is one of the oldest medicines. Its use is
recorded in Sumerian clay tablets estimated to
be 4,000 years old, and in Egyptian papyri dated
from 1900 to 1250 BC It is also mentioned in the
Veda, the sacred scriptures of Hinduism, thought
to be about 5,000 years old, and in the Holy Qu'ran
and the Talmud. Hippocrates (460-357 BC) used
many of the Egyptian prescriptions. He found that
honey "cleans sores and ulcers of the
lips, heals carbuncles and running sores."
Celsus (circa 25 A.D.) used honey for many different
purposes: as a laxative, as a cure for diarrhea
and upset stomach, for coughs and throat maladies,
to agglutinate wounds and for eye diseases.
Honey has continued to be used in medicine
ever since, but little was known about how it
worked. It was not until the late 19th century
that bacteria were found to be the cause of
infections. Although there are several reports
in medical journals in the 1930's of honey
being effective in clearing wounds
of bacterial infection, it was not recognized
in these reports that it had been established
in laboratory work in 1919 that honey has antibacterial
activity. It was not until the mid-1940's that
more intensive laboratory studies were carried
out, but by this time antibiotics were becoming
available for the treatment of infections, and
honey was displaced from use in medicine.
Despite the advent of antibiotics, honey has
continued to be used in folk medicine, and it
is from this pool of knowledge that the re-introduction
of honey into modern medicine has come. There
have been numerous reports in medical journals
of this folk remedy being used as a last
resort on infected wounds, burns and ulcers
that were not responding to antibiotic treatment.
The remedy was in all cases found to be remarkably
effective. This effectiveness is being recognized
in an increasing number of reports. In 1989,
an editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society
of Medicine expressed the opinion that "the
time has now come for conventional medicine
to lift the blinds off this 'traditional remedy'
and to give it its due recognition."