The story of honey is as ancient and fascinating as human civilisation. By most accounts,honey seems to have been in vogue since ancient times in the Vedic,Egyptian,Sumerian and Babylonian civilisations. I was not surprised to learn that the tomb of Tutankhamen,when opened,contained honey that had been stored for 3,300 years and was still perfectly edible. This highlights the importance and the stability of honey as a food.
In more recent times during the course of the two world wars wounded soldiers were treated with honey applied through poultices on their wounds. This was an effective way to prevent the wounds from being infected. Unfortunately,after the advent of penicillin and other antibiotics,the use of honey as a natural antibiotic seemed to have fallen out of favour.
Given the gay abandon with which antibiotics have been used and abused over the last several decades,the phenomenon of bacterial resistance to man-made antibiotics has flourished. This has compelled scientists to revisit the use of honey in the fight against microbes. The use of honey as an antibiotic has been well documented now. For instance,honey acts against H. pylori,the nasty bacteria that can create havoc in the stomach,and fungal infections. Very recent evidence suggests honey works against MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus infection),a strain of bacteria commonly referred to as super bugs. The effectiveness against microbes seems to stem from the phenolic compounds in honey,which are obtained naturally from plants and their flowers.
There are several other factors that enable honey to attack microbes. Honey contains small amounts of hydrogen peroxide,which kills microbes. The peroxide is present because bees when producing honey add an enzyme called glucose oxidase.
This helps produce hydrogen peroxide from the sugar in honey.
Besides being effective as a wound dressing,a recent review of a scientific literature suggests honey helps treating mild burns and burns with partial thickness. This happens because honey reduces the healing time,in mild to moderately superficial burns,when compared to some conventional dressings. Honey has also been found effective in treating diabetic foot ulcers against the conventional iodine dressings.
Next week: Honey for treatment of cancer