But I also use honey for healing.
Ayurvedic practitioners in India have used honey for nearly 5,000 years.
Ayurveda is a holistic health system that evolved in ancient India. The term combines two Sanskrit words to mean “knowledge of life.” It’s the oldest system of medicine in the world. And it is still practiced widely in India, where the government recognizes it.
Not long ago, I traveled 8,000 miles to search out the roots of Ayurveda.
My travels took me to Ayurvedic universities, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and ancient “healing houses.” Eventually, I arrived at Ayurveda’s birthplace in the isolated country backwaters of the south Indian state of Kerala.
I visited the original Ayurmana or “ancient healing house” and watched the Ayurvedic masters use honey for nearly every skin treatment they created.
They mixed it with other natural ingredients like lemon, milk, rice and fruit juices to lighten freckles, cure skin rashes and acne, and remove wrinkles. Even Ayurvedic facial scrubs for everyday use have honey in them.
A little farther west, in the dry, hot environment of the Arabian Desert, the most-used natural product to heal skin is honey.(1) And honey, milk and oatmeal mixtures were also commonly used as facial beauty scrubs in ancient Egypt.
Farther north in southeastern Europe and western Asia, they use honey to make a special skin balm called a mehlem. In Bosnia, there’s a skin syrup known as Ä‘ulbe sugar. It’s made from honey, lemon and a small flower from the rose family.(2)
Modern medicine is even coming around to honey’s benefits.
They use it mostly to heal wounds from burns and cuts, especially in New Zealand and Australia.
You might also see people use honey to treat acne, and help get rid of the signs of old cases of acne like scarring or inflammation.
Scientists theorize honey helps skin because it encourages your skin to make hyaluronic acid (HA). HA fills out your skin because it absorbs 3,000 times its weight of water. At the same time, honey prevents the stringy kind of collagen that creates scar tissue from building up.
Instead, it forms a different type. A delicate, mesh-like collagen structure that can bring your skin’s surface back to normal and allow it to heal.(3,4)
You can also use honey for other skin problems like diaper rash, hemorrhoids, psoriasis, eczema and dandruff.
And it’s antibacterial, too.
Honey works well against bacteria for two reasons. The first is that its sugars bind to water molecules and deny bacteria the moisture they need to grow.
The second is a secret ingredient added by bees. It’s an enzyme called glucose oxidase. Researchers think it stops bacteria dead because it helps you produce hydrogen peroxide, a natural disinfectant.(5)
Honey is deadly to the so-called “superbug” bacteria that cause hospital infections. A study took bacteria strains resistant to antibiotics and exposed them to dilutions of honey. Formulas of only 40 percent honey killed all the harmful bacteria.
Even the newest bacterial threat, gram-negative bacteria, can’t stand up to honey. The researchers used only a 30 percent dilution on the five known gram-negative strains and killed all of those, too.(6)
And now plastic surgeons use honey to fix skin grafts in place and prevent complications, such as graft loss, infection and graft rejection.(7)
Another reason honey is so good for your skin may be that it’s also an antioxidant.
Antioxidants protect skin from UV radiation damage, and aid in skin rejuvenation.
Darker honeys have high ORAC values. The ORAC scale was designed to help compare the antioxidant power of different foods. The higher the ORAC value of a food, the more power it has to stop free-radical damage and and help fight off health problems.
Different kinds of grapes, for example, can have ORAC values of up to 1,200. But a study at the University of Illinois found that some of the darker honeys can measure as high as 1,630 on the ORAC scale, giving your skin’s health a big boost.(8)
Scientists are even developing new alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) skin treatments from honey.
These acids from fruits and plants work with the slight acidity of your skin to help exfoliate it naturally. AHA helps remove old skin cells by dissolving the fatty deposits that hold them in place, which allows new healthy skin to emerge.
With all the ways your skin can benefit from honey, it’s a good idea to keep some in your house.
I keep a jar of raw, organic Manuka honey from New Zealand in my pantry, but any of the darker honeys are good for skin care.
If you get a cut or a scrape, you can:
- apply honey directly to the wound;
- cover the wound with a bandage or dressing;
- change the dressing and add more honey as necessary because the honey will diffuse into the wound;
- change the bandage if it sticks to the wound instead of the honey.
To make an Ayurvedic exfoliant for your skin using honey, mix:
- Two tablespoons of rice powder (or amla powder, if you can find it)
- One tablespoon of milk (for dry skin, use plain yogurt instead)
- Five drops of lemon juice (for oily skin)
- One teaspoon of honey
- One half teaspoon of sugar
Stir this mixture into a paste, apply it to your skin and leave on for up to 10 minutes. Rinse with fresh, clean water.
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 Bakhotmah, Balkees A, and Alzahranicor, Hasan A., “Self-reported use of complementary and alternative medicine … Jeddah, Western Saudi Arabia.” BMC Res. Notes. Oct. 2010; 3:254
 Ã…ariÃ„-KundaliÃ„, Broza, Fritz, Elisabeth, DobeÃ…, Christoph, et al, “Traditional Medicine in the Pristine Village of ProkoÃ…ko Lake on Vranica Mountain, Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Sci. Pharm. June 2010; 78(2): 275–290
 McPherson, J.M., Piez, K.A., “Collagen in dermal wound repair,” In: Clark, R.A.F., Henson, P.M. The Molecular and Cellular Biology of Wound Repair. New York: Plenum Press, 1988
 “Why do some cavity wounds treated with honey or sugar paste heal without scarring?” Woundcare Journal 2002; 11(2)
 Pruitt, K.M., Reiter, B., “Biochemistry of peroxidase system: antimicrobial effects,” In Pruitt KM, Tenovuo JO, editors, The Lactoperoxidase System: Chemistry and Biological Significance, New York: Marcel Dekker, 1985; 144-78
 Paulus, H. S., Kwakman, et al, “Medical-Grade Honey Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria In Vitro and Eradicates Skin Colonization,” Clin. Infect. Dis. 2008;46 (11): 1677-1682
 Emsen, I.M., “A different and safe method of split thickness skin graft fixation: medical honey application,” Burns Sept. 2007;33(6):782-7
 Gheldof, Nele, and Engeseth. Nicki J., “Antioxidant Capacity of Honeys from Various Floral Sources…” J. Agric. Food Chem. 2002; 50 (10):3050–3055
Dr. Al Sears is fast becoming the nation's leading authority on longevity and heart health. His cutting edge breakthroughs and commanding knowledge of alternative medicine have been transforming the lives of his patients for over 15 years.
Dr. Sears currently owns and operates a successful integrative medicine and anti-aging clinic in Wellington, Florida with over 15,000 patients. Over the course of his career, he has developed his own approach to heart health, longevity and anti-aging medicine - combining the best of modern medical science with natural holistic techniques and treatments.