Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Honey as an antibiotic?

We are in to cold and flu season, and with that comes everybody and their mother giving you advice on their favorite cure and/or symptom relief.  I managed to see this one in my feed the other day:

Sounds pretty good doesn't it, particularly if your throat has been hurting so bad you have trouble swallowing.  But is there any evidence for it?

The slipperiness of the gelatin probably will feel good and make it a little easier to swallow, which might actually help you feel better and maybe you can even take in more liquids and other nourishment that your body needs while your sick.  You can also get similar relief from hot tea, etc, but some of need variety after days of drinking the same old broth, etc.

The statement about the honey killing the bacteria that might be causing a sore throat is a distortion of the truth.  There have been some small studies indicating that MEDICAL GRADE honey might help heal wounds like pressure ulcers, etc, but there is still a lot more research that needs to be done (Link).  (And yes, I did emphasize MEDICAL grade as you would not want to put something that likely contains botulism spores on an open wound.)  When it comes to an internal problem, such as a sore throat that is caused by a bacterial infection, like strep throat, there is no evidence that honey will take care of it.  You will likely need a course of anti-biotics to cure the problem

What's the harm in using this remedy if you are feeling crummy?  If you are merely seeking relief of your symptoms, nothing (other than I've seen way too many people with diabetes run their high blood sugar up even higher with remedies like this).  If your symptoms indicate you might have strep throat, however, and you don't get this treated, the infection could potentially spread to other parts of your body and even in to your blood stream, and that could be deadly.

Take home message--Gelatin and honey might provide you with symptom relief (just watch the amount if you have diabetes/pre-diabetes), but don't expect it to "cure" the problem.

Also, for those of you new to the blog, I have also talked about:
Honey and allergies, more than once.
Cold Eze
High doses of Vitamin C

Hint: The answer is usually no.

**Update.  Thanks to JP for reminding me that I should have been clearer about the term antimicrobial.  Antimicrobials are substances that are applied to living tissue/skin to prevent infections, hence the use of medical grade honey in treating pressure ulcers, etc.  Antibiotics are substances that actually need to be transported through the lymphatic system to kill bacteria in the body.  Applying a "coating" of honey does not prevent a strep infection from taking hold, and once you have an infection you will need an antibiotic.

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