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Study: Honey used for antimicrobial purposes

July 22, 2009 by  

More often, people stir honey into tea, use it to make desserts such as baklava and sometimes even spread it on toast. Now a new paper reveals that one kind of honey may be used as a novel first aid treatment.

The paper appears in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiological Infectious Diseases and examines the Leptospermum honey, found commonly in New Zealand and Australia.

Because honey has a low pH level, researchers found, it does not irritate the wound site. In addition, the treated, medical-grade honey also promotes the growth of new tissue and helps eliminate pain and scarring.

CEO and chairman of Derma Sciences, Edward Quilty produces MEDHONEY which is derived from the Leptospermum honey and he feels that the recent article "does a great job" of highlighting its medical benefits.

MEDHONEY has subsequently been used to treat surgical wounds, diabetic foot ulcers, burns and other skin complications.

Researchers further discovered that this honey also has antimicrobial properties, in that it acts as an antibiotic against bacteria like methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant strains (VRS).

Honey is also reported to have other benefits such as helping to smooth skin when mixed up in all-natural creams and lotions. ADNFCR-1961-ID-19277732-ADNFCR

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  • Edie

    Thank you for your articles. They are informative, interesting and some could very well contribute to a better life and perhaps even a longer one.

    I am a firm believer in use of Honey as a sweetner and to satisfy a sudden sweet tooth I will eat a piece of bread with it on there.

    I try to use only natural pure, raw honey.


    • Becky

      Yes, the honey has to be raw for it to work…if it doesn’t say RAW on the label, then it’s cooked!

  • BH

    This is not a new idea. For example, “Where There Is No Doctor”, a practical book not given to unsubstantiated claims, suggests that simple locally available honey be applied to burns and bed sores.

    I don’t believe that the above is the first study of honey as a wound dressing either.

    The study above seems to have as its objective the marketing of a particular honey. And certainly, in our modern mindset, the idea of using plain “dirty” honey straight from a hive seems totally unacceptable. So having honey which has been cleaned/purified meets our needs and biases. But since all honey has antimicrobial properties, it would not itself be a source of infection.

    • http://PersonalLibertyDigest Silvergirl

      The “modern mindset” is the problem. RAW honey is the best honey for you. Sterilization, Pasteurization and microwaving all kill the very thing you use or ingest raw foods for: live enzymes. Juicing is the extraction of live enzymes from food for liquid norishment that will immediately reach the user, bypassing the digestive tract, giving you intense, quick nuitrition. This is also why whole milk is gaining such popularity. Pasteurization kills the live enzymes. For certain infections live leeches are used to “clean out” wounds. I don’t think they get sterilized either. ;-)

      • Samuel

        There is not and never has been a problem with the majority of natural products. Cooking foods and other products IS necessary when producing and packaging products that may be applied to open wounds or ingested. I wouldn’t eat something that I saw the producer of serve to me after sticking his/her hand down their pants or a finger in their nose. It might be quite clean but I wouldn’t take the chance. 2/3rds of Europe died over a 150 year period due to plague. clean and natural foods and medicines are to be preferred but sterilization and sanitation did not come to pervade our lives for no reason. I prefer raw and un processed foods and natural medical treatments but I will never hold my nose in the direction of people who use what the last five hundred years have taught them in the way of how not to spread infection.

        • Brian

          Hey Sammy,

          You say “I wouldn’t eat something that I saw ther producer of serve to me after sticking his/her hand down their pants or a finger up there nose”, but you’d eat an egg?
          There is no such thing as “medical grade honey” – this is only a fancy label applied to promote the false idea that it’s somehow superior. This is like saying that you can make a better wheel by simply adding a catchy name!
          Yes!!!! I’d like to introduce you to my own invention, the “Fantasic-Superduper Wheel!!!”.
          As stated by BH and Silvergirl, raw honey is itself powerfully antimicrobial in it’s raw natural state and cooked processed honey no longer retains these powers as they are destroyed through the process of pasteurization.
          This subject reminds me of the fish oil capsules that are being touted and sold by major drug companies as “superior, pharmaceutical grade” – that these are somehow better for you than ordinary cod liver oil {$10 per month} compared to a perscription of special oil at a cost of $250.00 per month. If you believe that Sammy, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

        • Samuel


          First, my name is not “Sammy”. Second, I never said anything about “medical grade honey”. If you have something to say then stick to what has been said. I said that the last five hundred years have proven that sterilization and purification of foods and food products has generally been good. Regardless, organic and natural foods, absent of sterilization and purification, have not been shown to cause health problems when consumed with full knowledge of their sources and their ‘natural’ purity. Eating such foods is no more problematic than babies drinking milk from their mother’s breasts. Would you have human breast milk collected and sanitized prior to feeding it to babies? Stick to the subject and quit farting around. I said that sanitation has been proven to be a good thing but it is not always necessary, if you know where your food comes from. What part of your ass did you get eggs and honey from in regard to what I wrote? The part where your head rests?

