Honey: Its Power to Heal

November 8, 2012

References in the scientific literature attest to the healing power of honey in wound care. Due to its acidic nature, honey assists the immune system in killing bacteria and fungi. It is also hyperosmotic (i.e., due to high concentration of solids and low moisture content), which helps to pull out excess fluids and secretions from the wound. Furthermore, because it is so viscous, honey helps to maintain the ideal level of moisture to ensure proper healing. Additionally, honey contains an enzyme that converts glucose to low levels of hydrogen peroxide, which acts as an antiseptic. This enzyme is activated when honey comes in contact with the wound and the pH of the surrounding tissues increases.

For centuries honey has been believed to promote a variety of healing properties—beyond those involved in wound care. So when my mother-in-law told us that her doctor said she needed to reduce the dosage of Celebrex she was taking for rheumatoid arthritis, as her blood pressure was too high, I casually suggested to her that she might want to consider using honey—both in tea and as a topical balm. An acquaintance of ours had recently shared his experience with using honey to alleviate some of the more troublesome symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and swore by the treatment. While not a cure, he claimed, honey, in combination with cinnamon, seemed to reduce the swelling in his hands, making it possible for him to continue the fine-detailed painting he enjoyed. My mother-in-law, as well as father-in-law, are talented wood turners in southeast Wisconsin at Mill Race Studio, and I knew that the ability to use her hands to make intricate and detailed bowls is critical.

After doing some Internet searching, I discovered that a mixture of cinnamon and honey could be applied to painful areas on the hands and massaged into the skin. Adherents also claim that making a simple tea out of honey and cinnamon also helps to relieve arthritis symptoms. Arthritis is a general term that refers to pain, swelling and stiffness in one’s joints. U.S. News states that 46 million Americans are suffering from one form of arthritis or another and that by 2030, approximately 2 out of 5 Americans will experience regular arthritic pain.

While popular pain medications are commonly used to treat arthritis, many people are turning to natural alternatives like honey and cinnamon. While a rigorous scientific process has not vetted these remedies, many arthritis patients appear to have found some degree of success with them according to the testimonials I read on arthritis patient support web pages.

The use of common items found in one’s kitchen such as honey and cinnamon for medicinal purposes is known as complementary or alternative medicine, and this movement’s popularity is growing in the United States. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 38% of American adults currently use some form of complementary or alternative medicine.

So after making my case to try a combination of honey and cinnamon and sending her some of our Bee America honey, we anxiously waited for her report on her new complementary treatment medicine (she first got approval from her physician). The good news is that she thought it did indeed make her hands feel better—less painful and more flexible—during the first week or so of daily use. Unfortunately, she later told us that any initial benefits she may have experienced seemed to have diminished after more sustained usage. This was disappointing, but not unexpected news. The latest update we received from her is that she was going to stop using the honey-cinnamon mixture she applied to her hands at night (which she claimed always resulted in a sticky mess anyway) and will only drink the tea to see if her hands improved or stayed the same. I will keep you posted of her progress and in the meantime, thought you might like to see a picture of one of her beautiful wood-turning creations.