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Bee Healthy - Why honey is the bee’s knees when it comes to healing

Used as a healing substance since ancient times, honey contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. While most (heat treated) honey is mucus forming and can contribute to congestion, weight gain, skin conditions, high cholesterol levels and blood glucose imbalances, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine suggest that raw honey (extracted at 45 degrees or less) can actually assist in alleviating these conditions.

Honey is formed when bees gather nectar from flowers, regurgitate it into their honeycomb structures and fan it with their wings until most of the water in the nectar has evaporated. Their enzyme rich saliva turns the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which bind to the remaining water, leaving a cocktail in which bacteria cannot survive. Honey is also hostile to bacteria because it contains hydrogen peroxide created from glucose with the aid of bees' enzyme glucose oxidase. This is deadly to microbes including e.coli, salmonella, heliobacter pylori (the bacteria implicated in stomach ulcers) and antibiotic resistant bacteria including hospital super bug Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus (MRSA). The hydrogen peroxide contained in honey promotes protein digesting enzymes that dissolve dead tissue and stimulate growth of blood vessels which deliver oxygen, nutrients and fibroblasts, creating new connective tissue. Honey activates monocytes - cells which release growth factor that stimulate epithelial cells to regenerate and close wounds when applied topically.

The potency of honey's healing properties depends on the type of flowers from which the bees gather their nectar. Honey from New Zealand's native Manuka tree, which the indigenous Maori people used as a medicinal plant is receiving worldwide attention for wound treatment. Manuka honey contains a special, non peroxide antibacterial component not found in other honey, trademarked as Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), which is the standard description of its anti-bacterial activity.

To determine UMF strength, honey is exposed to cultured bacteria. The amount of honey needed to stop bacterial growth is measured and compared to the bacteria retarding effect of a phenol and water solution. The amount of phenols in this comparison water determines the UMF of the honey being tested. Ordinary Manuka has a UMF of approximately 4-5. UMF 10+ is honey whose antibacterial action is equivalent to at least a 10% phenol solution. Its antibacterial activity is over double the strength of standard antiseptic (4% carbolic acid). UMF 18+ has the strongest antibacterial activity yet is still safe to consume.

The advantage of the UMF is that it does not need to be diluted to be effective unlike honey's hydrogen peroxide producing enzyme. Since the UMF Is not broken down by body tissue enzymes, like the hydrogen peroxide producing enzyme, manuka provides stronger antibacterial action on a wound than other honey. The UMF penetrates skin tissues easily, reaching deep seated bacterial infections which the hydrogen peroxide fails to do. The higher the antibacterial potency of the honey, as denoted by its UMF rating, the deeper the antibacterial activity will reach to clear infection.

Applied topically, Manuka honey effectiveness has been shown in management of varicose ulcers, minor burns, cuts and wounds, overcoming the seven most common germs associated with wounds. It provides a moist, sterile environment for skin regeneration and contains antioxidant activity which decreases amounts of destructive free radicals and prevents fibrotic scarring. The anti-inflammatory agents it contains reduce swelling and contribute to pain relief. It increases blood circulation to the area and its osmotic effect draws exudate from the wound. Manuka honey also provides nutrients and oxygen, stimulating tissue regrowth. Its debriding action allows easy detachment of dead tissue and reduces wound odour by preventing ammonia production. By creating a barrier between the wound and dressing, it makes dressing removal easier, preventing damage to regenerating tissue. Unlike pharmaceutical antibacterial agents, Manuka honey does not damage emerging healthy skin. It is filtered to remove fine organic substances that may cause allergic reactions in the wound.

Usage suggestions:

For stomach ulcers,gastritis, dyspepsia and sore throats, 1-2 teaspoons on an empty stomach (½ hour before meals), 1-4 times a day to assist in healing and provide pain relief.

For wounds - apply on a dressing (preferably waterproof) with enough honey to cover the wound surface. Use 20 ml (25-30 gram) of honey per 10x10 cm dressing. Change up to 3 times daily.

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The contents of this publication are intended to inspire, encourage and support individuals with healthcare choices. They are not intended to replace the personal advice of a qualified health practitioner.


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