Dissecting the Antimicrobial Composition of Honey

Antibiotics (Basel). 2019 Dec 5;8(4):251. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics8040251.


Honey is a complex sweet food stuff with well-established antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. It has been used for millennia in a variety of applications, but the most noteworthy include the treatment of surface wounds, burns and inflammation. A variety of substances in honey have been suggested as the key component to its antimicrobial potential; polyphenolic compounds, hydrogen peroxide, methylglyoxal and bee-defensin 1. These components vary greatly across honey samples due to botanical origin, geographical location and secretions from the bee. The use of medical grade honey in the treatment of surface wounds and burns has been seen to improve the healing process, reduce healing time, reduce scarring and prevent microbial contamination. Therefore, if medical grade honeys were to be included in clinical treatment, it would reduce the demand for antibiotic usage. In this review, we outline the constituents of honey and how they affect antibiotic potential in a clinical setting. By identifying the key components, we facilitate the development of an optimally antimicrobial honey by either synthetic or semisynthetic production methods.

Keywords: antimicrobials; bee-defensin 1; honey; hydrogen peroxide; methylglyoxal; wound treatment.

Publication types

  • Review