How to Use Honey as an Antibiotic


10 minutes read

Essential Takeaways

Manuka honey has been found to contain a uniquely potent antibiotic compound called methylglyoxal (MGO).

This makes manuka honey an exciting alternative treatment in the midst of the antibiotic resistance crisis.

Manuka honey can be used as an antibiotic for wounds, burns, skincare, fungal infections, and more.

Honey has been used for healing for thousands of years across many ancient cultures¹ long before we could scientifically test it.

Thanks to decades of research, we now know that honey has incredible all-natural antibiotic properties.

And these properties make it a powerful, sought-after ingredient not just in food and drink, but for medical uses as well.

But hold up, there are two key things to know about before you use honey as an antibiotic:

  1. Some honeys are much more antibiotic than others, and,

  1. You need to find the right kind of honey and use it in the right way to get meaningful results.

So that’s what this guide is all about.

In this guide to how to use honey as an antibiotic:

Scroll down to skip straight to the practical tips.

An Introduction to Bacteria and Antibiotics

“Any substance that inhibits the growth and replication of a bacterium or kills it outright can be called an antibiotic. Antibiotics are a type of antimicrobial designed to target bacterial infections within (or on) the body.”

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can be found just about anywhere on the planet².

Many bacteria are harmless.

It’s even been suggested that our bodies contain more bacteria than human cells, although this has been refuted³.

We need good bacteria to help us stay healthy. But a few variants are dangerous, and it’s the chemical toxins they release that make us ill⁴.

“If you consume or come in contact with harmful bacteria, they may reproduce in your body and release toxins that can damage your body’s tissues and make you feel ill.

Harmful bacteria are called pathogenic bacteria because they cause diseases and illnesses, such as:

  • strep throat

  • staph infection

  • cholera

  • tuberculosis

  • food poisoning

In some cases, you may need antibiotics to stop pathogenic bacteria from reproducing and harming your body.”

Antibiotics generally work by blocking the natural processes of bacteria.

Some antibiotics work by breaking down bacterial cell walls, others can dehydrate and kill the bacteria⁵.

Unfortunately, the widespread use of life-saving antibiotics has given bacteria the chance to learn how to survive.

By coming into frequent contact with our medicines, they can mutate and become antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

This antibiotics resistance crisis is a serious global concern and one that has reignited the interest in and appetite for natural alternatives.

Like honey.

What Makes Honey Antibiotic?

“Various components contribute to the antibacterial efficacy of honey: the sugar content; polyphenol compounds; hydrogen peroxide; 1,2-dicarbonyl compounds; and bee defensin-1.

All of these elements are present at different concentrations depending on the source of nectar, bee type, and storage.”

Honey’s potential as an antibiotic treatment comes from a combination of different natural compounds.

And they rival traditional antibiotics in their effectiveness.

“These components work synergistically, allowing honey to be potent against a variety of microorganisms including multidrug resistant bacteria and modulate their resistance to antimicrobial agents.

In medicine, honey has been used in the treatment of surface wounds, burns, and inflammation, and has a synergistic effect when applied with antibiotics.”

As a result, doctors and vets have both explored the natural antibiotic effects of honey for their patients.

And they both find one type to be particularly powerful.

Is raw honey good for antibacterial infections?

Yes, research has shown that raw, unprocessed honey is effective against lots of different types of bacteria.

In fact, with the growing antibiotic resistance crisis, it may become a more reliable treatment than the traditional medicines we have come to rely on⁶.

Is honey better than antibiotics?

Considering the rise of bacteria resistant to traditional antibiotics, natural options like honey might become better solutions.

Researchers have even tried to make bacteria resistant to honey.

So far they’ve had no luck⁷ - which is a great sign.

How much honey should you eat for an antibiotic?

A spoonful of honey a day taken orally or applied topically should give you the medical benefits that you’re looking for.

This depends on what your issue is and the type of honey you use.

Just make sure you get a high UMF™ grade manuka honey for the most potent antibacterial properties, and that you check with a doctor before using anything for medical purposes.

Eager to learn more about what exactly makes honey antibiotic?

Check out our dedicated guide.


The Antibiotic Effects of Manuka Honey

“Derived from the Leptospermum spp., or Manuka tree, [manuka honey] has been identified for its increased antimicrobial activity against a range of microorganisms… attributed to the presence of methylglyoxal, not present in other honeys.

This is due to dihydroxyacetone, identified only in the flower nectar of Leptospermum spp., and is a precursor for methylglyoxal.”

Many honeys contain the antibiotic compound methylglyoxal (MGO).

But manuka honey has up to one hundred times more.

So it’s no wonder that manuka honey has earned a rather special reputation as a superfood and powerful healing agent.

“The observations of manuka honey’s potent activity led to the development of medical-grade honey, which now has a variety of uses within a clinical setting.

The main uses for medical-grade honey are as a topical ointment and honey-laced dressings in the treatment of surface wounds and burns.

These both work to promote wound healing but more importantly prevent and treat microbial infection, especially those caused by multidrug-resistant microorganisms.”

Due to its unique medicinal properties and high demand, manuka honey has its own strict grading system.

The UMF™ system tests and grades manuka honey according to its MGO content.

The higher the grade, the more potent its antibiotic qualities are.

We often recommend the lower grades for daily use and a general wellness boost, with higher grades for more particular and targeted medical concerns.

Either way, with UMF™ graded manuka honey, you can be sure that you’re getting the best natural antibiotic on the market.

