the September 1, 2000 print edition
medical buzz: Honey-cured wounds
Journal Staff Reporter
next time you suffer a minor cut or burn, you might want to reach for
the honey jar instead of the antibacterial ointment.
has been used for thousands of years to protect wounds, so long that its
medical use has fallen into folklore.
New Zealand biochemistry researcher aims to change that, and the National
Honey Board, representing U.S. beekeepers, hopes his research can
help diversify the American honey industry.
our future," said Marcia Cardetti, director of scientific affairs
for the honey board. "Our demand is still increasing, but any
industry needs new avenues to grow. This is a natural for us, because
honey is natural."
eat about 1.1 pounds of honey a year. It's used primarily in the food
industry, both retail and as an ingredient in processed foods like
breakfast cereals. Honey also is used in some cosmetics.
annual production in the U.S. is about 200 million pounds of honey a
year, valued at $125 million in 1999. Colorado honey production in 1999
totaled 2 million pounds, with a value of $1.4 million, according to
state agricultural statistics.
Molan, a biochemistry professor and director of the Honey Research Unit
at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, has spent 18 years
researching the medicinal properties of honey.
was looking at other antibacterials and a friend who was a fanatical
amateur beekeeper got me interested," Molan said.
honey is hostile to bacteria because it has a low pH and high sugar
content, Cardetti said.
may be a strong candidate in the medical field because an increasing
number of bacteria has shown resistance to antibiotics.
honey will work, but some will work better than others," Molan
said. "It stops any bacteria from growing and it never fails to
clear an infection."
varies in flavor, color -- and medicinal properties -- based on the kind
of flowers the bees visit, he said.
go back 2,000 years and the Greek physicians knew a few kinds of honey
worked very well, based on color and season. That knowledge has been
lost today. Most current research about honey is using honey from the
supermarket jar," Molan said.
found that while all honey produced in New Zealand and Australia killed
bacteria when put on a wound, some honey types were stronger-acting antibacterial.
(The following has a line missing but otherwise has some great information worth reading.)
sometimes takes on a semi-solid state known as crystallized or
granulated honey. This natural phenomenon happens when glucose, one of
three main sugars in honey, spontaneously precipitates out of the
supersaturated honey solution. The glucose loses water (becoming glucose
monohydrate) and takes the form of a crystal (a solid body with a
precise and orderly structure)
crystallizes because it is a supersaturated solution. This
supersaturated State occurs
because there is so much sugar in honey (more than 70%) relative to the
water content (often less than 20%). Glucose tends to precipitate out of
solution and the solution changes to the more stable saturated state.
is sensitive to moisture in the surrounding atmosphere. During storage,
low-density polyethylene containers can allow moisture to escape, which
may contribute to the crystallization process
factors influence the crystallization of honey. Some batches of honey
never crystallize, while others do so within a few days of extraction.
Honey removed from the comb and processed with extractors and pumps is
likely to crystallize faster than if it was left in the comb.1 Most
liquid honey crystallizes within a few weeks of extraction. The tendency
of honey to crystallize depends
the past, people with diabetes were advised to avoid “simple sugars”
including honey. It was thought that consuming simple sugars would cause
a sharp and rapid elevation in blood glucose levels and an overwhelming
insulin demand. Some even speculated that eating simple sugars could
cause diabetes, a notion that has not been supported by scientific
research. In fact, research has shown that some complex carbohydrates
raise blood glucose levels more significantly
than certain simple sugars (see Glycemic Index). Both honey and sucrose
have been shown to produce a lower glucose response than starchy foods
such as white bread. Moreover, it has been shown that the total amount
of carbohydrate consumed is probably more important than the type of
carbohydrate when it comes to blood sugar levels. Thus, experts agree
that diabetics may include moderate amounts of “simple sugars” in a
must control their total intake of carbohydrates, not the type.
Therefore, honey may be included in a diabetic diet. They must, however,
comply with the medical regime and diet instructions prescribed by their
individual healthcare providers to keep blood sugar levels under
Average amount per Average amount
for nutritional labeling*
less than 2% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and
darker honeys and those with higher water content have stronger
antioxidant potential. The antioxidants identified thus far in honey are
pinocembrin, pinobanksin, chrysin and galagin. Pinocembrin is unique to
honey and found in the highest amount relative to the others. Ascorbic
acid (vitamin C), catalase and selenium are also present.
Energy Honey contains 64 calories per
The major enzymes present in honey are invertase (that
converts sucrose into glucose and fructose), amylase (diastase) and
glucose oxidase (that produces gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide from
glucose in diluted honey). Others, including catalase and acid
phosphatase, may also be present.
Enzymes The Major Enzymes Present In Honey
pH and Acids pH 3.9 Range: 3.4-6.1
Proteins, Amino Acids, Isoelectric Point Protein
0.266%; Nitrogen 0.043% Amino acids 0.05-0.1%
Analysis: Honey is chemically compatible with a
wide variety of products. Its pH and isoelectric point are in a range
common to many food systems.
Antimicrobial Properties The factors that may
contribute to the antimicrobial properties of honey are:
Antioxidants Generally, darker honeys and those
with higher water content have stronger antioxidant potential. The
antioxidants identified thus far in honey are pinocembrin, pinobanksin,
chrysin and galagin. Pinocembrin is unique to honey and found in the
highest amount relative to the others. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C),
catalase and selenium are also present.
TEMPERATURE OF STORAGE :
Optimum storage temperature is below 52 °F (11 °C)
or in the 70 to 80 °F range (21 °C to 27 °C ), in air tight
Sweetness Value The sweetness value
of honey is approximately equal to that of invert sugar
Microbiology Honey has inherent antimicrobial
properties that discourage the growth or persistence of many
microorganisms. The microbes that may be found in honey are primarily
yeasts and spore-forming bacteria. No vegetative forms of
disease-causing bacterial spores have been found in honey. Because
bacteria do not replicate in honey, if high numbers of vegetative
bacteria were to be detected, it may indicate contamination from a
Infant Botulism Infant botulism is a rare but
serious paralytic disease caused by the microorganism Clostridium
botulinum. After ingestion, C. botulinum spores can germinate, grow and
produce toxin in the lower bowel of some infants under one year of age.
Infants are susceptible to infant botulism until their intestinal
Color The colors of honey form a continuous
range from water white to dark amber. The color of honey is related to
its mineral content and is characteristic of its floral source. Light
colored honey typically has a mild flavor, while dark colored honey is
usually stronger in flavor.