While most think of honey as something used to sweeten food, it also has unique properties that are the bee’s knees when it comes to healing burns and wounds. But it’s not just any old honey that’s buzzing with healing powers . Certain types of medical grade honey may help prevent infection when applied directly to wounds .
A Sweet Deal for Healthcare — Why It Matters
People have been using honey for thousands of years as a home remedy for things like aiding digestion and calming a cough. Because of its high sugar content and other antimicrobial effects, honey also has the ability to kill many kinds of bacteria, and (by forming a moist environment) can speed the healing of wounds and minimize scarring . However, with the emergence of antibiotics, natural remedies like honey have fallen by the wayside as modern drugs become the treatment of choice to tackle wounds and infections.
As honey makes its comeback, the sweet stuff has been found to be a safe, fast-acting natural antiseptic, making it a good salve for burns and wounds  . Research also shows that honey can be used as a natural remedy to treat superbug infections that may be resistant to strong antibiotics   .
High Five to the Bee Hive — The Answer/Debate
Manuka honey is the queen bee when it comes to antimicrobial properties. It comes only from New Zealand and Australia, where bees congregate and pollinate the Manuka bush (a type of evergreen) . Other types of honey lack the key substances that make Manuka honey so potent, like an enzyme added by the bees that produces hydrogen peroxide, and an antibacterial property called UMF .
Most commercially sold honey (think cute bear shaped containers in the grocery aisle) goes through a heating process in pasteurization, which not only cooks out those beneficial anti-bacterial components, but also destroys the natural crystallization process. This keeps the honey in a liquid state for a longer period of time, which may be good for the shelf life, but not for slathering on a cut or burn .
So don't search the pantry for the nearest honey jar. Dousing wounds with store-bought honey (which isn't medical grade) can cause more harm than good, and it may worsen the wound, since it hasn't been irradiated like medical grade varieties. Manuka honey can be purchased online or at health food stores. And look for the name and level of UMF clearly displayed on the front label, which guarantees the honey has high antibacterial activity (UMF10 is the minimum). Remember that honey is most effective on superficial wounds or minor burns . Leave the deep gashes and serious burns to the professionals. All hail Winnie the Pooh!
Photo by Kristine Lockwood