Honey Research Update

Russell Faust, MD, PhD, boogordoctor, boogerdoctor, healthy children, honey

Image: The Latest Research on Honey

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!

 

Resources:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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

Image Credit: photos above used under license from http://depositphotos.com/

_______________________________________

Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.
That wonderful photo of me is by Chris Stranad; here is his site: http://www.chrisstranadphotography.com/Index.html

Russell Faust, PhD, MD boogordoctor / healthy children

Image: Dr. Faust and friend

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Comments

  1. Loretta Livingstone says:

    Honey is proving to be a pretty useful thing. I’m really interested to see more on this.

  2. Kim Starkey says:

    I have had constant CRS for almost 2 years. Had a submucosal turbinectomy that lead to osteosis and pansinusitis. Had Fess surgery by a good Penn trained Dr with short term results so he sent me to Penn to one of the top Rhinologists in counrty. I had another FESS to clean out more infection. I have been on Levaquin, prednisone rinses and oral. rinses with mupricin, baby wash, and pulmicort. Staph A continues to show up but no fungi grown. I am now on Aspirin therapy & singulair for AERD and Zantac. I have been allergy tested 2 in the past 2 years with only a few minor allergies to Maple and ragweed. In the past more has come up. Still having issues. I am sick of being sick. I am a Personal Trainer/ wellness coach, I eat very well but not obsessive. I would like to mix natural and traditional medicine but it’s hard to find the right mix. I am interested in finding out more about this honey treatment. I am also thinking about a detox plan but not sure which one to do.

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Kim,
      Thanks for visiting, and for sharing.
      Please go over to the right hand column here, to the search box, and simply type in “CRS” and hit .
      Take a look at those articles to get you started.
      The next thing I would suggest is consider visiting an ND – Doctor of Naturopathy. My personal doctor is an ND.
      Thanks again for sharing, and please keep me updated, share what you learn to we can all benefit!

      • Kim Starkey says:

        Thank you Dr Faust,
        I am enjoying reading your website and have gotten a lot of good info from it. Can you post your recipe for sinus wash with honey for 240ml/ 8oz neilmed bottle. Thank you.

        • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

          Of course, Kim,
          I recommend making up one quart at a time, keeping it in the refrigerator (or it will grow mold at room temp), and GENTLY heating only the amount to be used at every rinse.
          Things you’ll need:
          – 1 quart glass jar
          – pickling or canning salt; I use kosher salt
          – baking soda
          – Manuka honey
          – distilled water

          Add 3 heaping teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda (for buffer effect – burns less), to quart jar. Add distilled water (is virtually sterile), tighten lid and shake.
          For best antimicrobial effect, add 5 tablespoons of Manuka honey before adding water. Note that this makes for a very high concentration of honey in the mix, but that makes for an extremely powerful antibacterial saline rinse.
          Also note that, with the honey added, this mixture is very HYPER-osmotic. That is, the solute concentration is much higher than in our tissues. The effect is to draw fluid out of the swollen nasal and sinus tissues. This will help shrink those inflamed tissues – this helps open your nasal and sinus passages. Nice effect when you have been struggling with chronic sinusitis.
          You can substitute Xylitol for the honey: simply add about one tablespoon of granular Xylitol (we buy ours from Amazon – there should be some listed in the boogordoctor Amazon Store in the right column of this blog). Xylitol is also a pretty good antimicrobial, and will also help increase the osmolarity to reduce tissue swelling.

          Another caution: do not over-heat this mixture, as it will ruin the antimicrobial agents in the honey.
          Please let me know how this goes, and best success.

          • Kim Starkey says:

            Thank you So much for this Blog and your response. I started using Manuka Honey By Wedderspoon UMF 16+ (from Wegmans for $24.99). I can’t believe how much it has helped. When I went to my surgeon appointment I wasn’t sure what he would think. His new Fellow is from Australia and she knew all about Manuka and it’s benefits and the studies on it. They discussed it and he said to try it as my other traditional medical therapy wasn’t helping. I am so glad to have found your blog and have told so many people about it. I love your Integrative and Evidence Based approach.
            Thank you,

          • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

            Hi Kim,

            SO GLAD for you!
            That was my experience also: “modern” medicine had failed my chronic sinusitis, and Manuka made the difference. Yes, they would be familiar with it in Australia – Manuka is from just next door, in New Zealand. Also, a couple of the top rhinitis researchers in the world are in Australia. FYI, some of the very best research in the world is being done at U Penn!
            Thanks for sharing, and for the update. Please spread the word about this blog site!
            Thanks! Hoping for your continued success.

