Some medical professionals use honey as a topical dressing for wounds, believing it aids healing. Now researchers are lending scientific support to the idea, in a new study that has found honey is not only a powerful antibacterial agent, but may also be effective in treating antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
The research, presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas this week, suggests the sweet condiment could play a larger role in fighting infections.
"The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance," said lead researcher Susan M. Meschwitz. She explained that honey contains hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentrations, and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells.
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In addition, the sugar in honey has an "osmotic effect" – drawing water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them. What’s more, studies have also shown that honey inhibits the formation of biofilms – slimy disease-causing bacterial sheets that are notoriously resistant to drugs, she said.
"Honey may also … [weaken] bacterial virulence, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to conventional antibiotics," said Meschwitz, a researcher with Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I.
Honey’s healing power largely comes from healthful polyphenols, or antioxidants, including caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and ellagic acid, as well as many flavonoids.
"Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between the non-peroxide antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of honey and the presence of honey phenolics," she added. A large number of laboratory and limited clinical studies have confirmed the broad-spectrum antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties of honey, according to Meschwitz.
She said that her team also is finding that honey has antioxidant properties and is an effective antibacterial against E. coli, Staphylococcus E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others.
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