Benefits of Honey


Historically, honey has been used by humans to treat a variety of ailments through topical application, but only recently have the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of honey been chemically explained.

In Ayurveda, a 4000-year-old medicine originating from India, honey is considered to positively affect all three primitive material imbalances of the body. “Vaatalam guru sheetam cha raktapittakaphapaham| Sandhatru cchedanam ruksham kashayam madhuram madhu|| “It has sweetness with added astringent as end taste. It is heavy, dry and cold. Its effect on doshas (imbalances) is that it aggravates vata (air / moving forces), scrapes kapha (mucus / holding forces) and normalizes pitta (catabolic fire) and rakta (blood). It promotes the healing process.” Some wound gels which contain antibacterial raw honey and have regulatory approval are now available to help treat drug-resistant strains of bacteria (MRSA). One New Zealand researcher says a particular type of honey (Manuka honey) may be useful in treating MRSA infections. As an antimicrobial agent honey may have the potential for treating a variety of ailments. Antibacterial properties of honey are the result of the low water activity causing osmosis, hydrogen peroxide effect, high acidity, and the antibacterial activity of methylglyoxal.

Honey appears to be effective in killing drug-resistant biofilms which are implicated in chronic rhinosinusitis.

Osmotic effect
Honey is primarily a saturated mixture of two monosaccharides, with a low water activity; most of the water molecules are associated with the sugars and few remain available for microorganisms, so it is a poor environment for their growth. If water is mixed with honey, it loses its low water activity, and therefore no longer possesses this antimicrobial property.

Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is formed in a slow-release manner by the enzyme glucose oxidase present in honey. It becomes active only when honey is diluted, requires oxygen to be available for the reaction (thus it may not work under wound dressings, in wound cavities or in the gut), is active only when the acidity of honey is neutralized by body fluids, can be destroyed by the protein-digesting enzymes present in wound fluids, and is destroyed when honey is exposed to heat and light. Honey chelates and deactivates free iron, which would otherwise catalyze the formation of oxygen free radicals from hydrogen peroxide, leading to inflammation. Also, the antioxidant constituents in honey help clean up oxygen free radicals present.

C6H12O6 + H2O + O2 → C6H12O7 + H2O2 (glucose oxidase reaction)

When honey is used topically (as, for example, a wound dressing), hydrogen peroxide is produced by dilution of the honey with body fluids. As a result, hydrogen peroxide is released slowly and acts as an antiseptic.

In Diabetic ulcers
Topical honey has been used successfully in a comprehensive treatment of diabetic ulcers when the patient cannot use topical antibiotics.

The pH of honey is commonly between 3.2 and 4.5. This relatively acidic pH level prevents the growth of many bacteria.

The nonperoxide antibiotic activity is due to methylglyoxal (MGO) and an unidentified synergistic component. Most honeys contain very low levels of MGO, but manuka honey contains very high levels. The presence of the synergist in manuka honey more than doubles MGO antibacterial activity.

Nutraceutical effects
Antioxidants in honey have even been associated with reducing the damage done to the colon in colitis. Such claims are consistent with its use in many traditions of folk medicine.

For throats
Honey has also been used for centuries as a treatment for sore throats and coughs and, according to recent research, may be an effective soothing agent for coughs.

Other medical applications
Some studies suggest the topical use of honey may reduce odors, swelling, and scarring when used to treat wounds; it may also prevent the dressing from sticking to the healing wound.