Honey Might Just Sweeten the Sinuses
Published: Sunday, 5 October 2008
There is a reason bees protect it and bears love it, honey is not only delicious but used for healing. A spoonful of honey will coat your throat and soothe the sore during the cold season and added to tea it is used as a sweet yet healthy way to put you at ease. Honey has been used as a staple in diets as far back as biblical times and it was known to be used as currency during the Roman Empire. A new study suggests honey may be good for those suffering from sinusitis—an inflammation of the sinuses that could be a result of bacterial, fungal, allergy or viral infections—also known as rhinosinusitis including an inflammation of the nose.
The findings from this new study were to be presented this week at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation’s annual meeting. Canada’s University of Ottawa conducted the study and it’s co-author Dr. Joseph G. Marsan wasn’t surprised at the natural bacteria fighters in honey that they found, “Honey has been used in traditional medicine as a natural anti-microbial dressing for infected wounds for hundreds of years.”
The researchers investigated the activity of honey on bacteria-laden communities called “biofilms,” responsible for a lot of chronic infections, including sinusitis. Biofilms are known to reject the prescription antibiotics and over the counter remedies most used by patients with sinus symptoms. Dr. Marsan explains that popular antibiotics are blocked by bacteria clumped together in biofilms even though the reason is unknown, “Certain bacteria…have found a method of shielding themselves from the activity of anti-microbials by living in substances called biofilms, which cannot be penetrated...”.
Marsan and his team found that only certain honeys contain the bacteria-killers needed to successfully manage the inflammatory aspects of these chronic infections, "Our study has shown that certain honeys, namely the Manuka honey from New Zealand and the Sidr honey from Yemen, have a powerful killing action on these bacterial biofilms that is far superior to the most powerful anti-microbials used in medicine today”. Although they were able to isolate the different types of honey that provided anti-bacterial effects, the researchers still have to bring these superhero honey formulas out of the Petri dish and into clinical trials using lab animals and later on actual patients.
A chronic sinus infection lasts at least a few months, with over 31 million people in the United States alone undergoing nonstop courses of treatment from pills to antibiotics to nasal sprays, and even a process called irrigation in which a mixture of salt water is poured up the nose into the sinuses in order to provide at least some relief. While dealing with cold symptoms nonstop and none of those options working long term, surgery is sometimes the course of action to alleviate the pain. With this new evidence of honey helping where all the others fail to kill the bacteria, scientists say their methods of treating patients won’t be very different from their usual ways.
An ear, nose and throat resident at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Talal Alandejani says when honey is approved for antibacterial use for sinus sufferers, they will try the familiar idea of irrigation but substitute the salt water mixture, "we'll use an irrigation needle. This is not new….Probably in the non-medical world it sounds weird, but we've been irrigating with antibiotics already, so it's the same equipment . . . we’re just going to use honey in it."While we await approval for animal testing and further approval for the wide use on humans as an alternative to drugs and surgery, the researchers don’t know yet what exactly in the honey is causing the desired effect, but no one is complaining. The upside is that I haven’t seen any bears with post-nasal drip lately and that makes honey a little sweeter.