Honey

18/Description

About

Honey is a substance produced by bees from the nectar of plants. It is commonly used as a sweetener in food. It may also be used as a medicine.

Honey can become contaminated with germs from plants, bees, and dust during production, collection, and processing. Fortunately, there are characteristics of honey that prevent these germs from remaining alive or reproducing. However, some bacteria that reproduce using spores, such as the type that causes botulism, can remain. This explains why botulism has been reported in infants given honey by mouth. To solve this problem, medical-grade honey (Medihoney, for example) is irradiated to inactive the bacterial spores. Medical-grade honey is also standardized to have consistent germ-fighting activity. Some experts also suggest that medical-grade honey should be collected from hives that are free from germs and not treated with antibiotics, and that the nectar should be from plants that have not been treated with pesticides.

Honey is used for cough, diabetes, high levels of cholesterol, asthma, and hay fever. It is also used for diarrhea, ulcers in the mouth caused by cancer treatment, and stomach ulcers caused by infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. Honey is also used as a source of carbohydrate during vigorous exercise or in people who are malnourished. It may also be used orally for wound healing following the removal of tonsils.

Some people apply honey directly to the skin for wound healing, burns, diabetic foot ulcers, gangrene, and treating cataracts or clouding of the cornea in people who were infected by herpes virus. It is also applied to the skin for sunburns, to prevent infections that occur following the use of catheters, and to prevent the spread of cancer cells when a tumor is being removed. Honey is applied inside the mouth and then swallowed to prevent and treat mouth ulcers that occur during cancer treatment and to prevent infections of the gums. It may also be applied to the skin to reduce itching, to treat skin lesions that occur after infection with an organism called Leishmania, for hemorrhoids, and for herpes infections.

Topical use of honey has a long history. In fact, it is considered one of the oldest known wound dressings. Honey was used by the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides in 50 A.D. for sunburn and infected wounds. Honey's healing properties are mentioned in the Bible, Koran, and Torah.

Honey is used as a nasal spray for hay fever.

Honey is applied into the vagina to improve fertility.

In foods, honey is used as a sweetening agent.

In manufacturing, honey is used as a fragrance and a moisturizer in soaps and cosmetics.

Don't confuse honey with bee pollen, bee venom, and royal jelly.

How it works

Some of the chemicals in honey may kill certain bacteria and fungus. When applied to the skin, honey may serve as a barrier to moisture and keep skin from sticking to dressings. Honey may also provide nutrients and other chemicals that speed wound healing.

Effectiveness

Possibly Effective
Burns

Applying honey preparations directly to burns seems to improve healing.

Cough

Taking a small amount of honey at bedtime appears to reduce the number of coughing spells in children age 2 years and older. Honey appears to be at least as effective as the cough suppressant dextromethorphan in typical over-the-counter doses. Also, drinking water containing a small amount of a honey/coffee paste seems to reduce the frequency of coughing in adults that have a long-lasting cough after they have been ill.

Mouth sores due to radiation or chemical treatment (mucositis)

Rinsing the mouth and then slowly swallowing honey before and after radiation therapy sessions seems to reduce the risk of developing mouth sores. Also, applying honey to mouth sores or taking a honey/coffee paste seems to help heal mouth ulcers caused by chemotherapy.

Wound healing

Applying honey preparations directly to wounds or using dressings containing honey seems to improve healing. Several small studies describe the use of honey or honey-soaked dressings for various types of wounds, including wounds after surgery, chronic leg ulcers, abscesses, burns, abrasions, cuts, and places where skin was taken for grafting. Honey seems to reduce odors and pus, help clean the wound, reduce infection, reduce pain, and decrease time to healing. In some reports, wounds healed with honey after other treatments failed to work.

Concerns

Likely safe

Honey is LIKELY SAFE for most adults and children over one year old when taken by mouth or when appropriately applied to the skin by adults

Possibly unsafe

Honey is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in infants and very young children. Do not use raw honey in infants and young children under 12 months of age due to the chance of botulism poisoning. This is not a danger for older children or adults

Likely unsafe

Honey is LIKELY UNSAFE when it is produced from the nectar of Rhododendrons and taken by mouth. This type of honey contains a toxin that may cause heart problems, low blood pressure, chest pain, as well as other serious heart problems.

18/Warnings

Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Honey isLIKELY SAFEwhen taken in food amounts. The concern about botulism applies to infants and young children and not to adults or pregnant women. However, not enough is known about the safety of honey when used for medicinal purposes in women who are pregnant orbreast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid medicinal amounts and topical applications.Are there any interactions with medications?

Diabetes: Using large amounts of honey might increase blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Also, applying honey at dialysis exit sites may increase the risk of infection in people with diabetes.

Pollen allergies: Avoid honey if you are allergic to pollen. Honey, which is made from pollen, may cause allergic reactions.

Interactions

Always consult with your doctor.
Moderate
Phenytoin (Dilantin)

Honey might slow blood clotting. In theory, taking honey along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin; clopidogrel (Plavix); nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others); dalteparin (Fragmin); enoxaparin (Lovenox); heparin; warfarin (Coumadin); and others.Honey might increase how much phenytoin (Dilantin) the body absorbs. Taking honey along with phenytoin (Dilantin) might increase the effects and side effects of phenytoin (Dilantin).

The information provided on this page is for reference purposes and is not meant to be used as a medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with a medical professional.