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Manuka Honey for MRSA Wounds

20th March 2007 by Arrow Durfee Posted in Uncategorized

If I had MRSA wounds I’d be dressing them with this between my ozone treatments.
And I bet your surprised to see this topic in Oxadative Therapies. Read on then you’ll
know why………..Arrow

Waikato Honey Research Unit

The potential for using honey to treat wounds infected with MRSA and VRE
Summarised in this pdf file is the text of a paper presented at the First World Wound Healing Congress, held in Melbourne, Australia, on the 10-13 September, 2000.

The potential for using honey to treat wounds infected with MRSA and VRE (Allen, K. L.; Hutchinson, G.; Molan, P.C.) (8 KB pdf file).

Text of a paper presented at the First World Wound Healing Congress, 10-13 September 2000, Melbourne,
Australia.: The potential for using honey to treat wounds infected with MRSA and VRE. (Allen, K. L.;
Hutchinson, G.; Molan, P.C.)


Many natural antibacterial substances are being evaluated to find a treatment for wounds infected with bacteria with multiple resistance to antibiotics, the “superbugs”, as this becomes a major clinical problem. But most of these natural substances have no proven effectiveness on infected wounds, nor is it known if they have any adverse effects on wound tissues.

Honey is different, as it has an excellent “track record” over 4 000 years of usage as a wound dressing. In recent times it has been “rediscovered”, with numerous reports of animal model and clinical studies, case reports and randomised controlled trials showing it rates favourably alongside modern dressing materials in
its effectiveness in managing wounds.

Honey has a potent antibacterial activity and is very effective in clearing infection in wounds and protecting wounds from becoming infected. It also has a debriding action, an anti-inflammatory action, and a stimulatory effect on granulation and epithelialisation.

The objective of the study described here was to test the sensitivity to the antibacterial activity of honey of a large number of strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria isolated from infected wounds.


The evidence for the effectiveness of honey in clearing infection from wounds is in numerous reports published on case studies, animal studies and randomised controlled trials. In many cases honey has cleaned up wounds where conventional treatment was failing.

These reports have been reviewed briefly in: Molan PC, 1999. “The role of honey in the management of wounds.” J Wound Care 8 (8): 423-6, and in more detail in: Molan PC, 1998. “A brief review of honey as a clinical dressing.” Primary Intention 6 (4): 148-158.

These reports describe infected wounds quickly becoming sterile, mostly within a week. Also, that honey acts as a barrier preventing clean wounds from becoming infected, thus preventing cross-infection.

By soaking honey into absorbent dressings it can be held in place on a wound without running away. An occlusive secondary dressing stops seepage, the osmolarity of the honey protecting the surrounding skin from maceration. (Molan PC, Betts JA, 2000. “Using honey as a wound dressing: some practical
considerations.” Nursing Times, in press.)

Honey can be sterilised by gamma-irradiation without loss of its antibacterial activity (Molan PC; Allen KL, 1996. “The effect of gamma-irradiation on the antibacterial activity of honey.” J Pharm Pharmacol 48: 1206-

Honey has no adverse effects on tissues, so it can be safely used on wounds and inserted into cavities and sinuses to clear infection.

Any problem of messiness using honey can be overcome by the use of appropriate methods of application.

Honeys produced from different types of flower have different properties. Ancient physicians were well aware of differences in the therapeutic value: Dioscorides (c.50 AD) stated that a pale yellow honey from Attica was the best, being “good for all rotten and hollow ulcers”.

Mostly the antibacterial activity is due to hydrogen peroxide, continuously produced by enzyme action when honey is diluted, and remaining well below the level that causes inflammatory effects. Some honeys additionally contain plant-derived antibacterial components: honey from some Leptospermum species has a
very high level of such.


Isolates of epidemic strains of MRSA and VRE, many from infected wounds, were cultured in Trypticase Soy broth overnight. They were then plated out, using a Mast multi-point inoculator delivering 1 μl drops, onto Trypticase Soy agar plates containing various concentrations of honey. The range of concentrations of
honey in the agar plates was in steps of 1% (v/v).

As the antibacterial activity of honeys can vary up to 100-fold in potency, for this study we used honeys selected to be in the middle of the range. A pasture honey was used, with antibacterial activity due to hydrogen peroxide, and a manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey.

After incubating for 24 hours the growth of the cultures inoculated on the plates was examined. Plates containing no honey were used as controls to verify that the cultures inoculated would grow.

The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of honey for each strain of bacteria was determined by finding the plate with the lowest concentration of honey on which the strain would not grow.

All inoculations, for each concentration of honey, were carried out in triplicate. Mostly the same MIC was found each time. Where there were differences between the replicates the MIC is shown as a range.