  3. I am 30 weeks pregnant and about a month ago my lips started to swell. The doc is not concerned but told me to take Benadryl today to help with the swelling, as she said it could be an allergic reaction to the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy but no specific allergy. Do you have any ideas on what this could be due to and/or remedies other than Benadryl, since I normally don’t take anything that isn’t natural and don’t want to rely on this if it is going to last 2weeks PP. Thanks!

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Renee,
      Swelling of various areas is not unusual during pregnancy. If you search “lips swelling during pregnancy” you will find a few celebrities who experienced swelling of their lips, too. It is not an allergic issue, but is a result of tissue reactions to the mix of hormones circulating from the placenta. Bottom line: anti-histamines won’t make any difference. Delivery will be the cure.
      Thanks for visiting, and for taking time to share. And congratulations! Please come back and send a pic of your baby!

  4. Hi Dr. Faust,
    I’m so glad to have found your site! I have suffered with chronic sinusitis for years and I think I’ve tried every homeopathic remedy which have helped but I still suffer with repeated and persistent sinus infections. I’ve used the pulsating nasal irrigation for about 8 years w/ saline rinse w/ a variety of different additives (GSE, probiotics, peroxide, xylitol, not to mention all kinds of oral supplements). I am currently trying the Manuka Honey in my saline rinse because antibiotics are not working and my ENT has been talking to me about the resistant biofilm. I will also try adding a drop of baby shampoo later. My ENT is recommending surgery now to remove inflamed tissue. I am so desperate because this is absolutely affecting the quality of my life. It’s hard to be a mom to my little boys, to help out at their preschool, to socialize, or really do anything because my ears are clogged, my face is swollen and I talk out of my nose, not to mention the pain and sleepless nights. Some days, like today, I am so congested I have to take Sudafed just to open my sinuses a little so I can breathe. My question is, is a decongestant a good idea? I can barely get the saline rinse into my sinuses otherwise. Also, over the past 10 years, I have been sort of been a saline-rinsing-mad-woman when I was really sick because it was the only thing that provided some temporary relief! Years ago I used table salt & warm tap water until I learned that our tap water is very high in chlorine. So I switched to filtered Brita water but will now try distilled water. I’m afraid I’ve done more damage to my sinuses/cilia. Can cilia be repaired? If I go through sinus surgery where they take off the inflamed tissue with the cilia be able to restore themselves? Is it possible to have healthy sinuses again? This is very frustrating because I otherwise a very healthy active person!

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Valerie,
      You should know that “sinus surgery” will damage cilia: the tissue that heals is not replaced with normal ciliated respiratory epithelium, but scar tissue that is devoid of functioning cilia. As a result, most people who undergo sinus surgery will need to do daily nasal saline rinses to replace the function of the cilia – clearing the mucus and associated debris from the nose and sinuses. Please consider the advice (and advice that I offer my own patients when I am recommending surgery for them): any time someone tells you that you need surgery, seek another opinion. There’s never a down-side to another opinion. Then, go with the physician that you feel you connect the best with: the one that listens, who seems to share your principles – whether those principles are mainstream or alternative.
      Best health, best success!

      • Oh, wow! It is scary to know that if I had surgery my cilia would not be replaced! I think the last two days were the lowest I’ve been in the many years I’ve struggled with sinusitis. I felt like I’ve tried every type of homeopathic remedy which I had high hopes for and all have helped but none have eliminated the problem completely. I also do not want another course of antibiotics because if they work at all they only work temporarily and each time the sinus infection comes back worse and worse, for example now my ears become clogged for weeks and the sinus pressure is unbearable. Yesterday I felt like I was 100 ft under water with so much pressure, I couldn’t breathe through my nose at all and my face was swollen. I do not want to be around people looking and sounding like this and trying to take care of my 2 young children, I just wanted to curl up into a ball and give up. But I can honestly say that today is the 4 day I’ve been using Manuka honey & a couple drops of baby shampoo in my saline rinse and I notice a difference. I can breathe today!! I was on 40 mg of Prednisone which did absolutely nothing to reduce inflammation. Today I can breathe without any drugs at all. The infection is still there but at least I feel alive today. I walked my son to school and I can hear from one of my ears, and the mucus is coming out clearer. My friend gave me a headache pillow that I can put in the microwave for 1 min, oh heaven! I’ve also been eating a ton of garlic for about 4 days now (which I enjoy because I’m Italian!) and using colloidal silver nasal spray throughout the day plus a bunch of supplements and probiotics. I’m committed to getting sleep, I’ve started cancelling things off my calendar to reduce some stress. I’ve also eliminated dairy & gluten. I’m committed to do this without antibiotics. Yesterday I felt so alone and afraid because antibiotics are all any doctor can offer me. But today I feel hopeful and I think I will visit an acupuncturist and/or a chiropractor. Thank you so much for your website! I cannot tell you how comforting it is to find doctors like you who promote an experienced holistic approach that doesn’t always involve pharmaceuticals that only seem to make me sicker. Thank you!

        • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

          Hi Valerie,
          I can hear the frustration in your comments.
          Whenever people are frustrated with their health, and they feel that their physician is not contributing to the solution, I ALWAYS recommend another opinion (even – or especially – when I am their main doc). You may consider the help of a Naturopath (ND). Also consider looking for a doc who practices Integrative Holistic Medicine. You can look for such a doc on the website for the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (www.ABIHM.org).
          Best success.

  5. Also, about Manuka honey in saline rinse, is there an adjustment period? I am still very congested after trying it and still have considerable inflammation. If I use this rinse twice per day how long before I might see improvement? In other words, if I don’t see any improvement in let’s say a week, should I consider other options? I am really hoping the honey will help break through the biofilm because antibiotics are not working. It’s sort of the Manuka or surgery at this point! Really dreading surgery! Thanks for your very helpful site!

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      For me, I gave it a month. Although I definitely saw an improvement before then, that was the length of time that I had given for the method to ‘work’ before giving up on it. Keep in mind that chronic rhino-sinusitis is just that: chronic. It has been going on for many months, perhaps years, and is unlikely to simply be cured overnight. It may take many weeks or months to achieve healthy sinuses again. Take a look at Dr. Robert Ivker’s “Sinus Survival,” available on my Amazon Store (right-hand column, click on “books – recommended”).

      • I read “Sinus Survival” many years ago and I just added it to my Kindle so I can read it again! By the way, when my boys run through the kitchen I give them a little spoonful of Manuka twice a day now. I’m determined not to have them end up on this vicious chronic sinusitis cycle that I have been on for years. Thank you! I love your site!

  6. Charles Faust (no relation) says:

    My sinuses have always been a problem to me. When I was young, I had severe hay-fever each spring. I am much older now. I tried Manuka honey in the rinse and did not see any advantage after several days. Then I used a larger amount of honey (heaping teaspoon in 200cc) and all kinds of thick yellow phlegm came out of my nose for hours. I also had a very sore region where my nasal passage comes into my throat. This was not fun and I never dared to try that again. I recently used a small amount of honey and it felt like I had a bad cold (Runny nose and nasal speech). This was also not something I dared try again. Now I just use the rinse and life goes on. I do not know how to interpret these results for future action. Any insights?

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Charles,
      Thanks for that. You may even have a mild allergy or sensitivity to Manuka honey; there was one other reader who reported an allergic reaction to Manuka. One of the advantages of using Manuka – aside from its inherent antimicrobial activity – is that you can increase the osmolarity (solute concentration) of the saline rinse without actually adding more salt (which burns above a certain concentraiton). The higher osmolarity helps reduce swelling of the inflamed nasal and sinus tissues. The other option, and I use this regularly, is to add Xylitol instead of honey to your normal saline rinses. This increases with osmolarity without making the saline burn. In addition to giving the saline a nice sweet taste, the Xylitol has antimicrobial properties in addition to other benefits. You can find it on the boogordoctor’s Amazon Store affiliate link.
      Thanks so much for sharing, and please keep me updated.
      Best success!

  7. Hi Dr. Faust,

    I just found your website after doing some research about adding honey and baby soap to my sinus rinses, and I have a few questions.

    I have allergic fungal sinusitis in my left sinuses. I had sinus surgery in 2010 and was on prednisone for a year. (Worst year ever for a college aged girl) I was doing daily rinses with just the saline and was feeling great. However, life and college crept up on me, and I stopped my nasal rinses, as I felt it was taking too much time. (Dumb!) Well, today I had an appointment with my ENT and after getting a CT scan, he said my AFS has come back. My doctor wants me to have surgery again.

    My question is will adding honey and baby soap to my rinses help my condition? My doctor recommended baby shampoo, but not honey. Is honey ok for fungal sinusitis? Also, which baby shampoo do you recommend? I read on your site that surgery removes the cilia, so rinsing replaces their function, which completely makes sense as to why my fungal sinusitis came back.
    Also, my doctor wants me to start sublingual allergen immunotherapy. Do you think this will be beneficial?

    I would appreciate your help, and I’m glad I found your website. I wish I knew of doctors like you in Texas!

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Andrea,
      I am flattered that you would ask my opinion.
      My strongest advice is to find a doc that you trust, and work with them to fight your AFS. That relationship may be the most important factor in your success.

