Honey for wounds – make mine local and raw!

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:    Raw honey (not the cooked, denatured stuff you get everywhere, but the raw stuff that granulates within 6 months)  has living, vital  bee salivary enzymes in it which are good for you.   Just as licking a wound delivers healing salivary enzymes and to a  lesser (perhaps homeopathic degree) just as kissing an “oowie”  aids healing,  in raw honey we have a potent salve.

D.C. Jarvis, M.D.  – a friend and colleague of my friend and mentor, the great Middlebury  Vermont beekeeper Charles Mraz, https://weeksmd.com/?p=1960 published his elegant book Folk Medicine in 1958 wherein he described the benefits of raw honey.  30 years later,   another Vermont doctor elucidated more benefits of raw honey in a fun read  BagBalm and Duct Tape.

In 1998,  Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein  upped the ante of delight with their fabulous book  Honey Mud and Maggots  wherein more marvels of raw honey were spread out for the world to enjoy.

I first used raw honey as a wound dressing in 1984 and designed a study in medical school where my professor of microbiology and I proved that raw honey, diluted using the broth method, killed 10 out of 10  (100% !) of the hospital’s nasties pathogens.

Since then, many hospital Emergency rooms (more so in Europe) have proclaimed the merits of this cheap “centsible” , safe and effective remedy for burn care, skin infections and many other applications.

Recently special honey varieties are making a splash – funded by its local New Zealand industry, Manuka honey earned FDA approval   and now the new challenger   Malaysian Tualang honey is vying for your dollar.  Meanwhile,  local raw honey remains the most centisble option.  find a local beekeeper and smear away!

In the article below, please meander over the references to get a sense of how much excellent research exists supporting the topical use of raw honey.



The antibacterial properties of Malaysian tualang honey against wound and enteric microorganisms in comparison to manuka honey

Hern Tze Tan1 email, Rosliza Abdul Rahman1 email, Siew Hua Gan2 email, Ahmad Sukari Halim3 email, Siti Asma’ Hassan1 email, Siti Amrah Sulaiman2 email and Kirnpal-Kaur BS1 email

1 Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, School of Medical Sciences, Health Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian 16150, Kelantan, Malaysia

2 Department of Pharmacology, School of Medical Sciences, Health Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian 16150, Kelantan, Malaysia

3 Reconstructive Sciences Unit, School of Medical Sciences, Health Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian 16150, Kelantan, Malaysia

author email corresponding author email

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2009, 9:34doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-34

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/9/34



Antibiotic resistance of bacteria is on the rise, thus the discovery of alternative therapeutic agents is urgently needed. Honey possesses therapeutic potential, including wound healing properties and antimicrobial activity. Although the antimicrobial activity of honey has been effectively established against an extensive spectrum of microorganisms, it differs depending on the type of honey. To date, no extensive studies of the antibacterial properties of tualang (Koompassia excelsa) honey on wound and enteric microorganisms have been conducted. The objectives of this study were to conduct such studies and to compare the antibacterial activity of tualang honey with that of manuka honey.


Using a broth dilution method, the antibacterial activity of tualang honey against 13 wound and enteric microorganisms was determined; manuka honey was used as the control. Different concentrations of honey [6.25-25% (w/v)] were tested against each type of microorganism. Briefly, two-fold dilutions of honey solutions were tested to determine the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) against each type of microorganism, followed by more assays within a narrower dilution range to obtain more precise MIC values. MICs were determined by both visual inspection and spectrophotometric assay at 620 nm. Minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC) also was determined by culturing on blood agar plates.


By visual inspection, the MICs of tualang honey ranged from 8.75% to 25% compared to manuka honey (8.75-20%). Spectrophotometric readings of at least 95% inhibition yielded MIC values ranging between 10% and 25% for both types of honey. The lowest MBC for tualang honey was 20%, whereas that for manuka honey was 11.25% for the microorganisms tested. The lowest MIC value (8.75%) for both types of honey was against Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. Tualang honey had a lower MIC (11.25%) against Acinetobacter baumannii compared to manuka honey (12.5%).


Tualang honey exhibited variable activities against different microorganisms, but they were within the same range as those for manuka honey. This result suggests that tualang honey could potentially be used as an alternative therapeutic agent against certain microorganisms, particularly A. baumannii and S. maltophilia.


