Potential Uses of Honey as an Antimicrobial Agent

Some popular literature on health gives the impression that honey can be taken to cure almost anything. However rational consideration would show that the antimicrobial activity would be insignificant after an oral dose of honey becomes diluted on absorption from the gut into the many litres of fluid in the circulation and tissues of the body. Realistically the potential for honey as an antimicrobial agent is as a topical application. 

The potent antibacterial activity of honey means that it is very effective in clearing infection in wounds and in protecting wounds from being infected. The hydrogen peroxide in the honey is released slowly, killing germs in the wound. Honey also has an anti-inflammatory action, and a stimulatory effect on the growth of healthy tissue. Honey even makes wounds smell better, possibly because when bacteria in wounds eat the sugars in honey they give off sweeter smelling gases.

Honey has been effectively used in the treatment of burns and other wounds for many years. However, in recent years honey has been investigated as a potential treatment for wounds infected with bacteria with multiple resistance to antibiotics - the "superbugs" such as MRSA and VRE. Honey has also been used as a pre- and post-operative wound dressing in cancer surgery, with the effect of impeding tumor implantation.

Since honey is a natural product and therefore has little or no adverse effects on tissues it would appear to provide an ideal, if rather sticky, alternative to more conventional wound dressings.

Other recent investigations suggest that, surprisingly, honey can also protect against tooth decay. Hence contrary to popular belief, a certain amount of the right sugar in the diet protects against plaque and bacteria.

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