May 2 2011
By Dr. Isaac Eliaz
Herbal ingredients and natural nutrients are often capable of supporting different functions within the body, and current research is showing that a certain kind of honey may be useful in fighting drug-resistant germs.
Honey has been used for thousands of years, but its medicinal popularity fell when antibiotics became the go-to treatment. Raw, natural honey contains a variety of antioxidants and enzymes, and also has antibacterial properties, which can be effective both internally and externally. Raw honey has historically been used on the skin because it contains an antiseptic substance called inhibine which may prevent infection. Manuka honey is a specific kind of honey cultivated from the Manuka tree (or tea tree), which is native to New Zealand. Tea trees have long been revered for their oil, which has anti-bacterial properties often used for skin conditions.
Microbiologist Rose Cooper of the University of Wales Institute recently studied the effects of Manuka honey on drug-resistant germs. The laboratory results showed that the honey fought off certain germs, including drug-resistant Staph, commonly referred to as MRSA.
MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a highly resistant form of Staph. Staph (Staphylococcus aureus) is a common germ found on the skin of most people and common surfaces. For those with weakened immune systems, Staph can cause serious infections such as skin or wound infections, pneumonia, or infections of the blood. The wide use of antibiotics has helped create MRSA, which is now harder to kill.
Previous studies have shown that Manuka honey decreases the surface pH of wounds (so germs can’t survive) and can help keep bacteria out. While all honey does contain anti-bacterial properties, commercial honey is usually pasteurized and processed, which decreases its beneficial properties. Manuka honey is special because it produces a different substance called methylglyoxal, which has unique antibacterial activity.
"The work in our lab has shown that honey can make MRSA more sensitive to antibiotics such as oxacillin — effectively reversing antibiotic resistance. This indicates that existing antibiotics may be more effective against drug-resistant infections if used in combination with Manuka honey," says Cooper, who hopes to use her research in clinical trials and test other kinds of honey.
It’s so exciting to see research from around the world validating the use of integrative medicine -- combining natural health solutions, such as honey, with traditional treatment, such as antibiotics. Substantiating a product's health claims is the foundation for creating effective natural supplements.