Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Honey and MRSA

Before my blogging days, I sent out occasional newsletters to my patients about pertinent health issues. Here's one from a few years ago, responding to a serious issue at the time: an increase in the cases of MRSA, or "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus." This newsletter/blog post also dovetails with another one I wrote about the use of honey to treat skin infections.


Recently, there have been a number of articles in the media reflecting one of the biggest dangers to public health nowadays: antibiotic-resistant skin infections. Specifically, there is a strain of a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus that has become resistant to one of the more powerful antibiotics known, methicillin. As the name implies, methicillin is indeed related to penicillin. However, methicillin is seldom used nowadays for treatment; instead, it is used to determine whether or not an organism can be eliminated by any form of penicillin. So for all intents and purposes, this strain, called “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,” or MRSA, is resistant to all forms of penicillin.

A little background on this organism: Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium which sometimes causes a skin condition called “bullous impetigo.” This infection is easy to identify by blisters that cause a honey-colored crust on the surface of the skin when popped. Sometimes, Staphylococcus aureus can take hold in a skin wound, also creating this honey-colored crust. Usually, the infection is caught early, treated effectively, and remains at the level of the skin. But if it is not treated effectively, it can migrate through the body and cause a host of dangerous conditions, including pneumonia, lung abscesses, sepsis (i.e., blood poisoning), meningitis, brain abscesses, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart chambers) and kidney infections – major threats to health and life. According to an article published in the October 17th, 2007 edition of Journal of the American Medical Association, MRSA caused a higher death rate in 2005 than AIDS; it caused over 18,000 deaths out of 95,000 documented cases. Lately, MRSA seems to be concentrated in high schools and hospitals, and is particularly prevalent among high school athletes, African Americans, and the elderly.

Raw honey could be a powerful weapon in the battle against MRSA. It has been used successfully to treat skin infections that have been resistant to many other antibiotics. The most recent study, published in the Journal of Wound Care in September 2007, documented seven patients who had experienced full healing from the use of topical honey where antibiotics had failed to control their MRSA infections. The type of honey used in this study is called Manuka honey, found in New Zealand. Most honey has an enzyme called glucose oxidase which, when exposed to wounded skin, begins to release hydrogen peroxide at levels strong enough to kill bacteria, but not so strong that tissue is damaged. Manuka Honey has a second antibiotic component, simply called UMF or Unique Manuka Factor. Hospitals around the world are beginning to recognize the power of Manuka honey and use it in their wound dressings.

What does this mean for you and your loved ones? Simply enough, if you do suffer a skin wound of some sort, put raw honey over the wound, and bandage it up. Since most honey already has glucose oxidase in it, it has significant natural antibiotic properties. Using honey also will decrease the need for pharmaceutical antibiotics, and simply relies on the wisdom and healing powers of nature…the best kind available to us!


Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!


  1. Hi, I'm a medical student. I was looking for some property of honey but it really surprised me that it can be used for infections even when traditional methods do not work. I wonder if you as a doctor has recommended one of his patients using honey?

  2. I absolutely have recommended raw honey to patients who are dealing with skin infections. From my personal experience, I wouldn't necessarily use honey on a fresh wound; it might be a bit messy and interfere with coagulation. (Styptic herbs such as cayenne and cinnamon might come in handy at this point.) Otherwise, it's a remarkable healing agent.

  3. does it have to be manuka honey? what if I have raw honey straight from a local bee farm, but it's not manuka...?