Aristotle waxed lyrical about the medicinal benefits of honey
Apart from being tasty on toast it is hard to believe that anything as pleasant tasting
as honey can be good for you in so many other ways. But new research shows that drinking
four tablespoons of honey in water improves blood antioxidants, which helps to prevent
narrowing of the arteries. Weight for weight, honey contains about the same amount
of antioxidants as spinach and a similar range to that of apples, bananas, oranges
The findings are the latest in a long list of benefits of honey, including the treatment
of acne, burns and gastric ulcers. It is increasingly being used in British hospitals
- among them the Royal Free in north London - for persistent wounds, including those
infected with the super bug MRSA.
"It is generally accepted that honey is a respectable therapeutic agent, and there
is rapidly increasing use by clinicians, as well as the general public" says Dr Peter
Molan of the University of Waikato, New Zealand, who is a leading authority on the
healing properties of honey.
Honey has been used medicinally for at least 2000 years - Aristotle referred to pale
honey as being "good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds" - but it is only recently
that its antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have been
Dr Molan cites nearly 70 research papers covering gastro-enteritis, peptic ulcers
(honey kills the the bacteria Heliobacter pylori that causes the ulcer) and eye conditions.
But by far the commonest therapeutic use is for skin problems and wounds.
In one study, 59 cases of wounds and skin ulcers that had failed to respond to conventional
treatment for up to two years became sterile and odourless within a week after honey
was applied. In another trial, patients given a daily application of honey recovered
more quickly from necrotising fasciitis - the "flesh eating bug" - than those treated
with surgery and antibiotics.
"Patients who really respond are people with wounds and leg ulcers that are slow
to heal because they have poor circulation - perhaps due to diabetes or atherosclerosis",
says naturopath Marcus Webb, director of the Hadley Wood Healthcare clinic in Hertfordshire.
"Sometimes, the skin is almost down to the bone and there are areas of rotting tissue.
Conventional medicine treats these problems with a kind of supervised neglect: there
is not a lot it can do. Dressing the wound with honey is extremely effective. In
most cases, it heals completely."
"Because of its viscosity, honey provides a protective barrier that prevent cross
infection," says Dr Molan. "Also, because it draws fluid from tissues, it creates
a moist healing environment. Dressings do not stick to the surface of the wounds,
as they sit on al layer of diluted honey. And, as there is no growth of new tissue
into the dressing, there is no pain when the dressing is changed, and new tissue
is not torn away."
Research in the UK into the medicinal benefits and healing properties of honey is
currently being undertaken by Professor Rose Cooper, The University of Wales Institute,
Cardiff. Proprietary brand mendicants are being produced in Australia, New Zealand
and the Netherlands for eczema, wound care and oral dietary use. Information on these
products are provided on the manufacturers web sites at Medihoney and Ticum Exploitatie
BV. Another supplier of honey based mendicants is the New Zealand Natural Food Company,
London at Comvita Tel: 020 8961 4410 (0800 652 3468 UK Only)email firstname.lastname@example.org
Honey has many other medicinal uses - mix it with lemon and hot water to soothe sore
throats and coughs, and with hot milk to aid sleep, for athlete's foot and other
fungal problems and to rehydrate dry skin.
Apart from producing such a high quality wholesome enjoyable food what better reason
have we for encouraging beekeeping and maintaining a suitable environment for the
honey bee to prosper. The all-round benefits to be gained from the industrious honey
bee far outweigh its occasional defensive sting.