In the realm of “stuff that could bring down civilization as we know it and possibly kill us all,” drug resistance is a particularly terrifying beast. SELF has reported on it and asked the big question: “What can we do about this?”
An answer may be found in its article about the results of a significant scientific research:
We’ve known for centuries that plain old honey has infection-fighting properties, and scientific research is sussing out why: A study presented at the American Chemical Society National Meeting suggests that, in addition to straight-up killing bacteria, honey possesses another tool that helps it fight infections — and that doesn’t risk helping bacteria develop resistance.
Sciencey moment here, so stay with us: Honey appears to help shut down a bacterial property called quorum sensing, according to the study’s lead author, Susan Meschwitz, PhD, an assistant professor of chemistry at Salve Regina University. “Quorum sensing is the communication system that bacteria use to coordinate group behaviors, allowing them to be virulent and establish an infection,” Meschwitz told SELF. “Inhibiting quorum sensing does not impose selective survival pressure on bacteria that leads to resistance, [and it] makes the bacteria less virulent, weakening their pathogenicity and rendering them more susceptible to conventional antibiotics.”
Another cool thing about Meschwitz’s study — much of the earlier research in this area was done on a type of honey made in New Zealand (likely not the kind you’ll find in the little bear on supermarket shelves), but her team tested several types of honey made from nectar sources common to North America, and found that some of them have the same quorum-sensing inhibition properties as the notoriously potent New Zealand types.
So should you be drinking honey straight from the bottle anytime you feel sick? Not quite.
“So far, as in the original ancient use for honey, using it as a topical treatment to fight infections seems to be the most logical use,” Meschwitz says. “The honey probably needs to be in localized contact with the bacteria, rather than systemic.”
But things might change in the future, she says.
“I can envision there being potential applications for the use of honey in eye and middle ear infections, chronic sinusitis, perhaps even lung infections by way of inhalation in an aerosol solution,” Meschwitz says. And in the meantime, eating honey is surprisingly good for you anyway.
“In addition to its antibacterial properties, we have found that honey is full of healthful antioxidants, namely plant-derived phenolic compounds that can help fight infections by keeping the immune system healthy,” she says.
OK, so you can’t go crazy — honey is more caloric than granulated sugar and contains more sugars teaspoon-for-teaspoon, but with all its healthy properties, it’s a great option to sweeten your tea, drizzle over your morning yogurt or whisk into a marinade.
Sweet! (Ugh. Sorry.)