The Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties of Honey

Raw honey’s natural health qualities are well known in the scientific community. Honey is a natural antibacterial and antimicrobial agent and research has shown that raw honey can kill unwanted bacteria and fungus.

In the hive, as the original nectar dehydrates and is converted into what we know as honey, small amounts of hydrogen peroxide (an antiseptic) are produced. Honey also also contains glucose oxidase and has a low pH level – because of this unique chemical composition, it does not allow yeast or bacteria to grow which means it can kill harmful bacteria and fungi.

Honey has traditionally been used as a topical medication and is currently used to promote healing and prevent infection in skin wounds, burns, and ulcerations, including surgical wounds, pressure sores, diabetic foot ulcers, and various types of leg ulcers. Because of its antibacterial actions, people can use honey at home to cleanse wounds and prevent infection.

When modern antibiotics were developed, medicinal use of honey fell out of favour and public consciousness in many areas. But with the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in recent decades, researchers, medical staff and health-conscious people are re-looking at honey’s antibacterial qualities. This is because bacteria does not generally seem to develop resistance to honey.

Honey’s effectiveness as an antibacterial or antifungal varies depending on the “activity” in the honey. This is measured by total activity (or TA). Research has shown that some varietals of raw honey with high TA can kill common pathogens including:

  • Escherichia coli or E. coli, a bacteria that causes food poisoning and wound infections
  • Staphylococcus aureus or S. aureus, a microbe that causes skin infections
  • Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori, a bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and chronic gastritis

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