Long used in traditional medicine, honey has been the subject of many studies that provide evidence of its health benefits and wound healing properties.
Who needs a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down when honey is medicine itself? Long used in traditional medicine, honey has recently been the subject of many scientific studies that provide evidence of its effectiveness as a healing agent.
Honey helps to fight infection and promote healing through a variety of means. Its high sugar content works by the process of osmosis to draw infection and fluid out of wounds. Honey contains two different forms of sugar–fructose and glucose–but it also contains trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, naturally occurring enzymes, and other constituents from bees and plants.
Honey has a slightly acidic pH, which prevents bacterial growth. Additionally, honey contains an enzyme that produces small amounts of hydrogen peroxide for further antimicrobial properties. Rapid healing and scar prevention is promoted by the ability of honey to keep the area around a wound moist and protected.
Without a doubt, wound healing is the best-studied medicinal use of honey. More than 500 articles in the medical literature, including several controlled clinical trials, report successful wound healing with honey. It has even been applied topically after surgery, where it was found superior to standard antiseptic preparations in preventing infection at the surgical wound site. This finding has been particularly noted among patients with diabetes, who tend to have more complications and difficulty in wound healing.
Other medicinal applications for honey are being explored. When combined with olive oil and beeswax, honey has also been found to relieve eczema and psoriasis and fight fungal infections of the skin. Some research shows that honey, taken internally, may lower cholesterol. At a time when medicine and drugs are increasingly high tech, this time-tested and delicious remedy is making a comeback.
At the Heart of Honey
- Bees make honey from many different flowers and each flower contributes to the flavour and medicinal properties of the honey. Manuka honey, for example, is made by bees using the flowers of tea trees (Leptospermum spp.). Manuka honey is considered an especially therapeutic variety.
- Raw honey is unpasteurized and retains its enzymatic activity. Meanwhile, commercial honey is pasteurized, a process that destroys possible fungal and bacterial contaminants but may also deactivate potentially beneficial enzymes.
- Honey may be better than the cough syrup dextromethorphan to soothe a child’s cough, reported a study published in the December 2007 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.