Manuka honey has become renowned for its medical usefulness. But in fact all varieties of honey have useful health properties and therapeutic potential, and most societies and cultures around the world have always used honey as a medicine or medical tool.
Generally speaking, honey is helpful for:
- Treating wounds, burns and cuts
- Eradicating antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- Soothing sore throats and coughs
- Addressing skin conditions
The following article provides a summary of some of the natural chemical properties of honey that make it therapeutically useful.
Honeys Antibacterial Properties
Honey has an antiseptic quality insofar it inhibits the growth of bacteria. So when honey is used as a wound dressing, the wound can be kept clean and free from infection.
[There is also some evidence that honey can be used as an anti-inflammatory agent and thus help with reducing swelling, pain and even scarring.]
The fact that honey is chemically a hygroscopic substance is also a factor in its therapeutic usefulness.
Hygroscopic substances absorb moisture out of the environment. Which is to say that, at room temperature and under normal atmospheric conditions, honey is underweight in moisture content. This helps stop bacteria from thriving as it deprives them of the moist environments they prefer.
In fact honey can even dehydrate some bacteria, either killing them outright, or at least significantly reducing their number and effectiveness. So honey has an anti-bacterial capacity that works quite differently from antibiotics. (Antibiotic drugs typically work by attacking a bacteria’s cell wall or blocking it from drawing nutrients. )
Honey’s hygroscopic nature reflects the way the bees mature honey in the hive – by beating their wings very rapidly over the honey, its moisture content is lowered.
Another benefit of this low moisture content is that honey can have an osmotic effect.
So when used a wound dressing or applied topically on the skin honey can draw water to the skin cells, by osmosis, as it were. That means honey can aid in moisture-retention and hydration, even acting as a long lasting skin moisturiser .
The natural enzymes added by the bees when transforming nectar into honey also means that fresh honey produces small amounts of hydrogen peroxide when exposed to the atmosphere.
Best known in Australia perhaps for bleaching the hair of surfers to the desired blonde colour, hydrogen peroxide is also a mild antiseptic.
[Some studies suggest that whilst small amounts of hydrogen peroxide in honey promotes healing, larger amounts can slow down rates of healing rate because hydrogen peroxide acts equally on healthy and non-healthy cells.]
The natural acidity of honey, which typically has a low pH level, is yet another reason why most honeys are an inhospitable environment for bacteria to grow in
These are some of the reasons why honey has been found to work in places where bacteria has become resistant to antibiotics.
See also the following sources for further scientific information on honey and its usefulness in therapeutic contexts..
- 10 health benefits of honey. [online] Available at: http:// https://www.treehugger.com/health-benefits-of-honey-4862521
- J, N. (2014). Does Honey Heal Scars? [online] Buzzle. Available at: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/does-honey-heal-scars.html
- Mandal, M. and Mandal, S. (2011). Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity.Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, [online] 1(2), pp.154-160. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2221169111600166?
- Simon, A., Traynor, K., Santos, K., Blaser, G., Bode, U. and Molan, P. (2009). Medical Honey for Wound Care—Still the ‘Latest Resort’? Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, [online] 6(2), pp.165-173. Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2009/620857/
- Geiling, N. (2013). The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life. [online] Smithsonian. Available at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-science-behind-honeys-eternal-shelf-life-1218690/?
- Burlando, B. and Cornara, L. (2013). Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. J Cosmet Dermatol, [online] 12(4), pp.306-313. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jocd.12058
- com, (2014). Antiseptics on Wounds: An Area of Controversy. [online] Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/456300_1
- Trendacosta, K. (2014). Why honey is the only food that doesn't go bad. [online] io9. Available at: https://io9.gizmodo.com/why-honey-is-the-only-food-that-doesnt-go-bad-1225915466
- com, (2014). Honey - Healing Properties. [online] Available at: http://www.honeyo.com/healing.shtm
All sources verified accessible online as at May 2021