      There are a couple articles on this blog on the topic of sublingual allergy immunotherapy. SubLingual ImmunoTherapy (SLIT) can be very beneficial for many people.

      Also note that honey – especially Manuka honey – has powerful, innnate anti-fungal properties. Unfortunately, the clinical studies on the use of Manuka honey to treat AFS are only just coming to publication, starting in 2011: Single-blind study of Manuka honey in allergic fungal rhinosinusitis.
      You might (gently) suggest that your ENT doc do a Medline search for “honey and AFS.” And you can keep up to date by doing a regular search for manuka and afs on google; the PubMed articles will appear in the results.

      Thank you for visiting, and for sharing. Please keep me updated on your progress.

      • Kristin says:

        I also have AFS and polyps (on right side). I had my second surgery in sep 2013 and am still suffering with some symptoms of AFS. Today my ENT suggested I add manuka honey to rinses. I am excited to see how it affects my sinuses!! I am convinced I have biofilm issues – not sure if it’s in my gut and sinuses or just sinuses. I have tried taking monolaurin, which is another effective natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal supplement, but experience large die-off reactions. (I didn’t know what any of this was before trying alternative therapies to help my sinuses). Hopefully, the honey will help me get a handle on my sinus problems!

        • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

          Hi Kristin,
          Thanks so much for sharing. I hope that the Manuka helps tone down your AFS! Manuka is a powerful antimicrobial, including fungus, so that is encouraging.
          Please check back and let me know how you are doing.

  8. Gavin Cooper says:

    I have been reading your website over the past couple of days, thank you for all the useful information you have posted. I had sinus surgery a year and a half ago to remove Nasal Polyps and I have been using a sinus rinse and Nasonex steroid spray every day since. I wash out a large amount of mucus each morning using a Neilmed sinus rinse then use the Nasonex spray. I’m not keen on using Nasonex as it is a steroid even though my ENT doctor told me this type of spray is not absorbed into the bloodstream. I can see the benefit the saline sinus rinse is having, but have no idea if the Nasonex is doing anything, if not, I would discontinue its use in a heartbeat. Do you have any thoughts on Nasonex?

    With that said, there is still room for improvement in my condition, as I have to clear my nose and throat throughout the day. Clearing my throat of mucus is not a pleasant thing to do or for people to hear, so try to do it when no one is around. Plus my sense of smell slowly disappeared over 3 years ago, I had hoped the surgery would help, but it hasn’t. Since reading your website, I am now considering purchasing Manuka Honey from http://www.manukahoney.co.uk/categoryinternal.html and Xylitol http://www.amazon.co.uk/Xylitol-Natural-Sweetener-1Kg/dp/B003VJQNWG/ to add to my pre-mixed Neilmed sinus rinse packets.

    Are all Xylitol sweeteners okay to use in a sinus rinse? As I see you recommend Xlear. If so how much Xylitol should I add to the pre-mixed sinus rinse packet to an 8 Oz rinse bottle?

    The same question for the Manuka Honey, I have found a UK supplier for UMF 15+ honey, but how much should I use in an 8 Oz rinse bottle?

    Should I use either Xylitol or Manuka Honey, or can I use both at the same in the bottle or is that a waste?

    If I only use the Manuka Honey in the sinus rise, should I get a Xlear Nasal Spray to use after?

    Sorry to ask so many questions, but sinus conditions do not appear to be taken as seriously here in the UK as they do in the USA. It is also a little more difficult to purchase sinus products as they are not freely available in high street stores, I would be lost without Amazon and other web based stores.

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Gavin,
      Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for taking time to share a comment.
      The ideal amount (according to research) of Xylitol in nasal rinse is about 10%. Me? I just add a teaspoon to each bottle of rinse. Aside from the Xlear brand, I have no idea whether there are other brands of Xylitol that are okay to use. But note: all of those are cleared for ingestion; adding it to nasal rinse is only for external use – very little is actually ingested – only the amount of rinse that you swallow. So I assume that they are okay for external use.
      Re Manuka honey: I add a full tablespoon (or two!) to each bottle of rinse. That makes the rinse extremely hyper-tonic, so it draws fluid out of swollen nasal and sinus tissues, but it does not burn.
      I hope that I answered your questions. If not, please send another comment or email me.
      And thanks again for sharing!

      • Gavin Cooper says:

        Hi Russell

        Thank you for your reply and recommendations on Xylitol and Manuka Honey. Do you have any thoughts on Nasonex? It was prescribed to me to stop the growth of the Nasal Polyps that I had surgically removed.

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  1. […] – particularly Manuka honey – here before: Recent Research on Manuka Honey Benefits, and  Honey Research Update. In the last few months, additional research has been reported that supports these benefits of […]

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