We have previously reviewed the antibiotic, antimicrobial properties of honey here. We have reviewed the special properties of Manuka honey. And if you struggle with chronic rhinitis, sinusitis, or chronic rhino-sinusitis (CRS), you may benefit from some of the latest research on honey as a powerful antimicrobial. Here is an update on the research being reported on honey over the past year or so.
Honey, Then and Now
For over 3,000 years, honey has been used topically as a remedy. But only recently have we begun to clarify the antimicrobial properties of honey using modern medical science. For example, clinical studies have demonstrated the application of honey to severely infected skin wounds can rapidly clear the infection, and also help to heal the wound.
Honey Research Update
Over the past year, several studies have begun to provide detail on the antimicrobial – against both bacteria and fungi – properties of honeys. A review of honey as an antimicrobial agent was reported by Zafar in the American Journal of Therapeutics (1).
There have been many suggestions that the antimicrobial strength of honey varies significantly based on geological origin. The most notable of these are the Sidr honey of Yemen, and Manuka honey of New Zealand. Outside of those special cases, however, the recent honey research by Al-Waili and colleagues suggests that most honeys are similar in their anti-bug power (2). On a positive note, Al-Waili’s research corroborates earlier work showing that honey is a great antimicrobial agent. In fact, Al-Waili’s group concluded that the addition of honey should be considered to combat bacteria and fungi that are resistant to multiple drugs (so-called multi-drug resistant, or MDR strains (2). It remains to be seen how Manuka honey will do against the honeys tested in this honey research.
Honey Effective Against Sinus Pathogens
A similar study from a Turkish group was reported, describing the antibacterial effects of various Turkish honeys (3). In their honey research, the honeys tested exhibited high antibacterial activity against the pathogens E. coli, Salmonella, and Staph. aureus. For those of us struggling with chronic rhino-sinusitis, Staph. aureus is a common pathogen, so this is good news.
Biofilm and Chronic Sinusitis
Another common pathogen in chronic rhino-sinusitis is Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This is an especially frustrating bacterial species to deal with in chronic sinus infections, largely due to its ability to make tenacious, extracellular biofilms. Biofilm formation increases the difficulty of eradicating a sinus infection. Bacteria that protect themselves with biofilm require much higher concentrations of antibiotic before they are affected, and they are “hidden” from our immune cells that would otherwise easily kill them.
Honey Effective Antimicrobial Against Pseudomonas
Honey research from India last year looked at the effectiveness of honey against Pseudomonas aeruginosa (4). They reported that honey is an effective antimicrobial against Pseudomonas a. at a concentration of 20%. The good news is that acute and chronic rhino-sinusitis are accessible by nasal rinsing. That is, unlike the need to take antibiotics by mouth, and unlike the need to take antibiotics intravenously, we can apply antibiotics – or honey – directly to the infected tissue, simply by adding honey to saline nasal rinse!
So, if you are struggling with a chronic infection – especially sinusitis – honey may just be the cure for you! Stay tuned for regular updates on research to help you manage your aero-digestive ailments!
- Zafar (2013) Antimicrobial Properties of Honey. American Journal of Therapeutics, June 2013: http://journals.lww.com/americantherapeutics/Abstract/publishahead/Antimicrobial_Properties_of_Honey.99375.aspx
- Al-Waili, et al. (2013) Differences in Composition of Honey Samples and Their Impact on the Antimicrobial Activities against Drug Multiresistant Bacteria and Pathogenic Fungi. Archives of Medical Research vol 44: pgs 307-316: http://www.arcmedres.com/article/S0188-4409(13)00110-0/abstract
- Sagdic, Silici, Ekici (2013) Evaluation of the Phenolic Content, Antiradical, Antioxidant, and Antimicrobial Activity of Different Floral Sources of Honey. International Journal of Food Properties vol 16: pgs 658-666: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10942912.2011.561463#.Ufl_aI2Tjnh
- Shenoy et al. (2012) Honey as an Antimicrobial Agent Againts Pseudomonas aeruginosa Isolated From Infected Wounds. Journal of Global Infectious Diseases vol 4: pgs 102-105: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3385198/?report=printable
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Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.
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