While honey has previously been used in medicine as a topical dressing, it is now believed to play a larger role in fighting infections. Natural honey is being called a sweet solution to the problem of bacterial resistance in antibiotics, says a recent study presented at the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance, says Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D., from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island and study leader. It uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols all of which actively kill bacterial cells. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.
- Several studies have shown that honey inhibits the formation of biofilms or communities of slimy disease-causing bacteria.
- Unlike conventional antibiotics, honey doesnt target the essential growth processes of bacteria.
- Honey is effective because it is filled with healthful polyphenols or antioxidants including phenolic acids, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, ellagic acid and many flavonoids.
Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between the non-peroxide antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of honey and the presence of honey phenolics, Meschwitz added. A large number of laboratory and limited clinical studies have confirmed the broad-spectrum antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties of honey.
Meschwitz and her team are also finding that honey has antioxidant properties and is an effective antibacterial. We have run standard antioxidant tests on honey to measure the level of antioxidant activities, she said, We have separated and identified the various antioxidant polyphenol compounds. In our antibacterial studies, we have been testing honeys activity against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others."
Beware Of Bogus Honey
Last month, Texas A&M anthropology professor Vaughn Bryant warned consumers buying honey that they may not be getting what they paid for. Bryant is currently supporting a U.S. Senate bill, that if passed, puts more stringent requirements on the federal government to ensure the origin of imported honey and also encourage sellers to label it accurately.
In a study, sponsored by Food Safety News, Bryant tested honey samples from grocery and big box stores, farmers markets, and natural food and drug stores. They found that more than 75 percent of the honey being sold has all of the pollen filtered out.
Large importing companies take all the pollen out of honey because they claim it makes the honey clearer and prevents crystallization, therefore making it easier to sell, Bryant said. However, by removing the pollen, you also remove clues needed to verify where the honey was produced and what nectar sources are dominant. This means that with no traces of pollen, honey sellers can take cheap honey and claim its a type that sells for a premium price.
Preventing the importation of cheap, bogus honey is vital to ensuring the survival of U.S. beekeepers. Without them and without the bees they raise, many of our food crops would not get pollinated and produce the fruits and nuts we consume, Bryant said. If beekeeping becomes a money-losing business in the U.S., there will soon be fewer bees and hives. That, in turn, will greatly increase the cost of food. The result might be oranges and apples, both pollinated by bees, costing $5 each because so few are produced without adequate pollination.
Raw, unheated and unprocessed honey is best especially from a local source. Its the purest and most natural form with the most health benefits and can typically be found in health food stores, local farmers markets and online.