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[at-l] Double Duty Antibiotic for Hikers!
Copied from CNN tonight....
Doctors turning sweet on healing with honey
March 8, 2000
Web posted at: 5:47 PM EST (2247 GMT)
By Charles Downey
(WebMD) -- Peter Molan, Ph.D., likes to tell the story of the 20-year-old
wound. Infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, an abscess oozed in an
English woman's armpit long after it had been drained. Nothing seemed to
help, and the pain prevented her from working.
Then in August of 1999, she read about the remarkable wound-healing
properties of honey. She convinced doctors to apply some to the dressing to
her arm, and a month later the wound healed. Now she's back at work.
Novel as this treatment sounds, it would have inspired yawns among doctors
in ancient Egypt, according to May Berenbaum, Ph.D., a University of
"Honey has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of medical problems
like wounds, burns, cataracts, skin ulcers and scrapes," she says. "And now
various researchers worldwide are also studying -- and finding -- strong
antimicrobial properties in some honeys."
Honey fell from favor as a wound dressing when antibiotic dressings were
developed during World War II. But the new research -- and the rise of
antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- are putting this old-time folk remedy into
the contemporary medicine chest.
Last year, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration -- the equivalent
of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- approved honey as a medicine. A
company in Australia this year began marketing medical honey as a wound
dressing in pharmacies there. It's available in the United States through
Honey helps wounds in several ways, says Molan. Its thickness provides a
protective barrier. The hydrogen peroxide it contains is released slowly,
killing germs in the wound. Some as-yet-unknown ingredients reduce
inflammation, while others, perhaps amino acids and vitamin C, speed the
growth of healthy tissue. Honey even makes wounds smell better, possibly
because when bacteria in wounds eat honey's sugars, they give off
Dozens of studies, in animals and humans, have documented such benefits. One
of the most convincing reports, published in the 1998 issue of the journal
Burns, tells how researchers from the Dr. V. M. Medical College in
Maharashtra, India, compared honey with silver sulfadiazine, the standard
treatment for superficial burns.
The researchers first smeared honey on gauze and used it to dress the burns
of 52 patients. Another 52 patients got the same treatment but with silver
sulfadiazine in place of the honey.
In the 52 patients treated with honey, 87 percent healed within 15 days,
compared with 10 percent of those treated with silver sulfadiazine. The
honey-treated patients also experienced less pain, leaking of wound fluid,
Molan, a biochemist at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, and other
researchers have found special bacteria-killing properties in honey made
from the nectar of the tea tree (Leptospermum). In laboratory experiments,
reported in the November 1992 Journal of Applied Bacteriology, Molan and his
colleagues found that it was particularly effective in slaying
This so-called "Golden Staph" -- which infested the English woman's
20-year-old wound -- sometimes survives the most potent antibiotics, killing
its victims. "Manuka honey has worked in very desperate cases where nothing
else has worked," says Molan.
Based on the research of Molan and others, an Australian company is now
marketing Manuka honey under the name Medihoney. To make it, beekeepers set
their hives close to tea trees so the bees will gather their nectar.
Studies so far have found no side effects other than an occasional slight
burning sensation when the honey is applied. Though honey sometimes contains
the spores of bacteria that cause botulism, Molan says there have been no
reported cases of this bacteria or anything else in honey infecting a wound.
Experts do caution that infants should not eat honey because of the botulism
risk. "But it's still OK to use honey on children's (and infants') burns or
scrapes," says Molan.
Molan also believes it is safe to use ordinary supermarket honey on such
minor wounds. And it's a lot cheaper than antibiotic ointments. But since
ingredients vary depending on the nectar from which the honey is made,
Medihoney offers the advantage of laboratory testing.
It's one medicine that doesn't need a spoonful of sugar to help it go down.
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