Did You Know?
By D.P. Agrawal
Question: Did you know that honey has been found effective in healing festering
Answer. Honey has been used in Indian and Oriental traditional medicine since
antiquity to heal wounds. Recent research (Cooper et al 2002) has shown that
honey can stop even bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
The records of ancient people covering wounds in honey go back to ancient India
and Egypt. Honey could help to treat wounds that refuse to heal. It was generally
believed that honey's syrupy consistency kept air out of wounds, and that its
high sugar content slowed bacterial growth. But recent research shows that honey
must also have other properties that kill bacteria.
Rose Cooper, a microbiologist at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff,
and her colleagues have shown that compared with an artificial honey solution
of the same thickness and sugar concentration, natural honey kills bacteria
three times more effectively, though they are not yet sure what the active ingredients
are. It is however known that some types of honey, when diluted, form hydrogen
peroxide, which kills bacteria and can be used to clean wounds. But Cooper's
team rules out the possibility that its only hydrogen peroxide that helps healing.
Cooper et al found that both pasture honey, which generates hydrogen peroxide,
and manuka honey, which does not, stop bacteria from growing in the lab.
They collected microbes from wounds and hospital surfaces and used strains of
Staphlyococcus and Enterococcus that can withstand even the 'last
resort' antibiotics, such as methicillin and vancomycin. They suggest that honey
may be antimicrobial because of enzymes secreted by the bees that make it; alternatively,
its activity could be due to its acidity or to chemicals from the original plant
Cooper says, "It's a traditional remedy that has been overlooked. To reintroduce
it, we must have evidence to support its antibacterial and healing properties."
Andrea Nelson, a nurse researcher who has worked on chronic wound healing at
the University of York, UK, supports her. Nelson says that to convince skeptical
doctors, clinical trials must be carried out applying honey to patients' wounds.
Treating infected wounds in the hospitals has become a problem, as prolonged
use of antibiotics can result in the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria.
Cooper et al are still working on the effects of honey on wounds and warn that
they are not suggesting people to rush to the store to get a bottle of honey
to treat the wounds, though some companies are already making sterilized tubes
of honey and honey-impregnated bandages for treating wounds.
Cooper, R. A., Molan, P. C. & Harding, K. G. The sensitivity to honey of
Gram-positive cocci of clinical significance isolated from wounds. Journal
of Applied Microbiology, 93, 857 - 863, (2002).
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