Context: To provide an updated review of published literature on the anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey.
Evidence acquisition: CINAHL, BioMed Central, Cochrane Library, Medline and Embase data bases and reference lists were used to find randomized controlled trials and review articles. Randomized controlled trials using honey with a comparator were reviewed, along with published review articles to determine the relative benefits of tropical honey. These methods were undertaken by three reviewers.
Results: Honey has anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used as a wound dressing to promote rapid and improved healing. These effects are due to honey's anti-bacterial action, secondary to its high acidity, osmotic effect, anti-oxidant content and hydrogen peroxide content. The use of honey leads to improved wound healing in acute cases, pain relief in burn patients and decreased inflammatory response in such patients. However, it has proven to be ineffective in chronic leg ulcers. Overall, studies have been done in favor of the use of honey in medicine.
Conclusions: Honey has almost equal or slightly superior effects when compared with conventional treatments for acute wounds and superficial partial thickness burns. More randomized controlled trials with significant statistical power comparing different kinds of honey, are required in order to create a strong body of evidence towards definite recommendations for medical use. There is biological plausibility.
Keywords: Anti-inflammatory Agents; Biological Dressings; Burns; Honey.