It takes about 60,000 worker bees travelling up to 55,000 miles to gather enough nectar to make one pound of this wonder substance. Unprocessed, it can treat skin infections, help heal skin lesions, wounds and burns, calm coughs, encourage sleep, and stop the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Honey has been used since the beginning of humankind as food and as medicine. In recent times, a whole branch of medicine known as Apitherapy has been developed to promote treatments based on honey that are effective against many diseases including bacterial infections. Manuka, probably the best known of honeys, has a proven deterrent effect on about 60 species of bacteria. The Manuka bush is found throughout New Zealand, and in the states of Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) in Australia. Another honey from Australia, Golden Tea Tree or Jellybush honey (not to be confused with Melaleuca alternifolia, the source of tea tree oil), also boasts exceptionally high antibacterial activity. All types of honey help wounds heal, but Manuka, Jellybush, Jambhul from India and Tualang from Malaysia are particularly effective.
Why try honey instead of an antibiotic cream or ointment on a wound or burn? World-wide, bacterial resistance to the antibiotics that are commonly used to treat bacteria is increasing rapidly. It’s a very serious threat to public health. With over four thousand years of traditional use as a remedy for bacterial infections, and with no existing bacteria that are resistant to honey, it seems ironic that researchers are just now “discovering” this ancient solution.
Much of the information about the use of honey focuses on healing cutaneous burns and wounds, but there are other uses, both traditional and emerging:
- cough medicine, research has shown honey to be as effective at soothing coughs as OTC (over the counter) mixtures containing dextromethorphan;
- allergy therapy, raw honey contains trace amounts of pollen spores from the area it was harvested. The theory is that by taking a teaspoonful of local honey every day for couple of months before allergy season you will build up your immunity;
- ulcers, Manuka honey is effective against H. pylori (a bacteria that lives in your digestive tract which can cause sores in the upper part of your small intestine) making it a promising treatment for stomach ulcers;
- urinary tract infection, Manuka has also shown antibacterial action against E. coli, making it of possible use in treating UTI, diarrhea, and septicemia;
- energy boost, using honey instead of sugar gives a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, and has antioxidant, antibacterial and soothing effects. However; honey is also high in fructose, so if you have insulin resistance you would be best to avoid honey as a sweetener.
- Note: honey should only be given to healthy children over the age of one year.
You don’t need to look far afield, or pay a huge cost to take advantage of the healing actions of honey. All types of raw untreated honey, including local pasture honeys, have antibacterial activity. Even organic honey purchased at the grocery store has been found to have it; but to be absolutely sure, purchase your honey from folks you trust at your local co-ops, apiaries, and health food stores.