Posted Feb 7, 2011
Q: What is your take on manuka honey? Someone we know recommends it. --- P.K., Buckhead
A: Manuka honey is not a brand of honey; rather, a specific type of honey from New Zealand made from bees that pollinate the flowers of the manuka bush.
The practice of using honey to heal wounds goes back thousands of years to the times of the ancient Egyptians --- long before bacteria were known about. Honey has long had a reputation as a folk remedy for infection, but there's been only a small amount of formal study into its potential benefit until recently. The renewed interest in medicinal honey has come about because of the rapidly growing problem of bacteria becoming resistant to the effects of traditional antibiotics.
Honey has naturally occurring antibacterial and anti-oxidant properties, and it's able to avoid bacterial resistance. The bacteria-killing properties of honey are the result of low water concentration, a small amount of the oxidant hydrogen peroxide and a fairly acidic pH of 3.2-4.5 (water has a neutral pH of 7.0). These three properties inhibit bacterial growth and kill topically when honey is applied directly to a bacteria-infected area. Manuka honey has far greater potency at killing bacteria than any other type of honey.
Some folks ingest manuka honey for medicinal purposes to treat stomach/duodenal ulcers and bacterial gastro-intestinal infections, but I have great concern about abandoning approved medications in favor of medicinal honey.
Researchers in the Netherlands studying medicinal-grade honey have shown that a 40 percent solution of honey killed all bacteria tested in culture, including the highly drug-resistant MRSA bacteria and vancomycin-resistant E. faecium. The Waikato Honey Research Unit in New Zealand is actively researching manuka honey.
Honey from the grocery store is not medicinal-grade honey and should not be used for wound care.
Medihoney is the first honey-infused dressing approved by the Food and Drug Administration for burns, infected wounds and all phases of wound healing.
Dr. Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: "Ask Dr. H," P.O. Box 767787, Roswell, GA30076. Because of the large volume of mail received, personal replies are not possible.
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