Every year at this time, Rena’s Aunt Carmi sends us a new calendar from Israel to mark the start of the new Jewish year. Because honey is traditionally eaten in conjunction with our New Year celebrations, it has also become something a yearly routine at this time for me to search through the medical and scientific literature to see what is new in the realm of honey research.
Limiting ourselves to just human clinical trials published in the last twelve months we quickly find half a dozen papers.
In October 2013, researchers in Malaysia reported that daily doses of honey reduced symptoms of allergic rhinitis (runny noses). Forty patients with allergies were divided into two groups. All subjects were given the allergy drug loratadine. Half took daily doses on honey, half, flavored corn syrup. They took fairly solid doses of honey, 1 gram/Kg body weight. After eight weeks of this treatment, only the group who took honey showed significant improvement in individual symptoms.
A January 2014 paper compared the effect of varying doses of honey against similar doses of pure glucose in type 2 diabetics. A group of 97 type 2 diabetics were randomly assigned to one of three groups that received either 30 or 75 grams of honey or 75 grams of glucose. As one would guess, the honey had a lower impact on blood glucose levels.
A large study from New Zealand was also published last January testing to see if honey could reduce the risk of peritoneal infection in dialysis patients. 371 dialysis patients were divided into two groups: 186 were assigned to the honey group and 185 to the control group. In the end risk of infection was the same and honey was not any better at preventing infection than the standard anti-infection wound care treatments already in use. Then again one might rephrase this and say it worked as well as standard of care. 
A March paper reported on the results of a clinical trial of manuka honey in patients receiving head and neck radiation to see if it would reduce mucositis. No benefit was seen in this study even though earlier papers had reported very favorable outcomes. It should be noted that compliance was quite poor with more than half the participants both those receiving the honey and those receiving placebo, dropping out of the study. 
Thus it shouldn’t surprise us that the researchers found no significant difference between groups.
A June 2014 open trial reported that honey was useful in preventing infections when applied topically to central intravenous lines of patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer. The study consisted of two groups of 30 patients, one group receiving topical honey. The study measured the presence or absence of bacterial colonization at the line site.
“In the … honey arm, 2 patients with existing line site colonisation were cleared of bacterial colonisation and none acquired colonisation during the study period. In the non-treatment arm, 6 patients were colonised at the line site prior to screening or during the evaluation. Bacterial colonisation was maintained throughout the period.”
One other clinical trial interest, in particular at this time of year as we head toward the winter season of cold, flu and coughs, is the one on honey and coffee for the treatment of persistent cough. I’ve already reviewed this one in detail in the Natural Medicine Journal
Moving away from human clinical trials to in vitro experiments, a study published in February 2014 measured the antibacterial effect of various honeys against strains of six gram-positive and six gram-negative strains of human pathogens. Full strength, or nearly full strength (90-100% pure) honey had comparable antibacterial effect as the antibiotic gentamycin but once the honey was diluted with 20-70% water, the antibacterial effect ceased to be detected.
There are a number of reviews on using honey for wound healing, but that’s kind of old news at this point.
So that was fun……
Some years I also include a honey recipe but I find that we are sticking to tradition this year: Rena is baking her honey cake, and I’m going with last year’s recipe for a honey-orange-nut and olive oil cake. Links to both recipes are below
Our best wishes for a sweet New Year.
Links to a few past honey reviews and recipes
Asha'ari ZA1, Ahmad MZ, Jihan WS, Che CM, Leman I. Ingestion of honey improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis: evidence from a randomized placebo-controlled trial in the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Ann Saudi Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;33(5):469-75. doi: 10.5144/0256-4947.2013.469.
Nazir L1, Samad F2, Haroon W3, Kidwai SS2, Siddiqi S4, Zehravi M5. Comparison of glycaemic response to honey and glucose in type 2 diabetes. J Pak Med Assoc. 2014 Jan;64(1):69-71.
Isbel NM2, McTaggart S8, Morrish AT3, Playford EG9, Scaria A3, Snelling P10, Vergara LA3, Hawley CM2; HONEYPOT Study Collaborative Group. Antibacterial honey for the prevention of peritoneal-dialysis-related infections (HONEYPOT): a randomised trial. Lancet Infect Dis. 2014 Jan;14(1):23-30. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70258-5. Epub 2013 Oct 10.
Hawley P1, Hovan A, McGahan CE, Saunders D. A randomized placebo-controlled trial of manuka honeyfor radiation-induced oral mucositis. Support Care Cancer. 2014 Mar;22(3):751-61. doi: 10.1007/s00520-013-2031-0. Epub 2013 Nov 13.
Dryden M1, Tawse C2, Adams J3, Howard A4, Saeed K5, Cooke J6. The use of Surgihoney to prevent or eradicate bacterial colonisation in dressing oncology long vascular lines. J Wound Care. 2014 Jun;23(6):338-41.
Raeessi MA, Aslani J, Raeessi N, et al. Honey plus coffee versus systemic steroid in the treatment of persistent post-infectious cough: a randomised controlled trial. Prim Care Respir J. 2013;22(3):325-330.
Khalil AT, Khan I, Ahmad K, Khan YA, Khan J, Shinwari ZK. Antibacterial activity of honey in north-west Pakistan against select human pathogens. J Tradit Chin Med. 2014 Feb;34(1):86-9.