What Are the Medical Uses for Honey?

Posted on March 25, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Today is about Taking Care of Yourself

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I like to use natural substances for healing as much as possible. However, I need proof that they work–particularly when they are expensive. Honey is a natural remedy and has been touted as good for treating lots of ailments. I first thought of its medicinal use after reading about a study that reported on honey and its effectiveness in treating night time cough in children.

After looking more into honey’s healing properties, I found there was lots of evidence showing that honey has good antibacterial qualities, and can be used to help heal wounds and burns. It has even been reported to be effective against staph aureus which causes a lot of wound infections, including the antibiotic resistant strain of staph called MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus).

Apparently, honey works to help heal wounds because it provides high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, killing bacteria. The high sugar content (scientifically known as high osmolarity for you chemistry buffs) also kills bacteria. So the healing properties of honey are well described and well known.

But what are the drawbacks?

There is lots of variation in the strength of the healing properties of honey, and it depends a lot on what were the floral sources for the honey. Whatever source you use, it would be wise to make sure it is organic and does not contain pesticides or other contaminants. One type of honey that is reported to be created for medicinal use is Manuka honey from New Zealand. While the Manuka people insist nothing else will do, I am not clear on why it is so much better than a good organic honey. Many of the studies I saw used this honey, while others did not specify that it was Manuka.

I also have concerns because I’ve recently seen news stories about CCD, or colony collapse disorder, which is a condition where the worker bees in a colony suddenly disappear. The cause of this is not known, but the experts think it may be due to a combination of viral infections in beehives, exposure to toxins, or some immune problems with the bees. Since CCD has now been observed in Europe, North America and Taiwan, it would be important to make sure that any honey you use (even for your tea) does not come from a hive with CCD until the experts know the cause and risks to people.

So the bottom line is honey seems to work well not only for coughs, but for healing wounds and skin infections. It may provide alternative or supplemental treatment to antibiotics, and reduce our need for them (which contributes to antibiotic resistance). It is also effective against MRSA, a type of bacteria that is becoming harder to treat with current antibiotics. If you are going to use it, make sure it is free of impurities and pesticides, so invest in organic honey.


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    Musings on how a disorganized woman with a full time job, three kids and a real need to relax is trying to make life simple.

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