Honey is most commonly used for burns, wound healing, swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis), and cough. It is also used for many other conditions but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.
In manufacturing, honey is used as a fragrance and a moisturizer in soaps and cosmetics.
Don't confuse honey with bee pollen, bee venom, and royal jelly.
How does it work ?
Uses & Effectiveness ?
Possibly Effective for
- Burns. Applying honey preparations directly to burns seems to improve healing.
- Cough. Taking a small amount of honey at bedtime appears to reduce the number of coughing spells in children aged 2 years and older. Honey appears to be at least as effective as the cough suppressantdextromethorphan in typical over-the-counter doses. But it is not clear if honey reduces cough in adults.
- Foot sores in people with diabetes. Most research shows that applying dressings containing honey to diabetic foot ulcers seems to reduce healing time and prevent the need for antibiotics. But not all research agrees.
- Dry eye. Using specific honey eye drops or eye gel in the eyes (Optimel Manuka plus eye drops or Optimel Antibacterial Manuka Eye Gel) helps to make dry eyes feel better. These products can be used along with regular dry eye treatment such as lubricant drops and warm cloths on the eyes.
- A skin condition that causes redness on the face (rosacea). Research shows that applying a topical honey product to the skin might improve symptoms of rosacea.
- Swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis). Rinsing the mouth and then slowly swallowing honey before and after chemotherapy or radiation therapy sessions seems to reduce the risk of developing mouth sores. Applying honey to mouth sores also seems to help heal mouth ulcers caused by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. But most of this evidence is lower quality, so higher quality studies are still needed to confirm.
- Sores and ulcers of the mouth and gums caused by herpes virus (herpetic gingivostomatitis). Rinsing the mouth and then slowly swallowing honey helps sores and ulcers in the mouth from the herpes virus heal faster in children also given a medication called acyclovir.
- Wound healing. Applying honey preparations directly to wounds or using dressings containing honey seems to improve healing. Several small studies describe the use of honey or honey-soaked dressings for various types of wounds, including wounds after surgery, chronic leg ulcers, abscesses, burns, abrasions, cuts, and places where skin was taken for grafting. Honey seems to reduce odors and pus, help clean the wound, reduce infection, reduce pain, and decrease time to healing. In some reports, wounds healed with honey after other treatments failed to work.
Possibly Ineffective for
- Acne. Research shows that applying honey to the face does not help to treat acne.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the nasal cavity and sinuses (rhinosinusitis). Most research shows that using honey in a nasal spray does not help to reduce problems in people who have frequent sinus infections when compared to using saline spray or antibiotics.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Hay fever. It is not clear if honey can help with symptoms of hay fever. Some early research shows that taking one tablespoon of honey daily, in addition to standard treatment, doesn't improve allergy symptoms. However, other early research shows that taking honey, in addition to standard treatment, might slightly improve certain symptoms such as itching in the nose and sneezing.
- Dry socket (alveolar osteitis). Early research suggests that using honey to cover a dry socket is no better than using a paste made with zinc and eugenol.
- Athletic performance. Early research suggests that honey might improve blood levels following exercise and improve performance when given during exercise.
- Eyelid swelling (blepharitis). Early research suggests that using a cream with honey on the eyelid improves symptoms and irritation in people with this condition.
- Infections in people with catheters. Most early research suggests that applying honey, usually manuka honey to the exit sites of certain types of implanted hemodialysis catheters prevents infections from developing as effectively as certain antibiotics or antiseptics. But other research shows that applying Manuka honey at the exit site doesn't reduce the occurrence of these infections. In fact, it might increase the risk of infection in people with diabetes.
- An open sore (ulcer) on the cornea of the eye. Early research suggests that using eye drops with honey improves certain healing measures in people with this condition.
- Diabetes. Some early research shows that eating large doses of honey each day can decrease cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. But it also seems to increase HbA1c, a measure of average blood sugar levels. Other early research shows that ingesting smaller amounts of honey each day can decrease fasting blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with type 1 diabetes.
