An investigation into the therapeutic properties of honey

Dee A. Catert, Shona E. Blair and Julie Irish

Implication for relevant stakeholders

The Australian Honey Industry

This project showed that there are numerous Australian honeys that exhibit therapeutically beneficial levels of antibacterial activity.  With appropriate marketing and public awareness campaigns, supported by reliable assay procedures, Australian honey has the potential for adoption as internationally-recognised, potent, non-toxic, topical micro-agent.  There is a potentially huge market for such products.


This study has shown that honey has a potent activity against numerous problematic pathogens.  Honey shows excellent potential as a prophylactic agent, particularly in hospital settings where patients are often immune-compromised and exposed to multi-drug pathogens.

Recommendations for Beekeeping Industry

Develop and license a unified means of assaying and labeling medical-grade honeys, and this should be used by anyone marketing Australian honey as an antibacterial product.

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Antibacterial activity of honey against strains of Staphlycococcus Aureus from infected wounds

RA Cooper, PhD, PC Molan, PhD, KG Harding, MRCGP, FRCS

School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Wales Institute, Llandaff Campus Western Avenue, Cardiff Cf5 2YB, UK


The antibacterial action of honey in infected wounds does not depend wholly on its high osmolality.  We tested the sendivity of 58 stratins of coagulase-positive Staphylococcus aureas, isolated from infected wounds, to pasture honey and a manuka honey.  There were little variations between the isolates in their sensitivity to honey: minimum inhibitory concentrations were all between 2 aand 3 % (v/v) for the manuka honey and between 3 and 4 % for the pasture honey.  Thus, these honeys would prevent growth for S. aureus if diluted by body fluids a further 7 fold to fourteen-fold beyond the point where their osmolarity ceased to be completely inhibitory.  The antibacterial action of the pasture honey relied on release of hydrogen pyroxide, which in vivo might be reduced by catalase activity in tissue or blood.  The action of manuka honey stems partly from a phytochemical component, so this type of honey might be more effective in vivo.  Comparative clinical trials with standardized honeys are needed.

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Honey dressing versus silver sulfadiazine for wound healing in burns patients: a retrospective study

Shilpi Singh Gupta, Omnkar Singh, Praveen Singh Bageel, Sonia Moses, Sumit Shukla and Raj Kumar Mathur

Department of Surgery, MGM Medical College and mY Hospital, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India


The aim was to evaluate the effect of honey dressings and silver sulfadiazine (SSD) on wound healing in burn patients.

Materials and Methods:

We retrospectively reviewed the records of 108 patients (14-68 years of age), with first and second degree burns of less than 50% of the total body surface area admitted to our institution, over a period of 5 years (2004-2008).  Fifty-one patients were treated with honey dressings and 57 were treated with SSD.  Time elapsed since burn, site, percentage, degree and depth of burns, results of culture sensitivity at various time intervals, duration of healing, formation of post-treatment hypertrphic scar, and/or contracture were recorded and analysed.


The average duration of healing was 18.16 and 32.68 days for the honey and SSD respectively.  Wounds of all patients within 1 hour of burns became sterile with the honey dressing in less than 7 days while there was none with SSD.  All wounds treated with honey became sterile within 21 days shile for SSD-treated wounds, this figure was 36.5%.  A complete outcome was seen by 81% of all patients in the “honey group” while in only 37% patients in the “SSD group.”


Honey dressings make the wounds sterile in less time, enhance healing, and have a better outcome in terms of hypertropic scars and postburn contractures, as compared to SSD dressings.