Is manuka honey better than regular honey?

Manuka honey is better as an antibiotic than regular honey because it contains more of the antibiotic compound MGO, and there are more regulations around manuka honey to ensure its quality and authenticity.

6 Ways to Use Manuka Honey as a Natural Antibiotic

Wondering how you can use honey as an antibiotic at home?

Then don’t go anywhere.

Manuka honey is incredibly versatile. In fact, we list over 170 ways to use it right here.

So this is just a snapshot of 6 ways to use manuka honey for those antibiotic qualities.

NB: Always consult a doctor before using any remedies for medical purposes, even natural ones. Do not use honey as an antibiotic if you are allergic to bees.

  1. To heal wounds

“The use of manuka honey as a wound dressing material in our study has proved to promote the growth of tissues for wound repair, suppress inflammation, and bring about rapid autolytic debridement.”

The antibiotic quality of manuka honey makes it a great natural remedy for wounds.  

It also has emollient and humectant properties which mean it locks moisture into the wound environment, keeping the area hydrated and protected whilst it heals.

Numerous studies on both people and animals have found it effective against multidrug resistant bacteria, making it a promising option in the face of the looming antibiotic crisis.

To use, apply a high grade manuka honey directly to the wound and cover with a gauze.

Keep reading: Click here to learn more about using honey as an antibiotic on wounds.

  1. To protect burns

“Studies have highlighted a broad range of activities provided by honey in burn treatment. These include anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiexudative, antioxidant, wound healing, wound debriding and nutritional properties.

Research and clinical studies have shown the efficiency of honey in superficial and partial thickness burns therapy, when compared to other dressing products, making it a viable option as a valuable topical agent in clinical practice.”

The unique properties of honey have been found to protect burn sites from bacteria, clear them of harmful microbes, keep them moist for optimal healing, and even regenerate damaged tissue⁸.

Just like you would for another wound, topically apply your high grade manuka honey to the burn and cover with a gauze.

Dig deeper into antibiotic honey for burns in our dedicated guide.

  1. To relieve acne and eczema

“Historical records of honey skin uses date back to the earliest civilizations, showing that honey has been frequently used as a binder or vehicle, but also for its therapeutic virtues.

Antimicrobial properties are pivotal in dermatological applications, owing to enzymatic H2O2 release or the presence of active components, like methylglyoxal in manuka.” 

Acne and eczema can exhibit themsleves in similar ways: dry, cracked skin and unpleasant spots.

The antibiotic qualities of manuka honey work similarly on these skin conditions as they do on wounds and burns.

By keeping the areas clean, clear, and well hydrated, the skin can breath and begin to repair itself.

You can apply pure manuka honey topically to your eczema or acne, or make your own soothing skin balm or mask.

Just be sure to check the other ingredients so they don’t irritate sensitive skin.

Read more on using antibiotic manuka honey for eczema.

  1. To ease stomach problems

“Honey has a long history of use for the treatment of digestive ailments. Certain honey types have well-established bioactive properties including antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities.

In addition, honey contains non-digestible carbohydrates in the form of oligosaccharides, and there is increasing evidence from in vitro, animal, and pilot human studies that some kinds of honey have prebiotic activity.”

Stomach issues can be caused by a range of different things.

But bacteria and the gut microbiome are two of the most common ones⁹.

With its superior antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, our manuka honey has been found to work wonders on digestive and gastrointestinal problems for many of our happy customers:

“I’ve discovered so many uses for manuka honey. It helps when my sinuses, skin and stomach are inflamed. It’s truly magically delicious!”

“I purchased the NZ Manuka Honey for a friend who was experiencing some gut issues. She has been using it daily and told me just today that she loves it and feels as though it has helped calm the inflammation in her gut.”

Learn more about using manuka honey as an antibiotic for stomach problems.

  1. To clear up fungal and sinus infections

“Manuka honey offers several advantages over traditional topical antibiotics, making it an intriguing topical therapy for [sinustitis]:

(a) natural, non-toxic product with decreased likelihood of side effects and allergic reactions and favourably associated with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects;

(b) availability over-the-counter;

(c) antibacterial effect against a wide range of bacteria; and

(d) decreased propensity for the development of resistant bacteria.”

The antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties of manuka honey make it great at getting rid of unpleasant fungal and sinus infections naturally.

You can apply your manuka honey topically for fungal infections or create your own sinus wash to target those pesky seasonal symptoms.

Get the steps to make your own wash here.

  1. As an ingredient in food for overall wellness

Why not add antibiotic manuka honey into your diet for an overall health boost?

Super versatile, manuka honey can be added to drinks, side dishes, drizzles and marinades, breakfasts, puddings, and everything in between.

In fact, we’ve listed over 170 ways that you can use manuka honey including plenty of simple, delicious recipes.

Check out the blog and bookmark it for later.

Choose New Zealand Honey Co. for Your Antibiotic Honey

At New Zealand Honey Co., we work with some of the best beekeepers throughout the country to bring you the very best pure, raw manuka honey.

All of our honeys are non-GMO, glyphosate free, independently tested, and UMF™ graded.

Plus, every jar of manuka honey you buy will come with its own batch number so you can trace its UMF™ certification.

Shop manuka honey.

Unsure which grade is right for you?

Take the quiz.

Your wellness journey starts with a spoonful a day.

Thank you!

1 Comment

Love it
Little expensive but worth it.

Eleanor Foreman

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