The buzz about medicinal honey

Caitlan Reeg Feb 19, 2008

The buzz about medicinal honey

Caitlan Reeg Feb 19, 2008

CORRECTION: The introduction to this story should have said that Haagen Dazs relies on honey BEES for 40 percent of its flavors.

Kai Ryssdal: Ice cream maker Haagen Dazs announced today that it’s giving $150,000 dollars to Penn State and $100,000 to the University of California Davis for bee research.

Haagen Dazs relies on honey for 40 percent of its ice cream flavors and recent colony collapse disorder has jeopardized those sweet treats.

That’s not the only industry affected by bees. Honey’s making the news in hospitals too.

Caitlan Carroll tells us what the buzz is all about.

Caitlan Carroll: The ancient Greeks and Egyptians waxed lyrical about the healing properties of honey. Religious scriptures tout it as a “product of the Gods.”

Doctors used honey during World War II to treat soldiers’ wounds. Antibiotics eventually displaced honey as a remedy, but now the sticky stuff’s making a comeback.

Ursulla Jenkins: A lot of people go, “Oh my god, you used honey to cure your foot?” I hear that all the time.

Ursulla Jenkins shattered a bone in her foot in late 2006. Her doctor removed the bone fragments, but the wound wouldn’t heal. It stayed open for months. Jenkins and her doctor Randy Nordyke even discussed amputation.

Randy Nordyke: It was white, non-healing, draining… looked like a dry lake bed.

Nordyke decided to try out a type of honey made in New Zealand. It’s derived from what the Maori people call Manuka or tea tree plant.

The honey worked wonders on Jenkins.

Nordyke: Within three days she was better than she had been in four months and from there she had significant reduction in swelling, the wound finally pinked up and more importantly, we saved her from what certainly looked like was going to be an amputation.

Nordyke’s not the only one working with manuka honey. Researchers found that manuka possesses an enzyme similar to hydrogen peroxide that helps keep wounds healthy.

Barry Wolfenson works for Derma Sciences Incorporated. His company’s developed the first and only FDA-approved manuka honey dressing. It’s called Medihoney.

He hopes manuka will get FDA recognition as a drug that can be used to fight superbugs.

Barry Wolfenson: With the advent of MRSA, VRE, other of these what are called super bugs… the business of topical antimicrobial dressings has really boomed in this field of advanced wound care.

Wolfenson says Medihoney’s selling well. Derma Sciences has made $200,000 on the product in the 12 weeks since it came to market.

The idea of using honey as a remedy makes Linda Knipschild a little nervous. She runs the busy Glendale Memorial Wound Care Center in Southern California.

Knipschild’s worried people will just go the store and pour honey directly into their wounds.

Linda Knipschild: We had somebody the other day who actually did that because they heard quotes that honey was a great thing to use on their wounds and of course that didn’t work.

Knipschild says the Medihoney dressings have worked on a few of her patients, but she warns manuka honey’s not a cure-all.

Dr. Nordyke sees things differently. After treating Ursulla Jenkins’ foot ulcer, he started his own manuka honey business. He raised about $120,000 in seed money. And he came up with a catchy name:

Nordyke: Wound honey, wound honey, wound honey. Just think about Dr. Nordyke’s wound honey.

Nordyke doesn’t seem to be thinking of much else. Unlike Linda Knipschild, he says manuka honey is a kind of cure-all. He suggests using it on everything from diabetic ulcers to acne.

In Los Angeles, I’m Caitlan Carroll for Marketplace.

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