Manuka Honey vs. Antibiotics for Skin Infections and Wounds

By on July 11, 2014

honey vs penicillinWhen I think about honey I think about the fact that it can survive for thousands of years. I think about the land of milk and honey. I think about my Papaw the bee keeper. Bees are sacred to me and we always had honey in our house. I firmly believe in the healing power of honey and it seems like science is catching on too. The most powerful healing honey is known as manuka honey. Manuka honey contains a high amount of methylglyoxal (MG) but not all manuka honeys are created equal. In order to have health benefits the level of MG needs to be at least 10 UMF. Look for labels that say UMF or “Active Manuka Honey.”

I recently found an interesting article on Mercola.com that talked through the benefits of honey and wanted to share it with you. The benefits of honey are extended when you use a high quality Manuka Honey. Studies suggest that Manuka is effective in fighting skin wounds and infections.

“Honey was a conventional therapy in fighting infection up until the early 20th century, at which time its use slowly vanished with the advent of penicillin. Now the use of honey in wound care is regaining popularity again, as researchers are determining exactly how honey can help fight serious skin infections.

According to their findings, certain types of honey might be more effective than antibiotics! After any skin injury, bacteria that live on your skin can infect and penetrate the wound site. One particularly common type of strep (Streptococcus pyogenes) can result in wounds that refuse to heal.

But honey, especially the kind made by bees foraging on manuka flowers, was found to destroy these bacteria. Scientific American recently reported:

“In lab tests, just a bit of the honey killed off the majority of bacterial cells — and cut down dramatically on the stubborn biofilms they formed. It could also be used to prevent wounds from becoming infected in the first place.”

According to the authors of the study, “These findings indicate that manuka honey has potential in the topical treatment of wounds containing S. pyogenes.”

Should You Dress Your Wounds with Honey?

As long as you use the right kind of honey, science does back up its use for wound treatment, which is especially relevant today as antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections are on the rise.

Five years ago, the FDA authorized the first honey-based medical product for use in the US. Derma Sciences uses Manuka honey for their Medihoney wound and burn dressings, which can be found online from medical supply stores. Amazon.com also sells them. These products can also be found in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

When considering using honey for the treatment of wounds, it’s extremely important to understand that there’s a major difference between raw honey—and especially Manuka honey, which is in a class of its own—and the highly processed “Grade A” type honey you find in most grocery stores. The latter is more akin to high fructose corn syrup, which is more likely to increase infection, and should never be used to treat topical wounds! (It also will not offer you the same health benefits as raw honey when consumed.)

Manuka honey, on the other hand, is made with pollen gathered from the flowers of the Manuka bush (a medicinal plant), and clinical trials have found this type of honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria, including resistant varieties such as:

MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
MSSA (methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus)
VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)

Compared to other types of honey, Manuka has an extra ingredient with antimicrobial qualities, called the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). It is so called because no one has yet been able to discover the unique substance involved that gives it its extraordinary antibacterial activity. Honey releases hydrogen peroxide through an enzymatic process, which explains its general antiseptic qualities, but Active Manuka honey contains “something else” that makes it far superior to other types of honey when it comes to killing off bacteria.

The level of UMF can vary between batches, so each batch is ranked and priced accordingly. The higher the concentration of UMF, the darker, thicker, and more expensive it is.

To determine its rating, a sample of the honey batch is placed on a plate with a bacterial culture. The area where the bacterial growth stops is then measured. This area is compared to a similar area produced by a solution of phenol and water. The UMF number refers to the equivalent percentage of phenol in water, so, for example, honey with a UMF rating of 10 has the same antibacterial strength as 10 percent phenol. A rating of UMF 10 or higher is recommended for medicinal use.

Evidence Supporting Use of Honey against Infectious Bacteria

Aside from the featured study, many others confirm the soundness of using good-old-fashioned honey for the treatment of bacterial and fungal infections. For example, a 1992 study found that honey sped up the healing of caesarean sections iii, iv. Another study found that honey cured the intractable wounds of 59 patients, and it’s been known to help heal everything from ulcers to sunburn. According to the International Journal of Lower Extremity Wounds, positive findings on honey in wound care have been reported from:

17 randomized controlled trials involving a total of 1965 participants
Five clinical trials of other forms involving 97 participants
16 trials on a total of 533 wounds on experimental animals

A study published in the summer of 2009 also found that chronic rhinosinusitis sufferers might benefit from honey. In 11 isolates of three separate biofilms, honey was found to be significantly more effective than commonly-used antibiotics in killing both planktonic and biofilm-grown forms of pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) and staphylococcus aureus (SA), two important factors in chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS).

The findings may hold important clinical implications in the treatment of CRS, which affects 31 million people each year in the United States alone, and is among the three most common chronic diseases in North America.

Helpful Additions to Your Home First Aid Kit

If you’re considering using honey to treat a mild burn, sunburn, or small wound at home, make sure to use either Manuka or raw honey. Like the Manuka honey, high quality RAW honey will help draw fluid away from your wound and suppress the growth of microorganisms. Part of what gives raw honey its antibacterial properties is an enzyme called glucose oxidase, which the worker bees excrete into the nectar. This enzyme releases low levels of hydrogen peroxide when the honey makes contact with your wound. A chemical reaction between the honey and the tissue also makes your wound smell good. Heated honey will destroy this perishable enzyme which is why you want to only use raw honey for this application.”

In Summary

Manuka honey is best used topically in the form of the FDA approved Medihoney. High grade Manuka honey can be consumed but to have health benefits should have a UMF score of at least 10. The organic Manuka for consumption is more expensive but you only need 1 tsp before meals. If you would like to read the original article you can do so here.

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