Manuka honey Pasture honey
1 strain MIC = 3% honey 56 strains MIC = 3% honey
79 strains MIC = 4% honey 20 strains MIC = 4% honey
3 strains MIC = 5% honey 3 strains MIC = 5% honey
1 strain MIC = >6% honey 1 strain MIC = 6% honey
1 strain MIC = 7% honey 1 strain MIC = >6% honey
2 strains MIC = >7% honey

Manuka honey Pasture honey
1 strain MIC = 7% honey 3 strains MIC = 20% honey
7 strains MIC = 7-8% honey 6 strains MIC = >20% honey
24 strains MIC = 8% honey (23 strains were not tested)
17 strains MIC = 9% honey
2 strains MIC = 10% honey


The antibacterial potency of honey of average level activity is well in excess of that needed to stop the growth of MRSA and VRE. Since honey is of proven effectiveness in clearing wounds of infection with other bacteria, and it gives many other benefits as a wound dressing material, there is good justification for trying it
for the treatment of wounds infected with MRSA and VRE.

Under these laboratory conditions the unusual antibacterial activity of manuka honey is about twice as great as the hydrogen peroxide activity of other honey against VRE, but against MRSA the activity of the two honeys is similar. On wounds, some hydrogen peroxide may be broken down, so honey with hydrogen
peroxide activity may be less effective.

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6 Responses to “Manuka Honey for MRSA Wounds”

  1. Arrow Durfee Says:

    Waikato Honey Research Unit
    | Waikato Honey Research Unit |

    What’s special about active manuka honey?
    For the past 19 years honey researchers at the University of Waikato have been investigating what many local New Zealanders have accepted as common wisdom: our local manuka honey is a superior treatment for wound infections. Manuka honey is gathered in New Zealand from the manuka bush, Leptospermum scoparium, which grows uncultivated throughout the country. (More recently, as a result of systematic screening of Australian honeys, a honey with the same properties has been found to be produced from Leptospermum polygalifolium, which grows uncultivated in a few parts of Australlia.)

    After the results of this work became known through publications in scientific journals, many people contacted the Honey Research Unit to find out what is so special about active manuka honey. The pertinent facts are:

    Honey has an antibacterial activity, due primarily to hydrogen peroxide formed in a “slow-release” manner by the enzyme glucose oxidase present in honey, which can vary widely in potency. Some honeys are no more antibacterial than sugar, while others can be diluted more than 100-fold and still halt the growth of bacteria. The difference in potency of antibacterial activity found among the different honeys is more than 100-fold.
    “Active manuka honey” (and its Australian equivalent) is the only honey available for sale that is tested for its antibacterial activity. It contains an additional antibacterial component found only in honey produced from Leptospermum plants: what has been called the “Unique Manuka Factor” (UMF). There is evidence that the two antibacterial components may have a synergistic action.
    UMF is not affected by the catalase enzyme present in body tissue and serum. This enzyme will break down, to some degree, the hydrogen peroxide which is the major antibacterial factor found in other types of honey. If a honey without UMF were used to treat an infection, the potency of the honey’s antibacterial activity would most likely be reduced because of the action of catalase.
    The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey is destroyed when honey is exposed to heat and light. But UMF is stable, so there is no concern about manuka honey losing its activity in storage.
    The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey becomes active only when honey is diluted. But UMF is active in full strength honey, which will provide a more potent antibacterial action diffusing into the depth of infected tissues.
    The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey needs oxygen to be available for the reaction, so may not work under wound dressings or in wound cavities. Honey with UMF is active in all situations.
    The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey becomes active only when the acidity of honey is neutralised by body fluids, but then the honey is diluted.
    The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey could be destroyed by the protein-digesting enzymes that are in wound fluids.
    The UMF antibacterial activity diffuses deeper into skin tissues than does the hydrogen peroxide from other types of honey.
    Honey with UMF is more effective than that with hydrogen peroxide against some types of bacteria. For example, active manuka honey with UMF is about twice as effective as other honey against Eschericihia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, the most common causes of infected wounds.
    Many medical professionals are using active manuka honey – and getting good results in patients with wounds that have not responded to standard treatment. For example, a successful trial of active manuka honey on unresponsive skin ulcers was recently published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. In addition, staff at a large hospital in Brisbane, Australia, recently used active manuka honey as a wound dressing on a patient for whom honey without UMF had failed. In other hospitals clinicians have likewise noted improvement in healing rates when changing from other honey to a manuka honey with a good level of UMF.

    None of the results being obtained clinically should be considered evidence that active manuka honey is more effective than other honey – a comparative clinical trial will be needed to establish that. Nevertheless, there are good theoretical reasons for choosing to use active manuka honey with a good level of UMF for management of wound infections.

    To rate the potency of antibacterial activity of honey, I devised the testing method and the UMF number. The UMF numbers come from a standard laboratory test of antibacterial activity, with honey being compared with a standard antiseptic (phenol, also known as carbolic) for potency. For example, a honey with a UMF rating of 4 would be equivalent to the antiseptic potency of 4% solution of phenol, as used as carbolic disinfectant; a honey with a rating of 10 would have a potency equivalent to a 10% solution of phenol.

