You may have noticed that your honey never seems to develop mold or bacterial contamination, even when it isn’t refrigerated after opening. We now know why this is: honey has innate anti-microbial activity. Cool. Honey is a natural antibiotic!
Honey is a natural antibiotic !! Who knew?
Well, it seems that ancient humans knew: For over 2 thousand years humans have used honey applied topically to treat a variety of ailments. Only recently have we found scientific evidence to help understand honey’s antibiotic activity.
It is now well established that honey helps inhibit the growth of a wide variety of bacteria. There are even honey-containing wound gels that help eliminate the dreaded MRSA (see ManukaMedical in resources, below). Cool.
And you may have heard about the role of biofilms in chronic infections (including rhinosinusitis)?
Well, honey has been shown to be effective in killing drug-resistant, biofilm-forming bacteria that are implicated in chronic rhinosinusitis, including MRSA and pseudomonas. Very cool !!
Why is honey such a great natural antibiotic?
- Osmotic effect – high concentration of 2 monosaccharides (sugars), with low water content – draws water out of bacteria (dehydrates them), making it extremely difficult for them to grow in the presence of honey
- Hydrogen peroxide – the glucose oxidase in honey slowly generates hydrogen peroxide from the sugars; as you know, hydrogen peroxide is an excellent antiseptic. Thus, honey is a natural slow-release antiseptic
- The acid – low pH (acidity) of honey naturally prevents growth of bacteria
- It’s got mojo: honey has variable amounts of methylglyoxal (MGO – let’s just call it “mojo”), which is another natural antibacterial agent
How to use this information:
What does this mean for you or your little one’s sinusitis? Well, adding honey to your sinus saline rinses can be hugely beneficial, especially for those with chronic and recurrent sinusitis.
In my clinical practice, I recommend this for children who never seem to completely recover from their sinusitis. The addition of honey (along with some other tricks) has proven to be beneficial for these kids.
Check out recent blog post, “Sinus Rinses: if once/day is good, is 4x/day even better?,” for making your own saline rinse recipe that includes Manuka honey.
Alternatively, simply add some honey (same proportions as recipe in blog post) to your store-bought saline solution. Either way, this may be just the ticket to eliminating the bacterial biofilm that is causing your (or your child’s) chronic sinusitis problem.
We’ll discuss biofilms and their role in chronic infections in a future article.
Not all honey is created equal:
In fact, the Manuka honey from New Zealand, and Sidr honey from Yemen, seem to have antimicrobial properties above and beyond your average honey. Medicinal-grade Manuka has more mojo, and is reported to have other (as yet unidentified) micronutrient agents that act to enhance its antibiotic activity.
Note that these specialty, medicinal honeys can get very pricey. They can be difficult to find locally. The explosion in alternative and natural remedies (like those reviewed on this blog) has increased demand for Manuka honey in the past year. Check the boogor doctor’s Amazon Store on the right column (disclaimer: Amazon affiliate) for quality Manuka honey at moderate price (still steep).
You might try your local farmer’s market for more reasonably-priced varieties collected close to home. It is also suggested, though not proven, that eating raw local honey can help build immune tolerance to local allergens. Though not as potent as Manuka, they will still have some antibiotic activity, like all honey does for the reasons outlined above. Also, you will be helping your local economy, and helping an apiarist (the term for a beekeeper; beekeeping = apiculture) to stay in business. We won’t go into the difficulties that honey bees are having right now, but support them in any way possible.
This post does not even touch on the many, many other uses for Manuka honey that are being discovered, or re-discovered. Check some of the resources below for more.
Note that “pasteurizing” honey by heating it kills the hydrogen peroxide and any other active enzymes in it. Therefore, whether using Manuka or locally grown honey, use it raw.
WARNING: All honey, but especially raw honey, contains the spores of botulinus. While this is not a problem for adults, infants under the age of one year may not have enough stomach acid to prevent these spores from developing into botulism, a deadly poison. For the same reason, I advise caution for children or adults who are on medications that suppress stomach acid using proton-pump inhibitor (although I have not seen it reported in the medical literature), or anyone with an immune deficiency!
NOTE: when adding Manuka honey to saline sinus rinse, warm gently to dissolve – over-heating will kill useful enzymes and proteins.
Check the boogor doctor’s Amazon Store (right side of page) for a couple reasonably-priced (for Manuka) samples of Manuka honey and other resources for doing saline nasal rinses. The Sidr honey from Yemen is much more difficult to obtain, and there is much less scientific medical information available about Sidr honey than there is for Manuka honey.
To download this article as a free PDF file: http://wp.me/PR4iB-s7
Thanks for visiting, and see you here again. I appreciate your comments and questions. Keep ‘em coming. And please, “be excellent to one another.”
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Best of health and success to you and your families.
Until next time, remember … you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose (unless you’re a boogor doctor :~D)
http://bio.waikato.ac.nz/honey/special.shtml for what’s so special about Manuka honey.
Effectiveness of honey on Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. Alandejani, et al. (2009). Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, vol. 141: 114-118.
Honey: nutritional and medicinal value. Khan, et al. (2007) International Journal of Clinical Practice, vol. 61(10): 1705-1707.
A Comparison Between Medical Grade Honey and Table Honeys in Relation to Antimicrobial Efficacy: http://bit.ly/bcv8lO (Online Journal, WOUNDS; publication date: Feb. 12, 2009)
Great review of honey’s history and medicinal uses: http://digg.com/u1QgOp
How bacteria build a “shield” against your immune system – BIOFILM: http://bit.ly/2mv2La