Ever since the advent of antibiotics, the medical industry has been engaged in a never-ending arms race between their medicines, and the pathogens they hope to eradicate. Lately, they’ve been losing pretty badly. Every time they create a more powerful antibiotic, it’s only a matter of time before the pathogen becomes immune, and sometimes significantly more lethal than it was before. The age of superbugs is upon us, and it’s threatening to derail decades of medical advances.
This has left many folks looking for alternatives. Namely, what were we using to clean our wounds and heal the sick before antibiotics came along? One of the poster children for this search has been honey, and for a very good reason.
It’s been used for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of ailments. Pretty much every ancient civilization from the Greeks, to the Egyptians, to the Chinese, have a documented use of honey for various conditions. It has some serious pedigree in the history of medicine, and a proven track record of success. Best of all, numerous studies have shown that certain kinds of honey can fight multiple species of bacteria, fungi, and superbugs, making it a viable alternative to antibiotics.
The key phrase here though is “certain kinds”. If you look over all the different brands of honey in the grocery store, they may all share the same golden hue and they may all, for the most part, taste delicious; but not all of them are very good at treating wounds. They may be pretty useful for treating some of the symptoms of the common cold and flu, but that doesn’t mean they will sterilize a cut or heal a burn.
If you’re looking for clarity on the issue, take a look at this study that was released in Britain several years ago. It’s pretty lengthy so I’ll try my best to sum it up here. The scientists decided to test the efficacy of several different kinds of honey, in terms of their antimicrobial properties. They tested 19 different forms and brands of honey, mostly bought from the grocery store, and 1 type of artificial honey to see if the sugars alone were enough to kill bacteria.
The results were mixed to say the least. Most of the products that were bought in the grocery store had a moderate effect, while others had no effect at all. The only one that had a significant effect was a type of medical grade honey, which is typically marketed as Medihoney. This honey has been screened for its medical attributes, and also includes gelling agents to stabilize it, giving it a consistency that is similar to neosporin.
That’s not to say that the honey you buy in the store won’t work. If you’ve successfully treated a wound with off-the-shelf honey, you’re not suffering from some kind of placebo effect. It’s just that the consistency is going to vary. You don’t really know what you’re getting from the grocery store, because their vendors don’t screen this stuff with medical applicability in mind.
And even if you buy a very specific kind of honey that is well-known for its medicinal properties, you still might not know what you’re getting. Since bees do pretty much whatever the hell they want, it’s hard to tell what they’re going to make, and what is going to wind up in your batch, unless the beekeepers rigorously test every batch that they sell.
In the case of the much touted Manuka honey, it’s recently been found that much of it is fraudulent. Upwards of 80 percent of Manuka honey on the market is either filtered, diluted, or completely counterfeited.
So if you’re looking for alternatives to the dying industry of antibiotics, honey is certainly a viable option. You just have to look for products that are either selected or designed for medical treatments, and have a proven record of antimicrobial effects, and look for anything that is “Medical Grade”. And it should go without saying that you should do some research on the product to make sure it’s not a scam. Doing anything less means taking your chances on store-bought honeys they or may not be suitable for medical use.