  • Marc

    Plain white sugar has also been used to promote healing. That and turpentine were used to prevent infection and reduce pain. I had many cuts healed with that combination.

    • Charles Covey

      I know exactly what you are talking about. I couldn’t count the times my mother used that remedy on me when I was growing up in Oklahoma. She tied a clean strip of white cloth over the wound. There were no band aids in those days as far as I know, and if there were, we couldn’t have afforded them.

  • debby bichard

    I had a really bad infected leg after surgery and poured regular honey on it and wrapped it with gauze and it did heal it completely

  • corvettelady

    My husband recently had small fatty tumor removed from the back of his neck which was non-cancerous. I applied manuka honey daily for a week and it’s healing nicely. I also buy raw, organic honey to use in my hot tea – it tastes so great!

  • Gerry Greenwald

    I had large abdominal incision which was partly open. I put store bought regular honey on a q-tip and placed it on the entire area twice a day. It healed beautifully. I did not clean it in any way except my usual showers. According to my bro-in-law (an ob/gyn MD) he’s used it on hundreds of patients and it was he who told me about it. He also said it’s been used since time immemorial.

  • Jacobite

    Be careful as to the source of the honey. I believe imported honey from China may be 90% corn strup, and 10% honey> Get your honey either from your local beekeeper, ot get AMERICAN organic!

  • http://notyet Richard Pawley

    Not all honey has the amazing healing properties that some of it does. I corresponded with the New Zealand scientist who discovered the medicinal value of Manuka honey years ago and due to recent discoveries in Germany he has revised his thinking and analysis of Manuka. The highest medicinal Manuka Honey has a rating of 550 whereas 400 still has strong medicinal value. Some Manuka is just table honey but the most powerful has been known to cure MRSA the flesh eating disease that modern drugs will not stop. In my recent book, “The Last Days of the Late Great United States” I tell of an infected mole of sorts, lighter than most I have, that crusted up and was irritated. I scratched it and it bled and knowing this could be pre-cancerous I made a medicinal Manuka bandage which I changed each night for a week. Finally I did it one last time and forgot it for three days. Not only did this process heal it but there is just the barest trace of where it was and I had that for years previously. The scientist told me he had some in a jar for 15 years and when tested it had still maintained it’s medicinal properties. If you are buying this for when the health system (and the economy breaks down) just remember to buy the more expensive honey that is rated 400 or 550.

  • http://BobLivingston Marie

    Many years ago my leg was cut open severly in a jeep accident The stiching broke open and there wasn’t enough flesh to sew it back together.We are taking about a nine inch long gash and deep.The doctor told me to put vaseline and sugar on it and eat yorgurt and use hot wet compresses. I have never heard about this treatment to this day.It helped the tissue to grow and to keep the bacteria out.This wasover thirty years ago.I have not even had any pain all these years and have always walked normal.

  • JM

    BH is correct, honey used as a topical dressing and antiseptic is not a new idea it worked for the Egyptians, Romans and many civilizations before them, if their raw honey hadn’t been a proven success they wouldn’t have used it. (and it wasn’t even medhoney)

  • NoCrud

    Honey has a built-in natural preservative. I read where they found a container of honey in a pyramid. They knew it was honey because of the smell. One person tasted it and said it tasted like honey. I believe, though, that the comb must have not been in the Egyptian honey since I have seen older honey with the comb and while the honey looked OK, the comb seemed to be losing its color and breaking down.

    Syrup, however, will break down into sugar.

    I have also seen honey advertised in Thailand as a way to make facial skin look more youthful. It is also sold for this in Southeast Asia.

  • Craisrg

    Last year one of my cats, Rusty, returned home, after missing several days, with one of his front legs severely bitten, infected and with maggots. The Vet. told me that she would have to amputate the leg due to the amount of muscle tear and infection. I did not want this to happen if there was any way possible to treat it. She told me that she had read about the use of Raw Honey and the success some vets had with it. We tried it and after 1 wk of daily bandage changes with fresh raw honey and 2 wks of bandage changes with fresh raw honey every other day, the leg completely healed and most of the muscle had reconnected. Rusty now enjoys full use of his leg although he does limp on cold mornings.


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