The Future

Using Honey as a Medicine

This liquid gold delicacy and common sugar substitute can do far more than sweeten your coffee. "Active honey" is commonly used throughout the modern medical world. But what exactly makes this honey so special, and how can you use honey as a medicine?

Many of us enjoy honey and incorporate it into our daily diet, whether as a natural sugar substitute for our coffee or simply as a sweet treat. But specific honey varieties known as “active” honey have also been utilised throughout history for their antibacterial and medicinal properties. 

Honey presenting unique antibacterial properties is found across different geographic regions worldwide, from Malaysia and Chile to Yemen in the Middle East. However, at the top of the list are Manuka and Jarrah honey, originating from New Zealand and Australia, respectively. 

What is active honey? 

Active honeys are characterised by the existence of bioactive compounds found within them. Hydrogen peroxide is one of its bioactive compounds, which has shown effectiveness as an antibacterial agent. However, active honey can also be influenced by additional factors such as osmotic pressure, pH and the presence of other phenolic compounds. 

Health benefits such as anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties are attributed to these phenolic compounds.1 As technology and analytics for laboratory testing have improved in recent times, we now have a better understanding of the nature of these bioactive components, where they originate from and how they enable us to use honey as a medicine.

The Science Behind Active Honey
Phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, are metabolites found and distributed within plants which are carried in the nectar and later expressed in the honey. Specific phenolic compounds produce different characteristics in honey. 

Medical uses of active honey

In the era of “Superbugs” and bacteria which seem to be outpacing the production of new and effective antibiotics, the efficacy of natural alternatives is being closely examined. This has also included discovering the medical uses of honey —particularly for wound care.

Large pharmaceutical companies, including UK-based Advancis Medical, are now utilising high-grade Manuka honey to impregnate medical dressings for advanced wound care. These have shown positive results against aggressive skin infections, specifically Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).

Honey grading 

Active honey grading takes place in accredited laboratories internationally. Their chemical composition and activity levels are determined through quantitative assessment of chemical and DNA markers. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is one common laboratory method to analyse honey in solution. Active honey must meet certain specifications before it can be accredited and sold.

                                                                                                                                      Created by Andrea van den Berg

Related articles

Most viewed

The Future

Why We Haven’t Been To Mars Yet | Space Food Technology

Keeren Flora

Going to space is a major undertaking and takes its toll on the body. Nutrition is just one area…

The Future

Sustainable Fishing Levels & Quotas | How It Works

Jessica Tengvall

For decades, growing consumer demand and a lack of clear fisheries restrictions contributed to the…

Earth First

Seaweed Harvesting in The Netherlands I Ask the Expert

Kim Verhaeghe

Jan Kruijsse harvests seaweed for a living. He sells it to restaurants, fishmongers and food…

The Future

Traceability in the Food System

Luke Cridland

Where has food come from, and where is it going? Knowing this is crucial to sustaining food supply…

Human Stories

Short Food Supply Chains: Limitations of Law

Dr Mirta Alessandrini

Short food supply chains represent a great opportunity to support the shift towards more…

Earth First

Chemical Fertilisers are Feeding the World - But at What Cost?

Rachel Bailleau

Thanks to synthetic fertilisers, we produce more than enough calories to feed 8 billion people. But…

Earth First

Seed Banks - Safeguarding Biodiversity | A Photo-Essay

Eloise Adler

Take a look inside the seed banks protecting the world’s biodiversity and safeguarding our future.

The Future

Why We Need Open Innovation For Our Food System

Jane Alice Liu

Have you heard of OI – open innovation? If you think it means openly sharing ideas and…

The Future

Permaculture in Svalbard | Ethical Arctic Farming

Jane Alice Liu, Benjamin L. Vidmar

As the northernmost town in the world, Longyearbyen is home to a little over 2000 inhabitants. To…

The Future

Cultured Meat: Better Than The Real Thing?

Lottie Bingham

Some 60+ start-ups across the globe claim that they will soon be selling cultured meat grown in a…

The Future

What is the True Cost of Milk Production?

Katharina Kropshofer

Milk has been harvested for more than 11,000 years, when shepherds in the Middle East started to…

The Future

Insect Crop Combat: Beetles vs Aphids

Luke Cridland

From the moment we plant our food in the ground to the moment we eat it, there’s always…

Keep updated with the latest news about your food with our newsletter

Follow Us