Honey is a traditional treatment for infected wounds. It even has antibiotic properties and can be used to treat antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. It is so effective, in fact, that wound care specialists in the UK will routinely use honey dressings. Dioscorides in 50 AD described the use of honey as “good for all rotten and hollow ulcers.” It clears infection from a wound, draws fluid out and promotes the production of new skin.

Honey Bees
Creative Commons License photo credit: david.nikonvscanon

Not all honeys are the same, though: just as honeys differ depending on the flowers from which it is made, so do different types of honey have different levels of antibiotic potential. Manuka honey from New Zealand has been studied and found to be particularly effective. Still, all honeys share a similar ability to clear infections, because of their high sugar content, which confers an osmolarity potential high enough to inhibit bacterial growth.

The basis for an additional antibacterial property of honey beyond the osmolarity effect apparently comes from an enzyme, called glucose-oxidase, that produces hydrogen peroxide. The ‘inhibine number’ may sometimes be used to refer to the relative antibacterial potency of different honeys, which is related to the activity of this enzyme.

Honey is attracting a great deal of scientific interest for its role in wound treatment, especially as some honeys, such as that from Leptospermum trees, have an unusually strong antibacterial effect. Uncovering why this is may reveal previously unknown compounds that could be used to fight infections and promote healing. As well as wounds, the lotus honey from India is said to be good for eye disease, and even Aristotle wrote that “pale honey was good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds.” When it comes to honey, one of the most traditional of country remedies, there is still much to be learned.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2008 at 7:51 pm and is filed under country remedies, honey. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment

  1. Manuka Honey says:

    Manuka Honey is an amazing natural healing agent.


    ... on July September 5th, 2008