The Health Benefits of Honey
The health benefits of honey include it functioning as a topical antibiotic to speed the healing process. Honey, that delicious elixir that safely sweetens your favorite foods, has gained popularity as a safe, viable alternative to antibiotics. Clinical trials have confirmed honey health benefits include the ability to treat cuts, abrasions, burns, rashes and insect bites as well as fungal infections.
Honey has often been referred to as “nature’s perfect food” and the use of honey as a wound treatment dates back thousands of years. The evidence around honey’s natural antibiotic benefits is so compelling that the FDA eventually approved honey-based wound dressings for use by health care professionals and consumers.
Honey’s antibacterial abilities come as good news at a time when there is growing anxiety about the proliferation of drug-resistant infections. Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as “staph,” is one of the infections of particular concern to health care professionals and consumers. Staph can cause a variety of infections which range from minor rashes to serious, life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia or sepsis.
Antibiotics like penicillin and methicillin were used for years to treat staph, but the infection is gradually becoming resistant to those and many other antibiotics. It is estimated that nearly 10,000 Americans are affected by staph infections each year.
Honey’s antibacterial properties spring from an enzyme called glucose oxidase which worker bees excrete with the nectar. Glucose oxidase is produced when bees collect flower nectar in their mouths and it becomes mixed with unique enzymes in the bee’s saliva. This enzyme emits hydrogen peroxide when it makes contact with the wound. Hydrogen peroxide is an antibacterial, microbial and antiseptic compound that can kill germs and promote healing of broken skin. Because honey is viscous, it provides a protective barrier that reduces the chances of scarring.
The first FDA approved honey wound dressings were derived from Manuka honey from New Zealand. The wound dressings are non-toxic and easy to use. Honey wound dressings can be found online and in some natural health stores. Honey for dressings comes in a bandage form and is also available as a gel or a paste for use on wounds that are difficult to reach. They do not require a prescription.
If you are considering using honey at home to treat burns, abrasions or other wounds make sure you use only raw honey, not the Grade A honey that is typically found in supermarkets. Grade A honey is highly processed and could actually increase infection so it should never be used to treat skin abrasions. High quality raw honey will draw fluid away from the wound which discourages the growth of bacteria. After applying honey to the wound you can cover it with a dressing or use a dusting of cornstarch to mitigate the stickiness.
Raw honey is an important addition to your natural health medicine cabinet. Keep some handy and let it do double duty as a taste bud treat and a natural antibiotic.