—A Special Report from Victor Marchione, MD
For a few decades, scientists have been hot on the trail of honey’s use in medicine. It centers mostly around wound healing and bacteria fighting. A new study has found a secret ingredient in honey that kills bacteria.
That ingredient is called (by humans) “defensin-1.” For bees, it’s a protein they add to honey, and it seems to possess powerful antibacterial properties. It could be a great leap forward in our fight against bacteria, and the escalating problem of bacteria that have adapted and are resistant to antibiotics.
So, into the realm of antibiotics comes a sweet new idea. The study, published in “FASEB Journal,” shows for the first time why honey kills bacteria. Defensin-1 could one day be used to treat burns and skin infections and perhaps to develop new state-of-the-art drugs. The study says that honey could be a valuable tool to prevent and treat infections.
Researchers tested the antibacterial activity of high-grade honey in test tubes against a panel of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. In the end, they isolated the defensin-1 protein, which is part of the honey bee’s immune system. It became clear that the vast majority of honey’s antibacterial properties come from that protein.
For hundreds of years, honey has been used to help skin wound healing. In fact, it was once one of the preferred treatments, if you can believe it. But around the time World War II exploded, honey took the backseat to new topical dressings that used antibiotics.
This is what we tend to forget with modern medicine — people successfully used natural treatments before the age of pharmaceuticals. Now, honey is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, being rediscovered by new studies that show just how effective it is in healing wounds and driving back infection. This latest study is just one of many that prove that honey kills microorganisms.
Here is how honey works on a wound: 1) Highly viscous, honey forms a barrier to prevent wound infection; 2) It keeps the area moist, which helps new skin cells grow across the wound without causing a scar; 3) It stimulates the regeneration of tissue beneath the surface; 4) It fights inflammation by reducing swelling and thus pain; 5) Honey exerts a potent antibacterial effect, also preventing infection.