Honey as an Antibiotic Ointment: Sweet Treatment for Wounds

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This survival-medicine website provides general information, not individual advice. Most scenarios assume the victim cannot get expert medical help. Please see the disclaimer.

Honey As an Antibiotic Ointment: Sweet Treatment for Wounds

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

If you don’t have antibiotic ointment, honey’s a great antibacterial for wounds. It kills bacteria and helps cuts, scrapes, burns and even ulcerated wounds heal, and there have been plenty of clinical studies to prove it.


How Honey Works as an Antibiotic

  • The high sugar concentration dehydrates bacteria.
  • It’s acidic and most bacteria hate that.
  • When mixed with a little fluid—say from the wound—it has an enzyme that produces a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. Unlike the commercial kind, this peroxide is dilute enough to not irritate or inflame the skin. But it’s strong enough to kill bacteria.
  • Researchers are finding other ways honey works as an antibiotic. For example, it may stimulate the body’s natural bacteria-fighting white blood cells to get to work.

Some honeys are more antibacterial than others. The New Zealand manuka honey is particularly popular in medical circles.

Caveat: Babies have died from eating honey because it may contain a few Botulism spores. The spores are not nearly enough to hurt an adult and have never been known to cause harm by applying to wounds. Still, to be safe, don’t use honey on children under two years old unless it’s sterilized. Sterilized honeys such as Medihoney have been zapped clean of bacteria and can be found at pharmacies.


How to Use Honey as an Antibiotic Ointment

  • Apply liberally. If the wound is deep, pour it in. For scrapes and abrasions, paste it on. Then cover the wound and seal with tape.
  • Another way is apply the runny honey to gauze or clean cloth first, pop the material on the wound, and seal it with tape. If the bandage remains clean and dry, only change it every day or two. You may have to change it sooner if the wound is oozing a lot of fluid on its own.

If you don’t have honey, sugar’s next best.  Surround the wound with petroleum jelly and sprinkle the sugar in the middle. Apply a bandage and replace at least every 24 hours.

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  • thanks doc

    how about agave?

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Great question. It makes sense to me that it would work as a topical antibiotic but I don’t know of any actual studies that have been done to prove it. Do you?

  • please help

    I had a boil come up that finally busted on its own. I believe it is staph but havent been to a Dr. to determine that it is. I keeo putting bandages on it and it keeps draining. Its a little red and kind of hard around the area. Is this normal? Will honey help it cure faster? If so can I just buy the honey in a store or is there a certain place I need to buy it from? Thanks

  • andy

    I have a neighbor who had a very bad sacral bedsore.Can Honey help to soften the soft and necrotic tissue.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Sounds like that necrotic tissue needs to be derided under sterile conditions before much more would help. Hopefully your neighbor has home health so they could dress it daily and fit her/him with proper bed padding to try to help such things.

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  • himezuew who

    im blessed this doctor made this sight for people like me that cant afford medical care ! thank you from the bottom of my heart !!!

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      You’re so welcome.

  • himezuew who

    er told me I have mersa ,I was wondering can I turn Bactrim into a paste and directly apply to the infected area and be safe while already taking it orally?

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      I wouldn’t try to turn a pill into a paste without checking with your pharmacy to see if it would work.

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