation and heals wounds, and every acne spot is a small wound."
Rather than using antibacterial soap alone, he believed Honevo was a useful product for acne sufferers.
"Prescription medications can have severe side effects, and some non-prescription bleach-like products damage the skin to such an extent that those companies then sell additional products to try to heal that damage," said Dr Holt, who is presenting the findings to the New Zealand Dermatological Society's meeting in Auckland this morning.
"Honevo, on the other hand, is natural and good for the skin."
As between 80 and 90 per cent of teenagers and many older people were affected by acne, Dr Holt believed the market potential could be "huge" and worth tens of millions of dollars to the company. Worldwide, the acne treatment market had a value of more than NZ$10 billion.
The results follow findings, published in the British Medical Journal, that Honevo offered a promising treatment for rosacea, a common and chronic skin condition.
Another study, also being run by MRINZ, was pitting Honevo against the antiviral drug acyclovir, which is used in the common ointment brand Zovirax, for cold sore treatment.