Menu

Can Honey Ease the Itch of Eczema?

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 08, 2021

Eczema can cause lots of dryness and itching. That’s because the disorder affects the body’s ability to protect your skin, starting with the outer layer. Giving this protective layer a boost -- with lotions, creams, and ointments -- often eases symptoms.

But if you have a jar of honey in your pantry, it might work just as well. The sweet stuff is a natural humectant. That means it can pull moisture into your skin and keep it there. More research is needed to know if it helps with eczema, but here’s what we know.

Benefits of Honey

Honey has been a part of traditional medicine for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians used it to treat wounds and burns. It’s also part of Ayurveda, a form of traditional medicine that started in India.

Honey has natural antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. And some studies show it might help ward off cancer. That’s because it has compounds called flavonoids and polyphenols. Experts think these antioxidants stop the process that triggers cell damage.

There’s not a lot of evidence on honey as a treatment for eczema. But some small studies show it may help:

  • Prevent or treat skin infections
  • Speed up wound healing
  • Reverse bacterial resistance
  • Control overactive immune cells
  • Ease pain and itching on ears

Types

There’s a lot of scientific buzz around manuka honey. It’s made by honeybees in Australia and New Zealand and has large amounts of methylglyoxal (MGO). Scientists think this compound is what makes it more antibacterial than other kinds. But more research is needed to know what that means for eczema-related skin care.

Researchers have also studied other types of honey, including:

  • Kanuka honey
  • Malaysian tualang honey
  • Natural, unprocessed honey

How to Use

It’s best to talk to your doctor first before trying home remedies. They can go over all the pros and cons. Together, you’ll figure out what’s right for you.

You might see “eczema honey” online or in stores. Some companies claim their products are made with pure honey or high levels of MGO. But they’re not regulated like medications. So there’s no surefire way to know what you’re getting.

It’s best to use medical-grade honey on damaged skin. That’s the kind used to treat wounds. Unlike the honey you eat, it’s sterile. That means it’s been treated to get rid of certain bad bacteria. It lowers the odds you’ll get an infection.

Here’s how to make your own honey dressing:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Put a layer of medical-grade honey on your itchy spots.
  • Cover with a sterile gauze or bandage.
  • Leave on overnight.
  • Wash off in the morning.

Do this every night for 1 week. But be sure to test a small patch of skin first. Wait a few minutes to see if there’s any new redness, swelling, or itching.

Risks

In general, honey is considered safe to use on your skin. But it’s possible to have a bad reaction, especially if you’re allergic to bees or pollen.

Call 911 if you have signs of a serious allergic reaction. Symptoms include:

Don’t give honey to kids younger than 12 months. They could get infant botulism. That’s a condition where harmful bacteria grow in their gut.

Always go to the emergency room or call 911 for serious cuts and burns. Honey isn’t a good way to treat these kinds of wounds.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Plastic Surgical Nursing: “Manuka Honey: A Case Study of Severe Atopic Eczematous Dermatitis Reaction to Henna Tattoo.”

Central Asian Journal of Global Health: “Honey: A Therapeutic Agent for Disorders of the Skin.”

Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: “Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review.”

Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia (Brazilian Soceity of Dermatology): “Antioxidants in dermatology.”

Otolaryngolgy -- Head and Neck Surgery: “Treatment of Recurrent Eczematous External Otitis with Honey Heardrops: A Proof-of-Concept Study.”

AIMS Microbiology: “Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview.”

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Methylglyoxal — A potential Risk Factor of Manuka Honey in Healing of Diabetic Ulcers.”

Frontiers in Pharmacology: “The Potential use of Honey as a Remedy for Allergic Diseases: A Mini Review.”

Mayo Clinic: “Honey.”

Journal of Apicultural Research: “Defining the standards for medical grade honey.”

Immunity, Inflammation and Disease: “Honey is potentially effective in the treatment of atopic dermatitis: Clinical and mechanistic studies.”

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Will honey relieve my seasonal allergies?”

Asia Pacific Allergy: “Anaphylaxis caused by honey: a case report.”

HealthyChildren.org (American Academy of Pediatrics): “Botulism.”

National Eczema Association: "Topicals, Oral Medicines and Phototherapy: An overview of Eczema Treatments,” “Why Does Eczema Itch?” “Moisturizers.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Home Remedies: What Can Relieve Itchy Eczema?”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.