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.

  • Lisa Toner Dotson

    I have a 2 year old grand daughter that has what looks like mrsa on her buttocks (both cheeks) how can i bandage that area? Would the honey be something I can put on a 2 year old? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated

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

      You should definitely have your granddaughter checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t delay. Call her pediatrician or family doctor. Meantime, about any bandage will do.

  • fwee

    Hello. My 5-year-old has MRSA in his nose and it’s all crusty and nasty, but it hurts and it’s starting to clog up his little nostrils. I am worried the bacteria will get into the little cuts in his nose as he picks at it. It is already oozing yellowish pus. How do I get honey into his nose? Do you just spread it in?
    The doctor also wants to prescribe bactoban cream. Is it a good idea? More antibiotics? Can it be used together with honey?
    Thanks!

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

      If I were you I’d go with the bactroban right away. And hopefully you’ll be following up with doctor. Bactroban typically works well against community acquired MRSA on the skin and nose. I would not deal with the honey at this point. It would be more difficult to use and some types work better than others.

  • annalyn

    Hi Doc, my mother undergone her minor surgery with her left foot. there are open wound, it is ok to use honey together with sterile bandage. I am worried about it. Thanks to this site I can find some answers in my questions.

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

      I don’t see why not but you should check with your surgeon’s office first.

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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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