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When it comes to supplements and other unregulated foods, many claims are made by greedy producers eager to make a quick (and large) profit from an unknowing publi9c. Honey does have many health benefits. Honey is an ancient remedy for the treatment of infected wounds. The first written reference to honey, a Sumerian tablet writing, dating back to 2100-2000 BC, mentions honey's use as a drug and an ointment. Aristotle (384-322 BC), when discussing different honeys, referred to pale honey as being “good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds”. . In addition to important role of natural honey in the traditional medicine, during the past few decades, it was subjected to laboratory and clinical investigations by several research groups and it has found a place in modern medicine. Honey has been reported to have an inhibitory effect on around 60 species of bacteria, some species of fungi and viruses. Antioxidant capacity of honey is important in many disease conditions and is due to a wide range of compounds including phenolics, peptides, organic acids, enzymes, and Maillard reaction products. Honey has also been used in some gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, inflammatory and neoplastic statesBelow, we separate the hype from the proven benefits.

Antibacterial properties

Honey has been reported to have an inhibitory effect to around 60 species of bacteria including aerobes and anaerobes, gram-positives and gram-negatives [15]. Research published by the US National Library of Medicine [1] concludes that honey:

  • does offers antibacterial activity,
  • maintains a moist wound condition, and
  • its high viscosity helps to provide a protective barrier to prevent infection.
  • Its immunomodulatory property is relevant to wound repair

Helping to heal external wounds

Honey has been used from ancient times as a method of speeding the healing of wounds[2]. This has been substantiated by modern reserarch. [3],[5],[6]. The healing properties of honey is due to its antibacterial activity, maintaining a moist wound environment that promotes healing, and has a high viscosity which helps to provide a protective barrier to prevent infection[7]. There are many reports of honey being very effective as dressing of wounds, burns, skin ulcers and inflammations; the antibacterial properties of honey speed up the growth of new tissue to heal the wound[7]. Manuka honey (see this page for more information) has been shown to be effective for the treatment of ulcers, infected wounds and burns[6],[8].

These active honeys, when applied topically, have been shown to rapidly clear wound infections and to help in healing of infected deep surgical wounds[8]. Honey has been shown to be effective even when antibiotics and antiseptics[8] did not work. This includies wounds infected with methicillin-resistant S. aureus[9],[10]. and on skin grafts and infected skin graft donor sites [11].

Helping with ulcers

Both traditional holistic approaches and modern medicine have found that honey can be effective in the treatment of for peptic ulcers and gastritis [12]. Honey may promote the repair of damaged intestinal mucosa, stimulate the growth of new tissues and work as an anti-inflammatory agent[12],[13]. Raw honey contains copious amounts of compounds such as flavonoids and other polyphenols which may function as antioxidants[14]. Clinical observations have been reported of reduced symptoms of inflammation when honey is applied to wounds. The removal of exudate in wounds dressed with honey is of help in managing inflamed wounds[8]

How strong are the effects of honey?

It depends on the type, quality and grade of honey. Medical grade honeys have potent in vitro bactericidal activity against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.Be carefull buying honey to avpoid scams.

The manuka, jelly bush and pasture honeys are more active than standard honeys, like clover or alfalfa.  

Which are the best honeys to buy for their antibacterial properties?

Honeys sold with standardized levels of antibacterial activity are:

 

References:

  1. US National Library of Medicine
  2. Mandal S, Pal NK, Chowdhury IH, Deb Mandal M. Antibacterial activity of ciprofloxacin and trimethoprim, alone and in combination, against Vibrio cholerae O1 biotype El Tor serotype Ogawa isolates. Polish J Microbiol. 2009;58:57–60. [PubMed]
  3. Molan PC. The evidence supporting the use of honey as a wound dressing. Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2006;5:40–54. [PubMed]
  4. Simon A, Traynor K, Santos K, Blaser G, Bode U, Molan P. Medical honey for wound care - still the ‘Latest Resort’ Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem175.[PMC free article] [Cross Ref]
  5. Cooper RA, Molan PC, Harding KG. Honey and gram positive cocci of clinical significance in wounds. J Appl Microbiol. 2002;93:857–863. [PubMed]
  6. Cooper RA, Halas E, Molan PC. The efficacy of honey in inhibiting strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa ffrom infected burns. J Burn Care Rehabil. 2002;23:366–370. [PubMed]
  7. Lusby PE, Coombes A, Wilkinson JM. Honey: A potent agent for wound healing? J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 22002;29:295–300. [PubMed]
  8. Al-Waili NS, Akmal M, Al-Waili FS, Saloom KY, Ali A. The antimicrobial potential of honey from United Arab Emirates on some microbial isolates. Med Sci Monitor. 2005;11:433–438. [PubMed]
  9. NNatarajan S, Williamson D, Grey J, Harding KG, Cooper RA. Healing of an MRSA-colonized hydroxyurea-induced leg ulcer with honey. J Dermatol Treat. 2001;12:33–36. [PubMed]
  10. Dunford C, Cooper RA, Molan PC. Using honey as a dressing for infected skin lesions. Nurs Times. 2000;96:7–9. [PubMed]]
  11. Misirlioglu A, Eroglu S. Use of honey as an adjunct in the healing of split-thickness skin graft donor sites. Dermatol Surg. 2003;29:168–172. [PubMed]
  12. Molan PC. Why honey is effective as a medicine. 1. Its use in modern medicine. In: Munn P, Jones R, editors. Honey and Healing. UK: International Bee Research Association; 2001.
  13. Molan PC. Why honey is effective as a medicine. 2. The scientific explanation of its effects. In: Munn P, Jones R, editors. Honey and Healing. UK: International Bee Research Association; 2001.
  14. Blassa M, Candracci M, Accorsi A, Piacentini MP, Albertini M C, Piatti E. Raw millefiori honey is packed full of antioxidants. Food Chem. 2006;97:217–222.
  15. NIH - Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review
  16. WebMD