Monday, March 26, 2012
By James Byrne, Scientific American, 3/21/2012
Honey’s healing powers can be summarized into 5 main ingredients and activities of the components of honey;
1. Hydrogen peroxide – Honey contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase which breaks down glucose sugars and generates hydrogen peroxide, a kind of bleach, when there is free water available. In case you missed the antimicrobial component it was friggin BLEACH IN YOUR HONEY. I can feel you wondering why bee’s bleach their own food supply and it turns out that is very simple. Any available water can cause the honey to spoil so the presence of glucose oxidase in the honey is an inbuilt anti-spoiling mechanism, pretty smart huh?
2. Sugar – Having said what I did above there is very little water because of the vast quantity of sugar dissolved into honey. The lack of free water makes it very difficult for bacteria to survive.
3. Methylglyoxal or MGO – This compound is an incredibly interesting and powerful antibacterial compound but it is only found in certain natural honeys like Manuka honey from New Zealand but can be made in artificial greenhouses as well. This is the stuff that is making honey a very interesting topical salve in medical honey treatments such as MediHoney.
4. Bee Defensin 1 – Bee Defensin is an antimicrobial peptide (AMP) that for a long time was thought to be exclusively found in the Royal Jelly. But fairly recent discoveries have found it in the honey, but more on AMPs in a second.
5. Acidity – Finally, honey is reasonably acidic and remains so even when diluted holding a pH of approximately 3.5. Nothing that likes eating you particularly likes living in acid so this property is very important.
No single property is more important than the others and the multifactorial nature of honey’s activities is probably the key to its amazing antimicrobial nature. Having said this, Bee Defensin 1 and other identified AMPs in honey such as Apidaecin may have much more interesting roles that are only recently being uncovered…