Science

Science2018-03-22T16:13:46+00:00

Humans have been using honey for medical purposes for at least 4,000 years. It has been used as a food and a medicine in ancient Egypt, China and India, amongst other places, and the bible contains many references to honey which was known in ancient times as “the food of the gods”. A lot of effort goes into its manufacture, with the average worker bee making around 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its 6-week lifetime. Honey is usually classified according to its floral source, and it can either be monofloral, if it is made predominantly from the nectar of one type of flower, or polyfloral.

Honey has a number of specific physical and chemical characteristics which give it unique properties that are responsible for its effectiveness in treating some medical conditions:

  • Osmotic effect – honey is a concentrated sugar solution predominantly consisting of the monosaccharides fructose and glucose. Few water molecules are available for micro-organisms and therefore it is a poor environment for their growth
  • Hydrogen peroxide – this is slowly released when the honey comes into contact with body fluids and has antiseptic properties
  • Acidity – honey is very acidic with a pH of 3.2 to 4.5, as acidic as some vinegars, which also makes micro-organism growth difficult
  • Antioxidants – contains bioflavanoids and other antioxidants which may contribute to its activity


Honey that is applied to the skin should be “medical-grade”. Application of untreated, raw honey often causes local inflammation reactions which can be quite severe, as it contains many impurities from bees and from hives; it literally contains “bees knees”. Medical-grade honey is made by purifying and sterilizing raw honey in a two-step process involving filtration and irradiation or pasteurization.

When applied to the skin, medical-grade honey has been shown to be an effective treatment for:

  • Burns – studies of the use of medical honey for burns have found markedly greater efficacy of honey compared with alternative dressing treatments for superficial or partial thickness burns.
  • Wounds – many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of honey as a treatment for wounds. In addition to its antimicrobial properties which prevent and treat infections, it’s hygroscopic properties assist healing by keeping the wounds moist.
  • Cold sores – honey has been shown to be superior to the widely used antiviral agent acyclovir, for both oral and genital herpes, for a number of outcome measures including healing time, in two studies.
  • Nappy rash – two studies have found that the improvement in severity scores was consistent with a therapeutic effect. As skin damage is to a large degree due to ammonia-like excretions, acidic honey will act in part by neutralizing these.
  • Rosacea – Honevo has been proven to be effective in a small and a large clinical trial.
  • Acne – Honevo has also been shown to be effective in several studies.

Publications

HoneyLab are conducting the world’s largest research programme into the medical uses of honey. We have a large pipeline of new products to test, with many trials planned and a number of trials ongoing. Below is a list of our published research.

  1. Holt S, Johnson K, Ryan J et al. New Zealand kanuka honey has high levels of MGO and antimicrobial activity. J of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. March 15 2012; 18(3): 203
  2. Holt S, Cole A. A pilot study of topical medical-grade kanuka honey for acne. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 2011 (June): 190.
  3. Holt S. Honey from old wives’ tale to medical product. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 2011 (Sept): 250-1.
  4. Holt S, Cole A. A pilot study of topical medical-grade kanuka honey for acne. Presented at World Dermatology Congress, Seoul, Korea, May 2011
  5. Holt S, Webster-Longin M, Perrin K, Baker T, Beasley R. The use of honey in the treatment of molluscum contagiosum in children. Presented at World Dermatology Congress, Seoul, Korea, May 2011
  6. Holt S. Medical honey – sticky but very effective. Contact, the journal of the Pharmacy Guild New Zealand; 2013: April
  7. Greig G, Holt S. A Pilot Study of Topical Bee Venom for Wrinkles. Presented at World Congress of Cosmetic Dermatology, Athens, Greece, May 2013
  8. Greig G, Holt S. A Pilot Study of Topical Bee Venom for Lip Plumping. Presented at World Congress of Cosmetic Dermatology, Athens, Greece, May 2013
  9. Greig G, Holt S. A Study of the Effectiveness of Anti-Wrinkle Serums. Presented at World Congress of Cosmetic Dermatology, Athens, Greece, May 2013
  10. Holt S. Medical-grade New Zealand kanuka honey as a topical treatment for acne and rosacea. Presented at World Congress of Cosmetic Dermatology, Athens, Greece, May 2013
  11. Fingleton J, Sheahan D, Cave N, et al. Topical kanuka honey for the treatment of rosacea. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 2013 (Dec): 221–222.
  12. Fingleton, James, et al. A randomised controlled trial of topical kanuka honey for the treatment of eczema. JRSM Short Reports 5.1 (2014)
  13. Fingleton J, Sheahan D, Cave N, et al. Topical kanuka honey for the treatment of psoriasis. JRSM Open Mar 2014; 5(3)
  14. Fingleton J, Tofield C, Helm C, et al. Topical kanuka honey for the treatment of nappy rash. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 2014 (March) 50–51
  15. Fingleton J, Sheahan D, Cave N, et al. Topical kanuka honey for the treatment of cold sores. Advances in Integrative Medicine 2014; 1(3) December: 119–123
  16. Holt S. Honey set for key role fighting infections. Pharmacy Today; 2014: August
  17. Fingleton J et al. A single-­blind randomised controlled trial of topical kanuka honey for the treatment of rosacea. British Medical Journal Open 2015;5 : e007651
  18. Fingleton J et al. A single-­blind randomised controlled trial of topical kanuka honey for the treatment of acne. In press
  19. Semprini A et al. A single-­blind randomised controlled trial of topical kanuka honey for the treatment of nappy rash. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 2015.
  20. Holt S et al. A topical kanuka honey formulation is an effective treatment for rosacea. Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology 2015, 21 March 2015. Poster 871
  21. Whitfield P et al. The effect of a cinnamon, chromium and magnesium formulated honey on glycaemic control, weight loss and lipid parameters in Type 2 diabetes: An open-label cross-over randomised controlled trial. European Journal of Nutrition 2015: 1-9
  22. Holt S et al. A single-blind randomised controlled trial of a topical kanuka honey formulation for the treatment of acne – oral presentation. New Zealand Dermatological Society Annual Meeting, 26th-29th August 2015, Auckland, New Zealand
  23. Holt S et al. A topical kanuka honey formulation is an effective treatment for rosacea – oral presentation. New Zealand Dermatological Society Annual Meeting, 26th-29th August 2015, Auckland, New Zealand
  24. Holt S. A New Zealand topical kanuka honey product can treat rosacea and reduce antibiotic resistance Adv Integr Med 2015; In press

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