Lately there has been an increasing interest in the role of honey in the Traditional Mediterranean Diet, as well as in its use for medical purposes as a treatment for bacterial infections. During the last 5 years, the University of Athens co-operates with the University of Ioannina in researches on the bee products.
The first experiments started with honey varieties from 30 different regions in Greece.
In order to define the natural origin of the samples, pollen tests were conducted. These tests showed the existence of very interesting polyphenol substances, capable to define the geographical origin of the samples.
Special emphasis was given to the studies of samples of the Greek Thyme Honey. Namely, 10 samples of thyme honey, from 8 regions all over Greece, indicated a chemical profile that was distinguished by the existence of one special chemical substance, which was isolated and identified via spectroscopic methods. This substance appeared in the samples with the highest concentrations of the Thymus sp. pollen and that, according to the studies, could be used as a safe indication of the natural origin of Greek thyme honey with high thyme concentration. It was also revealed that there is a distinct aroma profile among the Greek thyme honey, an essence of uncommon chemical features.
In relation with the biological activities, some experiments were conducted as opposed to certain bacterial protypes (staphylococcus, coliforms, klepsiela, pseudomona) and 3 of the human pathogenic funghi of the Candida genre. The results were very interesting, since the activity appeared to be almost equivalent to that of the antibiotics that were used as testimonials. All the varieties of honey presented reactions, with most prominent those of the thyme samples (Crete, Kythira, Rhodes, Kea, Mani, Koufonissia, etc). Moreover, the clean isolated chemical substances presented very powerful reactions. All the honey samples were also tested for their capacity to protect the inner cell DNA from induced H2O2 oxidate damages. The results proved that the Fir Honey from Vytina, the Fir Honey from Karpenissi, the Pine Honey from Evia and the Orange honey from Laconia presented and admirably high protective action towards the cell DNA, therefore they have a very good anti-oxidant action.
In the second part of the scientific research, the procedure included isolation, structure definition and biological tests of the natural constituents of the Greek propolis. A sample of Greek propolis (from Preveza) was distilled with a series of organic solvents and 27 chemical constituents were isolated. This is the first time that were isolated diterpenes from propolis of European origin, while 6 of the well-known products that were isolated had never been described before as propolis constituents. Analysis of the ptetic chemical constituents components have also been conducted with samples from 5 different regions of Greece (Preveza, Crete, Attica, Andros, Chalkidiki).
All the studied samples of propolis as well as the isolated constituents were tested in the first place for their biological activitities and they actually presented a high antiviral capacity. The biological test was also conducted against the animal-pathogenic bacteria Listeria monocytogenes which is blamed for food poisoning. The results of those tests showed an interesting and very promising antiviral capacity, too. It is worth noticing the action of propolis in the mouth bacteria, which explains its use in all kinds of oral protection preparations, as well as its action against Listeria which could add the use of propolis as a food conservative among its other uses.
The anti-oxidant properties of propolis were also tested and the results showed that they really exist with certain variables. Finally, it was observed that many of the propolis constituents show cytoxicity against cancerous cells while they are harmless for the healthy ones. As a final result of the research conducted so far, it seems that Greek propolis due to the rich Greek Flora seems to conquer a prominent position internationally, as far as its chemical substances are concerned.
While studying the Royal Jelly in Greece for the first time, its constituents were isolated and identified as the actual constituents of Royal Jelly internationally. The biological activities collected, are, even now, very interesting and encouraging (powerfully antiviral, anti-diabetic, estrogenic and tonic to the immune system.
The publications and announcements of all the results to this day in Greek and International Conventions seal the scientific value of these results. A further aim for us is to spread the word about the Greek bee products in the Greek as well as the international markets.
Galaris 2, Paraskevi Moutsatsou3
National University of Athens, Department of Pharmacy, Pharmacognosy-Chemistry of Natural Products
2 Biochemistry Lab, Medicine School, University of Ioannina
3 Biochemistry Lab, Medicine School, University of Athens