The Solution For A Post-Antibiotic Future: Mead? – The Vikings Used It


We’ve known for awhile now that the fate of humans and bees are intertwined; bees pollinate much of our food crop, 71 of 100 crops responsible for 90% of all food including apples and berries. Colony Collapse Disorder has decimated much of the bee population, endangering our food supply. However, CCD poses a threat to another important commodity: our mead.

Mead is an alcoholic drink derived from fermented honey,  once hailed by the vikings as the drink of gods because it was their first line of defense against the invisible specter of disease that befell even the mightiest of warriors.

New research suggests that the legendary qualities of mead are based on more than tall tales- an important finding, as antibiotics run out of juice. Other prior studies have shown that honey, particularly manuka honey, could have antibiotic compounds within. It is unknown if these findings correlate.

Tobias Olofsson, a microbiologist at Lund University in Sweden spoke with Gizmodo: “A few hundred years ago, people only lived to be 30 or 40 years old. If you had something to prevent infections, you could live much longer.”

According to him fermented honey is just the ticket that our predecessors were looking for.

His research seems to show that the bacteria found in honey is able to stave off the most resilient of diseases- over a decade of research into Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) that reside within the honeybee has shown that they excrete antimicrobial chemicals.

He published a 2014 study which showed that honey infused with 13 tyes of LABs could heal antibiotic-resistant injuries in horses. Even the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection ( an infection that has proven to be particularly resistant to antibiotics) has proven to be no match for the LAB cocktail.

“It was really amazing to discover these bacteria,” Olofsson said. “Each one carries special weapons, and together they are very strong.”

“To produce honey from nectar, bees need to lower the water content, which takes two to three days,” apparently over that time frame honeybees will continuously regurgitate… or, more simply, puke… the honey. This allows their gut bacteria to permeate the honey (“my gut bacteria is permeating your drink. It will make you stronger,” does not work as an excuse for drunken humans for some reason).

“If not for the bacteria, the honey would be spoiled in the hive in just a couple of hours,” said Olofsson.

Of course, when honey reaches 80% concentration, the high concentration of sugar will kill off LABs- mature honey is used as a preservative for this reason. However, immature honey that has higher water content is still full of the stuff.

“Honey hunters were going out and getting honey from trees that was still at 25 to 30 percent water content,” Olofsson said. “What they were getting is a living medicine.”

According to Olofsson, it would have been only too easy for early humans to have turned honey to mead.

“To get all of the honey out of the wax combs, honey makers would stick them in water,” Olofsson said. “After a day or two of standing, you had an alcoholic beverage.”

Allowing the LAB-enriched honey to ferment into alcohol had an additional side effect. “LABs, I found, went from 100 million per gram of honey to 100 billion to a glass of mead,” he said.

His startup, ConCellae, leads the way in developing a probiotic mead that has medicinal qualities- but without clinical trials, there’s no way to say for sure if he’d truly found the drink of gods (or, more accurately, the puke of bees and the poop of yeast).

“We started learning what kinds of weapons LABs fight with ten years ago,” Olofsson said. “If you can find those substances in the blood when you drink the mead, then we can really confirm that we’ve found the most potent beverage in the world.”


Sources: GizmondoNRDC, The Guardian, WebMD, Lund University, Tech Times

This Article (The Solution For A Post-Antibiotic Future: Mead?) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author(CoNN) and


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