Since ancient times, honey has been used for its medicinal properties to treat a wide variety of ailments. In particular, it has been used in wound dressings. In general, all types of honey have high sugar content but a low water content and acidity, which prevent microbial growth. Most types of honey generate hydrogen peroxide when diluted because of the activation of the enzyme glucose oxidase, which oxidizes glucose to gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide [1,2]. Hydrogen peroxide is the major contributor to the antimicrobial activity of honey, and the different concentrations of this compound in different honeys result in their varying antimicrobial effects [1,3].

In most cases, the peroxide activity in honey can be destroyed easily by heat or the presence of catalase. However, Leptospermum honeys retain their antimicrobial activities even in the presence of catalase, thus they are known as “non-peroxide honeys” [3]. Several components may contribute to the non-peroxide activities, such as the presence of methyl syringate and methylglyoxal, which have been extensively studied in Leptospermum honeys [46]. However, many other constituents that have yet to be characterized are likely to contribute to honey’s antimicrobial properties.

Honey can inhibit the growth of a wide range of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses [3,7]. Microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli frequently are isolated from skin wounds. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) is involved in difficult-to-treat skin and underlying tissue infections associated with Gram-positive bacteria [8], while the most serious complication in burn patients is associated with infection with P. aeruginosa [9,10], followed by infections with E. coli, S. aureus and other pathogenic microorganisms [9]. Microorganisms that colonize a burn wound originate from the patient’s endogenous skin, gastrointestinal and respiratory flora and via contact with contaminated external environmental surfaces, water, air and the soiled hands of health care workers. Gram-positive bacteria from the patient’s endogenous skin flora or the external environment predominantly colonize the burn wound immediately, followed by endogenous Gram-negative bacteria from the patient’s gastrointestinal flora in the first few days after injury [11].

Besides its antimicrobial properties, honey can clear infection in a number of ways, including boosting the immune system, having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities and via stimulation of cell growth [12]. The vast amount of data about honey’s therapeutic properties, along with the rapidly increasing interest in and research into natural health remedies and supplements, has led to a resurgence in interest in honey’s therapeutic uses.

Malaysian tualang honey is collected from the combs of Asian rock bees (Apis dorsata), which build their hives high up in the tualang tree (Koompassia excelsa). Tualang honey is used commonly as a medicinal product [13,14] and as food in Malaysia. However, little scientific information about its microbiological properties has been published to date. Thus, this study was designed to determine the antibacterial activity of tualang honey by comparing it with manuka honey, which has been extensively studied [3,5].

Previously, Ainul Hafiza et al. [13] conducted a study of five local honeys (Belimbing, Gelam, Durian, Kelapa and Tualang); they conducted a microbial colony count using a filtration method and a simple screening assay for antibacterial action against Staphylococcus aureus using the agar diffusion method. Tumin et al. [15] investigated the antibacterial properties of tualang honey and four other local Malaysian honeys against six bacterial species. In our study, we examined the antibacterial activity of the local Malaysian tualang honey against 13 different bacterial species and compared it with the activity of manuka honey. To our knowledge, this is the first study to reveal the broad spectrum of antibacterial activities of the local Malaysian tualang honey.

…….    (for the entire article, see


Tualang honey exhibited variable activities against many different microorganisms. In some cases it showed equivalent or better activities than manuka honey, especially against S. maltophilia and A. baumannii. The potency of tualang honey against certain microorganisms suggests its potential to be used as an alternative therapeutic agent for certain medical conditions, particularly wound infection.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

HTT carried out the antibacterial assays, performed the analysis of data, interpretation of results and drafted the manuscript. RAR participated in the collection, identification and maintenance of the pure bacterial strains. SHG participated in the design of the study and edited the manuscript. ASH participated in obtaining the bacterial strains from wound infections and burn patients and edited the draft. SAH and SAS were involved in the acquisition of the grant and design of the study. KKBS participated in the acquisition of funding, design of the study, coordination and monitoring of research and edited the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.


We would like to thank Agromas, Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA), Kedah, Malaysia for supplying the tualang honey and a Research University Grant (grant number 1001/PPSP/8120205) for providing the financial support for this study.


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