    Medical professionals in New Zealand use active manuka honey with a rating of UMF 10 or higher. Although good results may be obtained with lower levels of activity, there is a chance that the lower activity will not be enough to fully clear an infection. In addition, honey with a lower level of activity will not allow as much of the antibacterial elements to diffuse into infected tissue, which could mean that effective control of infection may not be achieved in deeper tissue.

    To alleviate any concern over the possible risk of introducing infection by the use of an unprocessed natural product on wounds, honey can be sterilised by gamma irradiation without loss of any of its antibacterial activity. Active manuka honey and the Australian Leptospermum honey are commercially available sterilised in this way.

  2. Arrow Durfee Says:

    FDA Quietly Acknowledges Medical Benefits of Honey printable article
    Originally published March 21 2008

    FDA Quietly Acknowledges Medical Benefits of Honey
    by Liz Walker (see all articles by this author)

    (NaturalNews) In an Associated Press story dated December 27th 2007, it was revealed that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had quietly approved a line of honey-based wound dressings during the fall of that year. Derma Sciences, Inc., a New Jersey manufacturer of medical wound and skin care supplies, was then able to market their MEDIHONEY product. MEDIHONEY is a line of wound dressings consisting chiefly of an absorbent alginate (which is a component of brown algae) pad, covered in Manuka (Leptospermum) honey.

    Using honey to treat wounds is nothing new; even ancient civilizations used it in this manner. However, this is the sort of thing that usually gets relegated to “folk healing”. It seems scientifically obvious: honey is very acidic (antibacterial), and it produces its own hydrogen peroxide when combined with the fluid which drains from a wound! The extremely high sugar content of honey means it contains very little water. So, it draws the pus and fluid from the wound, thereby speeding the healing process. Furthermore, the honey contains powerful germ-fighting phytochemicals from the plants that produced the pollen harvested by the honeybees. Having already been accepted by the overseas mainstream medical community for some time, North America finally caught on. MEDIHONEY is, according to Derma Sciences’ website, “the first honey-based product cleared for use by Health Canada and also the first cleared for use by the FDA.”

    Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is a New Zealand tree, related to the Tea Tree (Melaleuca). Much like tea tree oil, native New Zealanders have taken advantage of the Manuka’s natural medicine for generations. It turned out that the honey produced from this plant’s pollen has powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. Doctors found it very useful for treating burn and injury patients in Iraq. Widespread applications include treatment of surgical sites, trauma wounds, skin grafts, burns, and skin sores.

    Doctors are even finding that Manuka honey works on drug-resistant infections. As pharmaceutical antibiotics become less and less effective, natural cures may be taken more seriously. Ironically, they have also discovered that these honey dressings can prevent the development of MRSA in an open wound (See Natural News Article Honeybees and Almonds, Pigs and MRSA: The Deadly Connections for another story linking MRSA and honeybees). It’s very disturbing to consider the fact that we may be killing off the very methods by which we can defeat our pharmaceutically resistant 21st century superbugs!

    While browsing Derma Sciences’ website, I noticed that they also manufacture a product which incorporates “antimicrobial silver” into wound dressings. This product, ALGICELL Ag, has also been approved by the FDA. Could they be getting around to recognizing the benefits of colloidal silver, at long last? Perhaps even the FDA shall have to re-examine its position on nutraceuticals and holistic treatments, as it’s becoming glaringly evident that Big Pharma doesn’t have all the answers.


    Honey Makes Medical Comeback (MSNBC)

    Honey to Heal (Biotech Learning Hub NZ)

    About the author
    Liz Walker enjoys feeding people organic produce, promoting Community Supported Agriculture and natural health, exposing consumer and cultural rip-offs, hanging out with animals, and playing music. She and her friend Au write about green living and some of the above topics at

  3. Melaleuca Says:

    Thanks for teaching me so much about the medicinal uses of manuka honey! From the description, there are many similar benefits between honey and melaleuca oil – though I’m sure the honey tastes much better. They aren’t the same of course and each has its benefits but there seems to be overlap.

    I was curious though, what do you mean by the FDA “quietly” approving? What’s their motivation to avoid being loud?

  4. Janette Marshall Says:

    Honey particularly Manuka honey is widley used again on many skin infections. This amazing product clears skin infections such as excema too, something I personally have proved. Interestingly many hospitals use this for severe nappy rashes on babies also.

  5. Arrow Durfee Says:

    They sure don’t use it in the US. You must be from Australia or New Zealand.

  6. purnima Says:

    quite a paper there, was wondering if you could help me with the detailed procedure followed for finding the MIC of honey in the paper mentioned, and any precautions in particular.