Since ancient times, honey has been used to prevent infections from spreading through wounds. This is because honey is a bacteria killing powerhouse that is still used in hospitals today to fight infections.
Let’s see what the hardworking bees put into honey that makes it such a good bacteria killer:
1. Honey is a supersaturated solution of sugar. This means that honey is desperately in need of water. Water travels along the cell walls by osmosis (transport of water from a higher concentration to a lower concentration). There’s a higher concentration of water in bacterium compared to honey, so water gets sucked out of the bacterium to make the honey a little less saturated; killing the baterium in the process. Honey itself isn’t a good place for micro-organisms to live because of the lack of water. This is why honey doesn’t spoil.
2. Bees add glucose oxidase in the honey they make. Glucose oxidase catalyses the reaction which produces Gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide from glucose. Gluconic acid is the reason why honey has a pH less than 4. This is a thousand times more acidic than the neutral pH of 7, which is suitable for micro-organisms. The acid breaks down the cell wall of the bacteria.
3. Honey contains antibiotic (bacteria-killing) compounds like bee defensin 1 and methylglyoxal. The compound bee defensin-1 is produced in the same gland as honey is produced. These compounds are a part of the bee’s immune system and protect them from bacterial infection, so it is only natural that they secret them in their products as well.