- Diarrhea. Some research shows that adding honey to a solution given to treat dehydration helps decrease vomiting and diarrhea and can improve recovery in children and infants with stomach flu. But another study shows that adding honey to a solution used to treat dehydration decreases diarrhea in only infants and children with stomach flu caused by bacteria. It might not benefit those with stomach flu caused by a virus or other parasite.
- Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). Early research shows that eating honey every day before starting a period helps to reduce pain once it starts.
- A mild form of gum disease (gingivitis). Early research suggests that chewing "leather" made from manuka honey slightly reduces plaque and gum bleeding compared to sugarless chewing gum in people with gingivitis.
- Hemorrhoids. Early research suggests that applying a spoonful of a mixture containing honey, olive oil, and beeswax reduces bleeding and itching caused by hemorrhoids.
- Cold sores (herpes labialis). Early research suggests that applying a dressing soaked with honey four times daily improves symptoms and healing time of cold sores.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Some early research shows that taking 75 grams of honey per day for 14 days lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol in women with high cholesterol. But other early research shows that taking 70 grams of honey per day for 30 days does not lower cholesterol levels in people with normal or high cholesterol levels.
- Genital herpes. Early research suggests that applying a dressing soaked with honey four times daily doesn't improve symptoms of genital herpes.
- Inability to become pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (infertility). Early research suggests that applying a combination of Egyptian bee honey and royal jelly in the vagina increases pregnancy rates for couples having difficulty getting pregnant due to male infertility.
- Skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites (Leishmania lesions). Early research suggests that covering sores with honey-soaked dressings twice daily for 6 weeks in addition to medication injections results in slower healing than medications alone.
- A condition caused by a poor diet or the body's inability to absorb nutrients. Early research suggests that honey improves weight and other symptoms in infants and children with poor nutrition.
- Flesh-eating disease (necrotizing fasciitis). Early research has shown unclear results about the effects of honey dressings, when used with antibiotics, as a treatment for a type of flesh-eating disease that causes gangrene around the genitals.
- Pain after surgery. Honey might reduce pain and need for pain medication in children having their tonsils out. But it's not clear if honey helps to reduce pain in adults with the same condition.
- Itching. Early research shows that applying a honey cream (Medihoney Barrier Cream by Derma Sciences Inc.) on the skin for 21 days can reduce itchy skin more than a zinc oxide ointment in people with skin irritation caused by rubbing.
- Skin damage caused by radiation therapy (radiation dermatitis). Applying honey gauze once daily to severe skin wounds caused by radiation therapy does not seem to improve healing.
- Removal of a tooth (tooth extraction). Early research shows that applying honey might improve wound healing in children after removal of a tooth.
- Breaking up thick mucus secretions.
- Digestive tract ulcers.
- Other conditions.
When applied to the skin or on the inside of the mouth: Honey is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when appropriately applied to the skin or rinsed in the mouth.
When applied into the nose: Diluted honey solution is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when sprayed into the nose for up to 2 weeks.
Special Precautions and Warnings
Children: Honey is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in children one year of age and older. Honey is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in infants and very young children. Do not use honey in infants and young children under 12 months of age due to the chance of botulism poisoning. This is not a danger for older children or adults.
Diabetes: Using large amounts of honey might increase blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Also, applying honey at dialysis exit sites may increase the risk of infection in people with diabetes.
Pollen allergies: Avoid honey if you are allergic to pollen. Honey, which is made from pollen, may cause allergic reactions.
We currently have no information for HONEY overview.
- For cough: 25 grams of a paste containing 20.8 grams of honey and 2.9 grams of coffee has been dissolved in 200 mL of warm water and drank every 8 hours.
- For burns: Honey is applied directly or in a dressing or gauze. The dressings are usually changed every 24-48 hours, but are sometimes left in place for up to 25 days. The wound should be inspected every 2 days. When used directly, 15 mL to 30 mL of honey has been applied every 12-48 hours, and covered with sterile gauze and bandages or a polyurethane dressing.
- For foot sores in people with diabetes: Manuka honey (Medihoney Tulle Dressing) and beri honey have been used in dressings for as long as needed.
