Food Science: Healing with Honey

It's Bathroom Month over at our sister sites! For most of us, the bathroom is where where we keep all the various band aids, wraps, ointments, and goops that soothe the little nicks we seem to collect as dedicated home cooks.

But have you ever thought about heading for your kitchen cupboard instead?

More and more studies are showing that the same honey we like in our tea may have some special properties that help us heal...We are not in any way qualified to dispense medical advice, but here are some of the things that we have read about honey's healing properties.

Honey helps our wounds to heal in a couple of different ways. First off, it's a hygroscopic sugar, which means that it absorbs moisture from its environment. When spread over a cut or burn, honey will draw moisture from the wound. Since bacteria needs a moist environment in order to survive, this prevents new bacteria from growing.

At the same time, an enzyme in the honey creates small amounts of hydrogen peroxide where it comes into contact with the wound surface, which gets rid any existing bacteria and disinfects the area. Honey has also been shown to reduce pain and swelling when used topically, soothe sore throats, and benefit people with stomach ulcers.

And in case you're worried that all that moisture being absorbed by the honey might become a little bacteria factory, never fear! The natural pH level of honey is too low for bacteria to survive.

Though several companies like MediHoney and Manuka Honey are producing honey that has been specially manufactured for its medicinal properties, even regular household honey will work as an antiseptic and has healing benefits.

What do you think--is healing with honey fact or fiction?

Sources and Additional Reading:
Interview with Dr. Karen Dente on Good Food, 1/12/08
"Medical Honey for Wound Care--Still the 'Latest' Resort?" by Arne Simon, Kirsten Traynor, Kai Santos, Gisela Blaser, Udo Bode and Peter Molan (Open Access article, (c) 2007 by the authors)
Honey Making a Medical Comeback by the Associated Press, 12/26/07
Home Remedy Could Save Limbs by Brandon Keim, Wired Magazine, 10/11/06
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

(Photo credit: Whole Foods)

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