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oney has been used for centuries to counteract bacteria infections. But until recently, few realized just how antibiotic honey is against super bacteria


Is honey really antibiotic?

You betcha. Consider the overwhelming evidence:

Research from Sweden’s Lunds University used honey to treat 10 horses that had been injured (not by the researchers). Their wounds were infected with bacteria and had not healed in over a year. The honey formulation applied by the researchers promoted wound healing in every horse, and their wounds healed up quickly. Three of the horses’ wounds healed in less than three days, while the rest healed in less than 20 days.

The researchers tested the honey formulation in the laboratory and found it was able to combat 53 different species of bacteria that had colonized with Staphylococcus – super bacteria if there ever was.

Research from the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University and the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology tested five different samples of honey against a number of super bacteria species. They found that all of the honeys significantly inhibited the growth of Bacillus alvei, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus polymyxa, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Researchers from the Malaysia’s University of Malaya tested several types of Malaysian honeys against Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They found that all inhibited the bacteria, but some inhibited them more than others. The most antibiotic properties came from the gelam, kelulut and tualang honey varieties.

A study from South Africa’s University of Fort Hare tested six local honeys against the Helicobacter pylori – implicated in ulcers and stomach cancer. The research found that all six were antibiotic against H. pylori to different degrees.

A study from Pakistan’s University of Malakand found that honeys from local plants inhibited the bacteria Klebsilla pneumonia and Escherichia coli along with and two fungi, Alternaria alternata and Trichoderma harzianum. The researchers found that honey’s antibacterial properties were better than its antiviral properties, but both were found.

University of Sydney and New Zealand researchers found that Manuka honey destroyed biofilms of several strains of Staphylococcus aureus – each producing different types of biofilms.

This is significant because biofilms are large colonies of bacteria – growing infections.

Researchers from New York’s Waili Foundation for Science tested five types of honey against a variety of multi-drug resistant bacteria and fungi. Among them, the honeys were antimicrobial the most against Aspergillus nidulans, Salmonella typhimurum and Staphylococcus epidermidis among others. They found the all five of the honeys were significantly antimicrobial against these and other bacteria and fungi, with little difference between them. They concluded:

“Various honey samples collected from different geographical areas and plant origins showed almost similar antimicrobial activities against multiresistant pathogens despite considerable variation in their composition. Honey may represent an alternative candidate to be tested as part of management of drug multiresistant pathogens.”

A study from the UK’s Cardiff Metropolitan University tested manuka honey against three different strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They found that all three strains were inhibited. But they also found that the honey interfered with the bacteria’s ability to capture iron – which use siderophores in their process of infection and growth.

Researchers from Slovak Medical University tested several honeys against Proteus mirabilis and Enterobacter cloacae. They found that each of the honeys inhibited the bacteria, but manuka honey inhibited them the most.

They also found that one of manuka’s antibacterial compounds was methylglyoxal.


Why honey is so antibacterial

Honey is sweet, and most of us know that pathogenic bacteria love to feed off (or ferment from) sugar. This is why fruits and fruit juices ferment so fast. Because the bacteria are feeding from the sugars and colonizing fast.

So why is honey – one of the sweetest things around – antibacterial? There are two principal reasons:

  1. Because the plant compounds that bees collect are full of antimicrobial agents – which plants use to fight bacteria
  2. Because bees mix probiotic bacteria species with the honey inside the hive.
  3. Because bees have antibacterial compounds in their saliva, which they mix with the honey.

On the latter point, the horse study discussed earlier from Sweden found that the primary reason the honey healed the horses so fast was because they honey contained lactic acid bacteria – Lactobacillus species. These provide an array of antibiotics, just as they do in our intestines.

These two reasons for honey’s antibacterial nature – the plant’s antibacterial compounds and the bacteria inserted by the bees – illustrates how Nature’s living forces work together to combat infective bacteria.

Nature works with completely different mechanisms than static antibiotics. How is that?

It is a fact that bacteria are always present around bee hives. Bacteria are also constantly present around the plants.

In order to survive, living organisms work to fight off those threats to their survival.

The antibacterial measures that plants utilize are moved up to the flower where pollen is produced. This pollen is collected by bees and brought to the hive.

The bees also employ their own antibacterial measures to prevent infection in the hive. These include employing their own probiotic bacteria colonies and producing their own antibiotics which are secreted from their saliva.

Propolis, in fact, is the product produced from the bee’s saliva. It has been shown to be significantly antibiotic. This was shown in a study from Egypt’s National Research Center, where propolis extract was found the significantly deter bacteria growth among cotton production.

So why did honey’s antibiotic strategies beat out antibiotics like methicillin, amoxicillin and penicillin? Because these antibiotics are static. They work the same way every time.

Bacteria like MRSA have figured out a workaround to these. They have figured out how those antibiotics work and have developed measures that counteract them.

Bacteria are alive and they want to survive

But so do bees, and so do plants, and so do other organisms. And this creates a moving target.

We might compare it to how sports competitors are always developing new strategies to beat their opponents. As soon as their opponent develops a new strategy, they figure out how to counteract it.

This mutual counteractivity produces evolution. In their quest to survive, they are evolving.

This is why using nature to counteract infection is far more sustainable than creating temporary, environment-polluting pharmaceuticals that only create superbugs in the end.

Raw honey

The above studies illustrate that while most raw Honey is antimicrobial and antioxidant, the relative degrees of its antimicrobial and antioxidant capacities relate specifically to the type of flower the honeybees are harvesting, as well as the health of the honeybees.

The bottom line is that raw Honey is antimicrobial and antioxidant, and it is for this reason that Honey can be used to help heal cuts and other wounds, gargled for a sore throat and applied in other ways to help fight off infection.

Raw is important because many commercially available Honeys are heated and clarified. During this heated process many of the antimicrobial and antioxidant compounds are eliminated or reduced. This means that clear Honey will have less antimicrobial capacity than raw Honey.

In order to clarify Honey it must be filtered through a screen. In order to get the Honey to flow through the filtration screens it must be heated. Therefore, a clear Honey will typically not be a raw honey. There are some Honeys that are raw yet relatively clear, so you may need to ask the beekeeper. Local Honey found at farmer’s market will often be sold by the beekeeper. This allows you to verify whether it is raw or not, and what kind of flowers it is really coming from.

Global Healing Centre