- For dry eye: Eye drops (Optimel Manuka plus eye drops) or eye gel (Optimel Antibacterial Manuka Eye Gel) have been used twice daily for 8 weeks along with warm cloths on the eyes and lubricant eye drops.
- For swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis): Honey 20 mL has been rinsed around the mouth 15 minutes before radiation therapy, then 15 minutes and 6 hours after radiation or at bedtime, and then slowly swallowed or spit out. Honey has also been placed in the mouth in gauze and replaced daily. Also, a honey/coffee paste 10 mL or honey paste alone 10 mL, each containing 50% honey, has been rinsed around the mouth and swallowed every 3 hours.
- For a skin condition that causes redness on the face (rosacea): 90% medical-grade kanuka honey (Honevo) with glycerine has been applied to the skin twice daily for 8 weeks and washed off after 30-60 minutes.
- For wound healing: Honey is applied directly or in a dressing or gauze. The dressings are usually changed every 24-48 hours but are sometimes left in place for up to 25 days. The wound should be inspected every 2 days. When used directly, 15 mL to 30 mL of honey has been applied every 12-48 hours and covered with sterile gauze and bandages or a polyurethane dressing.
- For cough: 2.5-10 mL (0.5-2 teaspoons) of honey at bedtime.
- For wound healing: Honey soaked gauze has been packed into wounds twice daily until healed.
- For swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis): Up to 15 grams of honey has been applied inside the mouth three times daily.
- For sores and ulcers of the mouth and gums caused by herpes virus (herpetic gingivostomatitis): Up to 5 mL of honey has been applied inside the mouth every four hours.
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Moolenaar, M., Poorter, R. L., van der Toorn, P. P., Lenderink, A. W., Poortmans, P., and Egberts, A. C. The effect of honey compared to conventional treatment on healing of radiotherapy-induced skin toxicity in breast cancer patients. Acta Oncol 2006;45(5):623-624. View abstract.
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Motallebnejad, M., Akram, S., Moghadamnia, A., Moulana, Z., and Omidi, S. The effect of topical application of pure honey on radiation-induced mucositis: a randomized clinical trial. J Contemp Dent Pract 2008;9(3):40-47. View abstract.
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Shoma, A., Eldars, W., Noman, N., Saad, M., Elzahaf, E., Abdalla, M., Eldin, D. S., Zayed, D., Shalaby, A., and Malek, H. A. Pentoxifylline and local honey for radiation-induced burn following breast conservative surgery. Curr Clin Pharmacol 2010;5(4):251-256. View abstract.
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Tonks AJ, Dudley E, Porter NG, et al. A 5.8-kDa component of manuka honey stimulates immune cells via TLR4. J Leukoc Biol 2007;82:1147-55.. View abstract.
Tushar, T., Vinod, T., Rajan, S., Shashindran, C., and Adithan, C. Effect of honey on CYP3A4, CYP2D6 and CYP2C19 enzyme activity in healthy human volunteers. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 2007;100(4):269-272. View abstract.
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Wang YT, Qi Y, Tang FY, et al. The effect of cupping therapy for low back pain: A meta-analysis based on existing randomized controlled trials. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017;30(6):1187-1195. View abstract.
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Yaghoobi, N., Al-Waili, N., Ghayour-Mobarhan, M., Parizadeh, S. M., Abasalti, Z., Yaghoobi, Z., Yaghoobi, F., Esmaeili, H., Kazemi-Bajestani, S. M., Aghasizadeh, R., Saloom, K. Y., and Ferns, G. A. Natural honey and cardiovascular risk factors; effects on blood glucose, cholesterol, triacylglycerole, CRP, and body weight compared with sucrose. ScientificWorldJournal 2008;8:463-469. View abstract.
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Zaid SS, Sulaiman SA, Sirajudeen KN, Othman NH. The effects of Tualang honey on female reproductive organs, tibia bone and hormonal profile in ovariectomised rats--animal model for menopause. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Dec 31;10:82. View abstract.
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