The Medicinal Uses of Honey

In honey's liquid gold, you can find the many medicinal uses of honey: a cache of antioxidants, digestive aids, detoxifiers and even soothing balms for wounds, all rolled into one delightful concoction.


| November/December 2003


There are many medicinal uses of honey, it is not only a delicious sweetener but is full of antioxidants, digestive aids and detoxifiers.

The Medicinal Uses of Honey

One of my life’s purest pleasures is a crockery mug of steaming tea sweetened with golden honey. With that comfort in hand, I can tackle just about anything — or gratefully do absolutely nothing. But what really sweetens the pot is knowing the honey in my tea is at work even if I’m not. In this liquid gold, I find a cache of antioxidants, a digestive aid, a detoxifier and even a soothing balm for wounds, all rolled into one delightful concoction.

Honey is the ultimate in products derived from herbs. Fashioned through an ingenious alliance between animal and plant kingdoms, honey delivers a diverse array of phytochemicals in one package. This bounty arrives courtesy of the industrious honeybee, who visits some 2 million flowers to manufacture just one pound of honey.

The History of Honey

Since ancient times, people have used honey as medicine. Hippocrates recommended it for optimal health. The Egyptians, and many people since, used it as a wound treatment. Old texts heralded honey as a salve for eye ailments and a restorative in complaints of the heart, kidneys, liver and lungs. Today, honey with lemon is still a favorite for colds and sore throats.



Nowadays, we are uncovering much about the nature of honey and its actions. For instance, it really does help heal wounds. A randomized clinical study published in the journal Burns found honey salve healed superficial burns more effectively and quickly, and with less inflammation, than a standard treatment of silver sulfadiazine. Honey helps wounds in several ways. Its high viscosity deters infection; its sugar draws lymph out of the wound; it stimulates formation of new blood capillaries and connective tissues; and it’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. A recent study found that antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which can infect wounds, succumb readily to honey.

Honey as an Antibacterial Ally

Most common honeys derive their antibacterial activity from hydrogen peroxide, produced by an enzyme naturally present in honey. But others — notably the Leptospermum species from New Zealand and Australia — battle bacteria with rather mysterious non-peroxide components. Leptospermum honeys are now approved as therapeutic honeys by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (equivalent to the Food and Drug Administration in the United States) and are marketed under such names as Medihoney and Active Manuka honey.








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