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Honey as Medicine is Making a Comeback

September 01, 2007 | 90,754 views

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved Manuka honey to be used in wound and burn care in the United States. Manuka wound dressings have already been used for several years in Great Britain, Australia, and its native New Zealand. Canada also cleared it for use as an antimicrobial dressing earlier this year.

Honey was a conventional therapy in fighting infection up until the early 20th century, at which time its use slowly vanished with the advent of penicillin.

Compared to other types of honey, Manuka has an extra ingredient with antimicrobial qualities, called the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). The level of UMF can vary between batches, so each batch is ranked and priced accordingly. The higher the concentration of UMF, the darker, thicker and more expensive it is.

In July 2007, the FDA gave Derma Sciences, a New Jersey-based manufacturer of wound-care products, clearance to sell Manuka wound and burn dressings as medical devices. It’s the first honey-based product approved for medical use in the United States.

Washington Post August 7, 2007


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Going back to basics, using natural therapies like bee products including honey, is a step in the right direction. Especially considering the fact that traditional antibiotics are increasingly ineffective against certain microbes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “nearly all significant bacterial infections in the world are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotic treatments.”  

Clearly we need alternatives that do not add to the problem. One thing to remember here though, is that not all honey is appropriate for use in wound care.

The specific Manuka honey now approved for use as a medical device is believed to have special anti-infection and anti-inflammatory properties. If you're considering using honey to treat a mild burn, sunburn, or small wound at home, make sure to use raw honey.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of honey consumed in the United States is processed or refined. And, like most refined foods, it can promote disease and damage your health. It also will not have the same topical wound-care benefits as raw honey.

On Vital Votes, Russ Bianchi, a biochemist from California reminds us: 

“Of course all naturally derived Manuka Honey works for this application -- just don't try this with domestic (USA) Grade A Honey, which has over 75% probability of being force-fed and regurgitated High Fructose Corn Syrup, or Invert Sugar, flavored and colored "honey", which increases infection, based on pH and lack of any naturally occurring enzymatic or anti-bacterial, or anti-microbial characteristics… How can you tell the difference as a consumer?  Invariably REAL HONEY costs two to three times more than the supermarket or generic mass-produced brands in the plastic honey bear packaging.” 

That said, any time you can treat yourself without resorting to antibiotics, the better. Honey has several functions that add to its topical wound-care benefits:

    • It draws fluid away from the wound.
    • The high sugar content suppresses microorganism growth.
    • Worker bees secrete an enzyme (glucose oxidase) into the nectar, which then releases low levels of hydrogen peroxide when the honey makes contact with the wound.
    • A chemical reaction between the honey and tissue also makes healing wounds smell good.

Another natural wound dressing that offers impressive results without drugs is Duoderm and  HemCon’s bandages, which are made from a natural protein found in shrimp shells, which promotes clotting.

Other bee products, such as Royal Jelly, bee venom, and propolis, have also been shown to help combat everything from dental plaque to Lyme disease.

Honey can also help with diarrhea, insomnia, and sore throats. Eating raw honey is likely to promote health as long as it’s used in moderation and you do not suffer from signs of elevated insulin such as:

    • Overweight
    • High blood pressure
    • High blood cholesterol
    • Diabetes

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