Thursday, September 28, 2006

Highlights of 1st International Conference on the Medicinal Uses of Honey

Reported by: Professor Nor Hayati Othman, Chairperson

KOTA BHARU, Malaysia - Recently the 1st International Conference on the Medicinal Uses of Honey was organized by the Health Campus staffs of Universiti Sains Malaysia. This 3-day conference witnessed many advances in the field of honey in medicinal uses.

Professor Peter C Molan, a world-renowned expert on medical honey from Waikato University Honey Research Unit, New Zealand – Honey, a pure natural extract of nectar collected by the honey bees, has been proven as an antibiotic due to its high peroxidase and catalase content. Honey also promotes wound healing, remedies skin infections, and offers prevention of chemotherapy and radiotherapy side-effects.

Microbiologist Dr Sohna Blair from Australia and Dr Rose Cooper from Cardiff, United Kingdom - Methicillin Resistant Staph Aurius commonly known as MRSA is the most difficult challenge to communities in various parts of the world. The incidence of MRSA infection is rising 6-28 percent worldwide. Honey arrests bacterial growth due to its unique hygroscopic, glucose oxidase and acidic properties; hence it can control MRSA wounds infection after the failure of modern antibiotics.

Diabetes is a common non-communicable disease managed with medications. However in the long-run patients might develop a non-healing ulcer called diabetic foot. These wounds get infected easily and progress further leading to amputation of the limb. Dr Jennifer Eddy of University of Wisconsin, USA, conducted a clinical trial on the use of honey in diabetic foot and observed interesting properties of honey to heal difficult foot ulcers in diabetic patients.

Extensive clinical observations on the application of honey dressing in diabetic foot ulcers were also noted by a team of researchers from University Sains Malaysia headed by Dr Mohd Iskander Amin, an orthopedic and microvascular surgeon.

A recently-published study demonstrating that regular daily consumption of honey could decrease blood sugar levels was reported by Dr Noori Al-Waili from Dubai Specialist Center.

According to Professor Subhrahmanyam from India, burn wounds are difficult to treat. There are various wound care protocols using different dressings materials. The thermal injury usually produces extensive epithelial exposure leading to fluid loss and secondary infections. Randomized trials have proven the usefulness of honey as a standard of care in extensive burn wounds.

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are being used widely for the treatment of cancers involving, nose throat, nasopharynx, oropharynx and larynx. Extensive development of radiotherapy/chemotherapy techniques improved cure rates. However side-effects in the form of oral soreness (radiation mucositis) increase tremendously affecting quality of life and swallowing leading to loss of weight. The above consequences lead to discontinuation of useful treatment.

There is no specific cure for the radiation mucositis. Pure natural honey was used in a clinical trial for the treatment of radiation mucositis at University Sains Malaysia. This study resulted in a significant reduction in painful mucositis and improvement in the patients body weight. It is a significant achievement in supportive care treatment of radiation mucositis said Associate Professor Dr Biswa Mohan Biswal who is a clinical oncologist from the said University.

The novel uses of honey in medicine have been studied for eye infection, sore throat, post-operative wound care. Recently logan honey from Thailand and China was found to be useful in painful dry skin condition called icthyosis. Professor Siu-Wan Ip from Taiwan revealed this finding during this conference.

Basic research in the field of honey is very limited in literature. However, few scientists are trying to find clues for the biological effectiveness of honey through animal studies. Asscoiate Professor Siti Amrah Sulaiman and her team of researchers have demonstrated the improvement of sperm count in male mice treated with honey compared to controls. This research could address the role of honey in infertility of males.

Throughout the world various types of honey is being produced from nectars of many types of flowers. Some specific types of floral honey shown to be medically useful for their medicinal properties. The problem is, how do we know honey that is sold at the supermarkets are pure and have medicinal value?

Professor Kamaruddin Yusoff of Universiti Malaya Medical Center Kuala Lumpur based on two decades of experience on honey research found a technique to differentiate pure honey from adulterated honey. He has disclosed his findings during a lecture on antioxidant properties of honey. Currently he is engaged with a research projects along with researchers from Turkey to develop a dip-test kit to detect adulterated honey.

This unique conference attracted attention from international communities. More than a dozen countries participated in this meeting. Professor Nor Hayati Othman, chairperson of the conference expressed her desire to promote honey science research in Universiti Sains Malaysia.

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