URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/738.html

Honey

What is it?

Honey is a thick, sweet fluid produced by bees from plant nectars. It is commonly used as a sweetener in food, but should be avoided in infants.

Some chemicals in honey might kill certain bacteria and fungus. When applied to the skin, honey might serve as a barrier to moisture and keep skin from sticking to wound dressings. It might also provide nutrients and chemicals that speed wound healing. But honey can become contaminated with germs during production. Although rare, some infants have gotten botulism from taking honey by mouth.

People commonly use honey for burns, wound healing, swelling and sores inside the mouth, and cough. It is also used for many other conditions but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these other uses. There is also no good evidence to support using honey for COVID-19.

Don't confuse honey with bee pollen, bee venom, or royal jelly, which are other types of bee products.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for HONEY are as follows:

Possibly effective for...

  • Burns. Applying honey preparations directly to burns seems to improve healing.
  • CoughTaking a small amount of honey by mouth at bedtime appears to reduce coughing spells in children aged 2 years and older. Honey appears to be at least as effective as the cough medicine dextromethorphan. But it is not clear if honey reduces cough in adults.
  • Foot sores in people with diabetes. Applying dressings containing honey to diabetic foot ulcers seems to reduce healing time and prevent the need for antibiotics.
  • Dry eye. Using specific honey eye drops or eye gel in the eyes (Optimel Manuka plus eye drops or Optimel Antibacterial Manuka Eye Gel) helps to make dry eyes feel better. These products can be used along with regular dry eye treatment such as lubricant drops and warm cloths on the eyes.
  • Sores and ulcers of the mouth and gums caused by herpes virus (herpetic gingivostomatitis). Rinsing the mouth and then slowly swallowing honey helps these sores and ulcers heal faster in children who are taking a medication called acyclovir.
  • Swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis). Rinsing the mouth and then slowly swallowing honey before and after chemotherapy or radiation therapy sessions seems to reduce the risk of developing mouth sores.
  • A skin condition that causes redness on the face (rosacea). Applying a topical honey product to the skin might improve symptoms of rosacea.
  • Wound healing. Applying honey preparations directly to wounds or using dressings containing honey seems to improve healing. Honey seems to reduce odors and pus, help clean the wound, reduce infection, reduce pain, and decrease time to healing.

Possibly ineffective for...

  • Acne. Applying honey to the face doesn't help treat acne.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the nasal cavity and sinuses (rhinosinusitis). Using honey in a nasal spray doesn't help improve symptoms in people who have frequent sinus infections.
There is interest in using honey for a number of other purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

How does it work?

Are there safety concerns?

When taken by mouth: Honey is likely safe for most adults. But when honey is produced from the nectar of rhododendrons, it is likely unsafe. This type of honey contains a toxin that may cause heart problems, low blood pressure, and chest pain.

When applied to the skin or on the inside of the mouth: Honey is likely safe for most adults.

When applied into the eye: It is possibly safe to use specific eye drops containing manuka honey (Optimel Manuka Plus Eye Drops; Melcare, Biomedical Pty Ltd). These eye drops are usually applied into the eyes 2-3 times daily for up to 4 weeks.

When applied into the nose: Diluted manuka honey solution is possibly safe for most adults when sprayed into the nose for up to 2 weeks.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Honey is likely safe when taken in food amounts. But there isn't enough reliable information to know if it is safe to use honey in medicinal amounts when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to the amounts found in foods.

Children: Honey is likely safe when taken by mouth in children who are at least one year old. Honey is possibly unsafe when taken by mouth by children less than 12 months old. Do not use honey in infants under 12 months old. Botulism poisoning is a risk at this age. But this is not a danger for older children or adults.

Diabetes: Using large amounts of honey might increase blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Honey contains sugar and should be used in moderation.

Pollen allergies: Avoid honey if you are allergic to pollen. Honey, which is made from pollen, may cause allergic reactions.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Honey might slow blood clotting. Taking honey along with medications that also slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.
Phenytoin (Dilantin)
Honey might increase how much phenytoin the body absorbs. Taking honey along with phenytoin might increase the effects and side effects of phenytoin.
Minor
Be watchful with this combination.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Honey might change how quickly the liver breaks down these medications. This could change the effects and side effects of these medications.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
Honey might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. Taking it with other supplements with similar effects might increase the risk of bleeding in some people. Examples of supplements with this effect include garlic, ginger, ginkgo, nattokinase, and Panax ginseng.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

Honey has most often been used by adults in doses of 35-75 grams by mouth daily for 1-4 weeks. It's been applied to the skin directly and in creams, dressings, and gauzes. Honey has also been applied to the eye in the form of eye creams, gels, and drops. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what type of product and dose might be best for a specific condition.

Other names

Beri honey, Apis mellifera, Blossom Honey, Buckwheat Honey, Chestnut Honey, Clarified Honey, Honeydew Honey, Honig, Jellybush Honey, Langnese Honey, Madhu, Manuka Honey, Medihoney, Mel, Miel, Miel Blanc, Miel Clarifié, Miel de Châtaignier, Miel de Manuka, Miel de Sarrasin, Miel Filtré, Purified Honey, Strained Honey, Tualang Honey, Wildflower and Thyme Honey.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

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Last reviewed - 07/29/2021