Over the past two years, our family has embarked on an adventure into the world of beekeeping–and an adventure it has been! We have all enjoyed suiting up and walking out to the field to tend the hives. Between observing their behavior, learning how to care for bees and beehives,, collecting swarms, and processing honey we have learned and enjoyed so much about having these amazing and beneficial creatures in our backyard.
While honey has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties, there are many scientific studies that have recently established its utility for a number of issues. It is anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, antimicrobial, and promotes healing. In my mind, honey is best used to heal the skin and membranes of the mouth and nasal cavity from wounds and infections. Honey promotes wound healing by killing bacteria, reducing the size of the wound, improving the growth of healthy new cells, and decreasing scarring. It is postulated that antioxidant properties of honey improve wound healing by decreasing free radical damage.
There have been many studies that have shown the ability of honey to kill infectious bacteria, primarily because of the presence of hydrogen peroxide in the honey. When tested against mupirocin (a common topical antibacterial), honey worked equally well to kill meticillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) that was growing in the nasal cavity. Some types of honey, such as manuka honey, also contain a chemical called methylglyoxyl, which is not as easily deactivated by enzymes in human blood. This gives these types of honey even greater antibacterial activity.
My favorite use of honey is for assisting in the healing from upper respiratory infections. It soothes the mouth and throat, decreases the cough response, and decreases any bacteria that could be aggravating the infection. Most people are familiar with the old time remedy of honey and lemon in water to soothe a sore throat and decrease a cough. Multiple studies have shown the ability of honey to decrease coughing, particularly at night. When tested against dextromethorphan (robitussin), diphenhydramine (benadryl), levidroproprazine (an antitussive more common in Europe) salbutamol (albuterol) and placebo, honey worked as well or better than all of these except dextromethorphan for decreasing cough and helping to sleep without being woken by that cough. Given the potential for side effects of all of the above medications and the efficacy of honey, it a no-brainer to try this first for treating that cough that’s keeping you up at night.
With this in mind, I use honey as the base for my cough and cold syrup that I make for my patients and my family during the cold and flu season. I make an herbal extract with a combination of herbs, including licorice root and yerba mansa to assist in healing the lining of the mouth, throat, and nose, osha to clear out mucus, wild cherry bark to decrease the compulsion to cough, and elderberry to stimulate the immune system. This mixture is combined with local honey and turned into a tasty and effective syrup that I call “Dr. Kaycie’s Slime Buster”. It is safe and effective for kids over the age of 12 months as well as adults. Feel free to let me know if you want to know more about it!
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