The antibacterial action of honey is thought to be from hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). A powerful antimicrobial, H2O2 can kill nearly all germs, as well as some cancer cells, on contact. When honey comes in contact with a wound, an enzyme called glucose oxidase—a gift from the bees—activates the release of H2O2. There are likely undiscovered interactions that occur when honey is used to treat wounds, but from what we know, medicinal honey can even kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA.
Honey is hydroscopic. It pulls water away from an infected wound by osmosis. Dryer wounds heal faster. But there’s more to it: honey also pulls lymph fluid to the wound, making for a balanced healing environment.
It also has a low pH of between 3 and 4, making it acidic. Bacteria thrive in neutral or slightly alkaline environments. I know this may be contrary to the pro-alkaline theory, but scientifically true and clinically proven understanding trumps trendy ideas. If you have a non-healing wound, try honey. It’s a “good” acid.
In addition, honey contains phytochemicals important for health. Carotenoids, phytosterols, phenolics, peptides, and other plant chemicals are found in honey. All of these are important for human health and many have healing properties. Many also signal the body’s immune cells to release active immune regulating substances called cytokines. Certain cytokines have anti-inflammatory activity.
Some wild honeys have been tested for anti-tumor activity. Honey can also induce detoxification enzymes that protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Many honey phytochemicals exert a synergistic antioxidant effect.