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What Is Honey Used for Today?
Honey consists largely of fructose and glucose, two related forms of sugar. Its sugar concentration is high enough to kill microorganisms in the same manner as the sugar in jams and jellies. This would appear to be the primary basis for honey's most studied use: as a topical application to treat or prevent infection.
In some controlled trials, honey has shown some promise for treating abcesses, 1 , diabetic foot ulcers, 2 venous leg ulcers, 3 minor abrasions , 4 and post-operative wound infections, 5 as well as for preventinginfections following surgery 6 and catheter infections in people undergoing hemodialysis. 7 In most of these studies, honey was not used alone but combined with standard treatments, such as oral or topical antibiotics or surgical debridement (removal of dead tissue). Not all studies show clear benefit, however. One trial found that antibacterial honey (Medihoney) did not significantly improve wound healing in 105 patients mostly suffering from leg ulcers. 8 The best evidence is probably for the acute treatment of minor burns, 9 though the studies supporting this use remain inconclusive.
Sugar paste too has shown promise as a wound treatment. However, some evidence hints that honey may be more effective than concentrated sugar. 10 If true, this suggests that additional non-sugar constituents of honey provide benefit. It is often stated in honey-related literature that honey produces hydrogen peroxide, and that this explains additional benefit. However, there is no evidence that honey produces sufficient hydrogen peroxide to have any meaningful effect. Another theory is that honey might stimulate healing. 11 Other uses of honey have also shown some promise. In one study, when participants regularly chewed "honey leather" their inflammation of the gums ( gingivitis ) decreased. 12 Oral consumption of honey might have a slight laxative effect. 13 Honey taken by mouth might also increase the body's ability to metabolize alcohol, thereby limiting intoxication and more rapidly reducing alcohol blood levels. 14 Finally, one study hints that honey might improve cholesterol profile and blood sugar levels. 15 It has been suggested that consumption of honey can reduces symptoms of hay fever . However, the one published study designed to test this suggestion failed to find benefit. 16 A small study of 40 patients suggests topical honey may help prevent development of oral mucositis (painful inflammation of mucus membranes in the mouth) in patients having radiochemotherapy for head and neck cancer. 17
- Okeniyi JA, Olubanjo OO, Ogunlesi TA, Oyelami OA. Comparison of healing of incised abscess wounds with honey and EUSOL dressing. J Altern Complement Med. 11(3):511-3.
- Shukrimi A, Sulaiman AR, Halim AY, Azril A. A comparative study between honey and povidone iodine as dressing solution for Wagner type II diabetic foot ulcers. Med J Malaysia. 63(1):44-6.
- Gethin G, Cowman S. Manuka honey vs. hydrogel--a prospective, open label, multicentre, randomised controlled trial to compare desloughing efficacy and healing outcomes in venous ulcers. J Clin Nurs. 18(3):466-74.
- Ingle R, Levin J, Polinder K. Wound healing with honey - a randomised controlled trial. S Afr Med J. 2006;96:831-5.
- Al-Waili NS, Saloom KY. Effects of topical honey on post-operative wound infections due to gram positive and gram negative bacteria following caesarean sections and hysterectomies. Eur J Med Res. 4(3):126-30.
- McIntosh CD, Thomson CE. Honey dressing versus paraffin tulle gras following toenail surgery. J Wound Care. 15(3):133-6.
- Johnson DW, van Eps C, Mudge DW, Wiggins KJ, Armstrong K, Hawley CM, Campbell SB, Isbel NM, Nimmo GR, Gibbs H. Randomized, controlled trial of topical exit-site application of honey (Medihoney) versus mupirocin for the prevention of catheter-associated infections in hemodialysis patients. J Am Soc Nephrol. 16(5):1456-62.
- Robson V, Dodd S, Thomas S. Standardized antibacterial honey (Medihoney) with standard therapy in wound care: randomized clinical trial. J Adv Nurs. 65(3):565-75.
- Subrahmanyam M. Honey-impregnated gauze versus amniotic membrane in the treatment of burns. Burns. 20(4):331-3.
- Efem SE, Udoh KT, Iwara CI. The antimicrobial spectrum of honey and its clinical significance. Infection. 20(4):227-9.
- Molan PC. Potential of honey in the treatment of wounds and burns. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2(1):13-9.
- English HK, Pack AR, Molan PC. The effects of manuka honey on plaque and gingivitis: a pilot study. J Int Acad Periodontol. 6(2):63-7.
- Ladas SD, Haritos DN, Raptis SA. Honey may have a laxative effect on normal subjects because of incomplete fructose absorption. Am J Clin Nutr. 62(6):1212-5.
- Onyesom I. Honey-induced stimulation of blood ethanol elimination and its influence on serum triacylglycerol and blood pressure in man. Ann Nutr Metab. 49(5):319-24.
- Al-Waili NS. Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose. J Med Food. 7(1):100-7.
- Rajan TV, Tennen H, Lindquist RL, Cohen L, Clive J. Effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 88(2):198-203.
- Rashad UM, Al-Gezawy SM, El-Gezawy E, Azzaz AN. Honey as topical prophylaxis against radiochemotherapy-induced mucositis in head and neck cancer. J Laryngol Otol. 123(2):223-8.