Honey: Not just a Sweetener or a Pet Name

Although it can be used either as a pet name or food, Honey and products from the hive have been used in medicine since before Christ and is mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s (23AD – 79AD) Naturalis Historius as a remedy.  Some of these medicinal uses include: as an expectorant to loosen phlegm in the chest during respiratory diseases (honey and lemon tea), as part of Chinese medical herbal prescriptions, as a remedy for diarrhea and gastric ulcers due to H. Pylori infections and most interestingly as wound dressings and some commercially prepared wound gels of Manuka honey for the treatment of MRSA (multi-drug resistant staphylococcus aureus bacteria) and burns.  It is this last particular function, which is often neglected in hospitals where it should be used the most.

Honey in its unpasteurized form contains small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, MGO (Methylglyoxal- a naturally present non-peroxide antibiotic substance) as well as propolis (which is a resinous antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral substance secreted by honeybees).  When used to dress a wound, the wound is first cleaned, then honey is applied to the dressing (sterile gauze) as well as to the wound, and then covered.  The dressing is changed daily.  This might seem strange as most people would think that bacteria would like nothing better than to eat the honey, yet this is actually not the case.  The reason for this stems from the fact that honey has a very high osmotic pressure, which proves to be too high for bacteria to survive.

Osmotic pressure is simply the pressure applied by a solution to prevent the inward flow of water across a semi-permeable membrane (which in this case is the bacteria’s cell wall).  Of course the hydrogen peroxide and propolis don’t hurt either.  Honey as a dressing also has another valuable function, that being, a steady supply of glucose to the cells that are healing.  This type of dressing is ideal for venous ulcers, compression ulcers and bedsores, which are difficult to treat in the elderly or bedridden.  Pasteurized honey can also be used, but a drop of 3% hydrogen peroxide should be added to the honey just to be safe.   So the next time that a sore turns funny, get your honey to add their sweet touch, Sonny!

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