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Antimicrobial Properties of Honey

Israili, Zafar H. MS, PhD

doi: 10.1097/MJT.0b013e318293b09b
Therapeutic Review

Honey has been widely accepted as food and medicine by all generations, traditions, and civilizations, both ancient and modern. For at least 2700 years, honey has been used by humans to treat a variety of ailments through topical application, but only recently have the antiseptic and antimicrobial properties of honey been discovered. Honey has been reported to be effective in a number of human pathologies. Clinical studies have demonstrated that application of honey to severely infected cutaneous wounds rapidly clears infection from the wound and improves tissue healing. A large number of in vitro and limited clinical studies have confirmed the broad-spectrum antimicrobial (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antimycobacterial) properties of honey, which may be attributed to the acidity (low pH), osmotic effect, high sugar concentration, presence of bacteriostatic and bactericidal factors (hydrogen peroxide, antioxidants, lysozyme, polyphenols, phenolic acids, flavonoids, methylglyoxal, and bee peptides), and increase in cytokine release, and to immune modulating and anti-inflammatory properties of honey; the antimicrobial action involves several mechanisms. Despite a large amount of data confirming the antimicrobial activity of honey, there are no studies that support the systemic use of honey as an antibacterial agent.

Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA.

Address for correspondence: Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA. 30303 E-mail:

The author has no financial/conflicts of interest to declare.

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