Honey as an Antibacterial

Honey is an important food and medicine. Its culinary effects are well known, and relate largely to its sweet taste, something that results from its very high concentration of sugars. The medicinal effects of honey are more complex, and relate in part to the sugars present, but also to the high concentrations of phytochemicals that are collected by the bees from the flowers they visit. These phytochemicals are concentrated into the honey by the bees, and this may provide much of the internal medicinal effects. One external effect of honey that is reasonably well reported is that of its antibacterial effects. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus cereus, Enterococcus faecalis, and Micrococcus luteus are vulnerable to the topical application of honey, but Gram negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Salmonella typhi are more sensitive. As Gram negative bacteria have the potential to be more pathogenic, this is a major advantage for honey over other antibacterial methods. It is likely that the high sugar content in honey causes osmotic problems in bacteria killing them through desiccation, but that the phytochemicals may also disrupt their metabolism. Because bacteria are not resistant and cannot get resistant to osmotic desiccation, honey holds a major advantage over many drug-derived alternatives. 

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Mohapatra, D.P., Thakur, V. and Brar, S.K. 2011. Antibacterial efficacy of raw and processed honey. Biotechnology Research International. Article ID 917505

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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