Honey for Herpes - Is it an effective treatment?

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Honey for Herpes - Does it Work?

Honey has long been recognized as a natural antibiotic and healing agent. It has been used for its anti-microbial and wound healing properties for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Therefore, it's not surprising that people might think of using honey for herpes treatment. What may be more surprising is several groups of scientists have begun to study its efficacy.


There have been no large-scale double-blind clinical trials of honey as a herpes treatment. However, there have been several smaller in vitro and in vivo studies. These have sought to examine the efficacy of both honey and propolis, another bee product, for the treatment of herpes symptoms. These studies have, on the whole, been surprisingly successful. So have several studies looking at the effect of propolis on vaginal lesions in mice. 

The largest published human study randomized 90 patients with genital herpes to try one of three treatments during an outbreak. The options were a propolis ointment, topical acyclovir (a standard herpes treatment),  or a placebo ointment. They found that individuals in the propolis group did better than those in either the acyclovir or the placebo group. They both experienced faster healing of their lesions and were significantly more likely to have fully healed their lesions by day 10 of treatment.

A smaller human study looked at 8 patients with genital herpes and 8 patients with oral herpes . These individuals were randomized to treatment with either honey and then topical acyclovir or topical acyclovir and then honey over the course of two subsequent attacks. This study allowed the scientists to control for differences between how individuals experience herpes outbreaks.

It too found that the length of each attack, duration of pain, and healing time were shorter with honey than with acyclovir.

As for laboratory research, at least six studies have looked at how propolis effects herpes viruses in vitro . All have suggested that propolis exerts at least a moderate inhibitory effect. In other words, it kills the virus or prevents it from growing.These studies suggest that even relatively low concentrations of propolis extracts can be effective at disrupting the replication of both HSV-1 and HSV-2. In these studies, honey is not always quite as effective as antiviral medication. However, it still generally shows a positive effect. The wound healing properties of honey might explain the difference of effects between lab studies and people studies. Using honey for herpes treatment isn't just about killing the virus. It's also about reducing symptoms. That's harder to assess using in vitro studies. 

Taken together, these studies suggest that using honey for herpes treatment may very well help an individual's herpes sores. Complementary and alternative medicine trials can be difficult to fund and publish.  However, it seems clear to me that further research is definitely indicated.

It will be interesting to see if results remain so positive in future studies. Personally, I think it would be particularly fascinating to see how honey fares  when compared to oral acyclovir . I'd also love to see it studied as an adjunct to suppressive treatment for individuals who are still experiencing outbreaks. Research project, anyone?


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