Clinical observations indicate that honey may initiate or accelerate the healing of chronic wounds and has, therefore, been claimed to have anti-inflammatory properties. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of honey on the activation state of immunocompetent cells, using the monocytic cell line, MonoMac-6 (MM6), as a model. We investigated the effect of each of the three honeys (manuka, pasture and jelly bush) on the release of important inflammatory cytokines from MM6 cells. These honeys, together with a sugar syrup control (artificial honey), were incubated with MM6 cells at a concentration of 1% (w/v) for 0-24h. Cell culture supernatants were tested using specific ELISA assays for tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin (IL)-1beta and IL-6. All honeys significantly increased the TNF-alpha, IL-1beta and IL-6 release from MM6 cells (and human monocytes) when compared with untreated and artificial-honey-treated cells (P<0.001). Jelly bush honey significantly induced the maximal release of each cytokine compared with manuka, pasture or artificial honeys (P<0.001). These results suggest that the effect of honey on wound healing may in part be related to the stimulation of inflammatory cytokines from monocytic cells. Such cell types are known to play an important role in healing and tissue repair.