Honey Can Be A Medicinal Treat — Science Says So

_MG_0526_ErinYamagata PAGPhotographed by Erin Yamagata.
So, September is apparently National Honey Month. What? You didn't know? Well, even if you didn't have Honey Month highlighted and circled four times in your calendar, you might be interested to know that some of the ancient Egyptian honey hype is turning out to be true. Here's what the research says about a few of our favorite medicinal uses for honey.

1. Honey can be antibiotic.

A recent study published in the International Wound Journal does suggest that honey may have some antibiotic properties. In the study, researchers were able to use compounds created by 13 lactic acid bacteria micriobiota — found in fresh honey — to inhibit various pathogens (including MRSA). Although this technique (with manuka honey) has been shown to be effective in treating horse wound infections, it hasn't yet been tested in humans. So, it's unlikely we'll be using honey as a replacement for our current antibiotics anytime soon.


2. Honey can be used to dress a wound.

Because honey is a highly viscous material, it creates a barrier that protects against infections. Honey is also a "hygroscopic" material, meaning that it draws water out of the air to keep that burn or cut moist. The aforementioned manuka honey may also provide a helpful low pH and high amount of sugar, to keep growing microbes at bay. A 2006 survey of the available literature confirmed that honey can be an effective wound dressing on animals. And, a review published last year mostly confirmed the same for humans, with some reservations. You can now buy the FDA-approved Medihoney for all your wound-dressing needs.

3. Eating honey can soothe your throat.

In a 2007 study of 105 children and their parents, honey was shown to be pretty darn effective at soothing the kids' nighttime coughs: The parents rated a single dose of buckwheat honey as their most favorable cough medicine, beating out honey-flavored dextromethorphan (one of the magic ingredients in NyQuil). In another study, this one from 2010, buckwheat honey was reportedly more effective at reducing children's coughs than either dextromethorphan or the antihistamine diphenhydramine. However, a 2012 review only found honey to be better than diphenhydramine.

And, because honey can help temper a rough throat, it can be helpful in easing that particular symptom of seasonal allergies. But, the idea of using local, raw honey to actually treat seasonal allergies has unfortunately little evidence to back it up. It's also worth pointing out that honey has actually been known to cause allergic reactions in rare cases.
So, although there's still plenty of research to be done on honey's medicinal effects, it seems not all the honey myths are too sweet to be true. And, as the honeybee population continues to disappear, we should be sure to get the most out of this stuff while we can. Still, there's no denying that golden goop's one true superpower: It can make boring-old toast taste like actual food.

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