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Prebiotics and human health: The state-of-the-art and future perspectives

By Patricia L. Conway

Prebiotics stimulate growth and/or activity of some presumably beneficial colonic bacteria and thereby have the potential to improve health, possibly through the actions of fermentation end products including butyrate. Some ingested oligosaccharides and resistant starches elevate levels of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, and decrease bacteroides, enterobacteria and clostridia. Rodent
studies have shown that prebiotic consumption can protect against pathogens, reduce the risk of colon cancer, enhance mineral absorption and influence lipogenesis. However confirmation of effects in humans is needed in clinical studies. With this wide range of potential applications, prebiotics need to be broadly classified based on microbiological and physiological function. Studies investigating mechanisms of action and the combined effects of prebiotics and probiotics are sparse. Resistant starch also functions as a culture protagonist because it provides enhanced bacterial survival when combined with probiotics. With the availability of a variety of prebiotics and probiotics, the potential exists for providing combinations targeted for specific health related benefits.

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A convenient new analysis of dihydroxyacetone and methylglyoxal applied to Australian Leptospermum honeys

Windsor, Pappalardo, Brooks, Williams and Manley-Harris

Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy Vol. 4(1), pp. 6-11, January 2012

This paper shows Australian manuka exhibits significant antibacterial activity as the result of chemical conversion of dihydroxyacetone from the nectar of certain Leptospermum species to methylglyoxal. This is the same process that occurs in NZ manuka honey.

However, there are only two species of Leptospermum in NZ, which is a significantly smaller landmass than Australia, and here there are over 80 species of Leptospermum.

We already know that many Australia Leptospermum honeys have significant levels of activity (equivalent to, or greater than, NZ manuka samples).

And there is currently a large, multi-centre study being undertaken to locate even more sources of active Australian Leptospermum honey.


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Flavonoids, phenolic acids and abscisic acid in Australian and New Zealand Leptospermum honeys

Flavonoids, phenolic acids and abscisic acid of Australian and New Zealand Leptospermum honeys were analyzed by HPLC.

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The antibacterial activity of honey derived from Australian flora

Julie Irish, Shona Blair, Dee A. Carter*

School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia 

Chronic wound infections and antibiotic resistance are driving interest in antimicrobial treatments that have generally been considered complementary, including antimicrobially active honey. Australia has unique native flora and produces honey with a wide range of different physicochemical properties. In this study we surveyed 477 honey samples, derived from native and exotic plants from various regions of Australia, for their antibacterial activity using an established screening protocol. A level of activity considered potentially therapeutically useful was found in 274 (57%) of the honey samples, with exceptional activity seen in samples derived from marri (Corymbia calophylla), jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) and jellybush (Leptospermum polygalifolium). In most cases the antibacterial activity was attributable to hydrogen peroxide produced by the bee-derived enzyme glucose oxidase. Non-hydrogen peroxide activity was detected in 80 (16.8%) samples, and was most consistently seen in honey produced from Leptospermum spp. Testing over time found the hydrogen peroxide dependent activity in honey decreased, in some cases by 100%, and this activity was more stable at 4uC than at 25uC. In contrast, the non-hydrogen peroxide activity of Leptospermum honey samples increased, and this was greatest in samples stored at 25uC. The stability of non-peroxide activity from other honeys was more variable, suggesting this activity may have a different cause. We conclude that many Australian honeys have clinical potential, and that further studies into the composition and stability of their active constituents are warranted.

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Honey has an antifungal effect against Candida species


*School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and Department of Medical Mycology and Parasitology, Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, Sari, Iran.

The incidence of Candida infections is escalating worldwide. The serious nature of these infections is compounded by increasing levels of drug resistance. We report that certain honeys have significant antifungal activity against clinical isolates of Candida species. Importantly, the minimum inhibitory concentration of these honeys would be achievable in a clinical setting.

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The unusual antibacterial activity of medical-grade Leptospermum honey: antibacterial spectrum, resistance and transcriptome analysis

S. E. Blair & N. N. Cokcetin & E. J. Harry & D. A. Carter

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis (2009) 28:1199–1208

This paper is the first publication to show that bacteria can’t develop resistance to Leptospermum honey – an incredibly important finding, with huge medical implications.

Antibacterial resistance is arguably one of the largest issues in modern medicine, and an increased use of this type of honey would help to combat the issue in certain situations. As well as providing much needed options for the treatment of certain infections.

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