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Originally published August 19 2010

Science Finally Discovers the Anti-Bacterial Abilities of Honey

by Aaron Turpen

(NaturalNews) New research published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biologies (FASEB) Journal of experimental biology explains how honey kills bacteria. While alternative medical and health practitioners have long touted the powers of honey, science has now finally described one of the golden elixir's amazing abilities.

In Egypt, it is known that doctors would treat some open wounds by first cleaning the wound, then smearing it with honey and binding. The honey, they knew, would keep disease from infecting the wound. Modern science now has a full explanation for how this works.

In the study, researchers at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam methodically isolated the constituent parts of honey by comparing it to antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria versus a sugar-based "placebo." They eventually found that the primary anti-biotic element in honey is defensin-1, an immune system protein. The bees manufacture the protein for their own immune systems and impart it to the honey they make as well.

After comparing defensin-1 to other anti-bacteria elements in honey, the researchers concluded that this single protein is responsible for most of honey's bacteria-killing properties. The research also sheds light into the immune systems of honey bees, which may help researchers find ways to help keep the falling bee population more healthy.

The honey was tested against several types of bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (most common cause of staph infections) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (a naturally-occurring and beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract which can become pathogenic in some circumstances). These, and other strains, are a problem for modern medical treatments because of their resistance to the most often prescribed remedies (anti-biotics).

Only tiny amounts of honey are required to kill the bacteria, needing only a 10-20% volume to volume (v/v) ratio of honey to bacteria. More than twice that in sugar-based solution was required to have a similar level of success. The researchers further found that lowering the acidity of honey further reduced its effectiveness against bacteria.

Since staph-resistant infections have become a problem in the United Kingdom, for instance, nurses and caregivers have turned to natural methods for combating the deadly infections. Honey's pH level (acidity) is another reason it is an excellent barrier to invading bacteria and other biotics.

It should be noted that the honey used in the UK (Manuka honey) and that tested by the scientists in this latest study ("medical-grade") are not the standard honeys found on grocery shelves: the major difference being sterility and efficacy. A study in February, 2009 found that the difference in potency for anti-bacterial use between medical-grade and store-purchased honeys was minimal, however, though no delineation was made between irradiated medical honey, pasteurized standard honey, and raw honey.

Honey is one of nature's miracles, but it's taken science a long time to finally come around to investigating what it is about honey that makes it unique. With one amazing property of honey down, science now only has a hundred more to go!

1 - How honey kills bacteria by Paulus H.S. Kwakman, et al, FASEB Journal, August 2010

2 - The healing power of honey: From burns to weak bones, raw honey can help by Kelly Joyce Neff, NaturalNews

3 - When Antibiotics Fail, Nurses Turn to Maggots And Manuka Honey to Beat Superbugs by David Gutierrez, NaturalNews

4 - A Comparison Between Medical Grade Honey and Table Honeys in Relation to Antimicrobial Efficacy by Rose A. Cooper, PhD, et al, Wound Research

About the author

Aaron Turpen is a professional writer living in Wyoming in the USA. His blogs cover organic/sustainable living and environmental considerations ( and the science debunking mainstream medical and proving alternatives (

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