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Jul 15, 2011

Honey Used to Kill Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Long-used by traditional healers around the world, honey has been utilized for its healing properties. Up until the Second World War when the first antibiotic drugs were synthesized, honey had been extensively used for its antibacterial properties in treating wounds.

With the extensive use and often inappropriate overuse of antibiotics these days, it is of no surprise that we are hearing more and more about newly developed antibiotic-resistant superorganisms. Antibiotics can surely be life-saving when used in appropriate situations, but the gross misuse of these drugs only sets us all up for disaster. Nature luckily provides us with a number of excellent natural antimicrobials, one of which is honey, that do not select for superbugs in the same way that most antibiotics do.

Claims about the antimicrobial effects of honey are now supported by a bit of science.  Researchers in the Netherlands studied the antimicrobial properties of a “medical-grade” honey, which is produced by bees in closed greenhouses.  For studies done in vitro, a 40% solution of honey was found to reproducibly kill all bacterial isolates tested.  These included methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Escherichia faecium, and multidrug-resistant gram-negative rods.  
Patches of skin were swabbed with honey in forty-two healthy volunteers.   These were then covered with polyurethane dressings for 2 days.  In the same volunteers, control skin patches were covered with polyurethane but no honey.  It was found that the honey-covered patches were culture-negative significantly more often than the control patches.

Before rushing out to your local store to buy honey, keep in mind that not all honeys are equal!  Some store-bought honeys may be contaminated with certain bacteria, so it would be wise to use medical-grade honey for topical use.  

Dr. Shana McQueen