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One Hump or Two? Camel’s Milk as a New Alternative Medicine

I wasn’t really surprised to learn that camel milk is being promoted as a medicine. I long ago realized that the human power of belief is inexhaustible. The news did make me laugh, probably because camels are rather funny-looking animals, because I am easily amused, because it reminded me of some of my favorite camel jokes, and because it wouldn’t do any good to cry.

Camel milk has been claimed to cure or benefit patients with diabetes, tuberculosis, stomach ulcers, gastroenteritis, cancer, allergies, infections, parasites, autism, even AIDS.  This isn’t really quite as silly as it might sound.  PubMed does list several studies showing health benefits from camel milk. A handful of studies have suggested that camel milk improves control of blood sugar in diabetes, but they are preliminary studies that typically compare standard treatment to standard treatment plus camel milk rather than using a blinded control. There are also a few small, poor quality studies suggesting a possible benefit in allergies, in peptic ulcers, in infections such as hepatitis, and in schistosomiasis. All in all, the research doesn’t amount to much. Camel milk can only be classed as experimental treatment. The existing studies justify doing more (and better quality) research, but they don’t justify prescribing it to treat patients.

Among other properties, camel’s milk is high in vitamin C, low in vitamin A, and low in fat compared to cow’s milk, and it is tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant. It is different from cow’s milk in many other ways that I won’t attempt to list, but the clinical significance of those differences is not clear.

A couple of studies suggested reasons for caution. A study in Saudi Arabia, where brucellosis is endemic, showed that the main source of brucellosis infection was unpasteurized camel milk  and there is a report of anaphylaxis to camel’s milk in a child with atopy.

The founder of the American Camel Coalition, Millie Hinkle, ND, says

The high levels of insulin in camel’s milk and the antibodies, which are much simpler in structure than human milk antibodies, enable it to penetrate deeper into the human tissue and cells [whaat?], which means that the milk has the potential to serve as a major weapon against many human illnesses.

She thinks that studies done in other countries on autism, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, food allergies and a variety of other illnesses have been “impressive.” I couldn’t locate the studies she cites for some of these claims, and I didn’t think the ones I did find were “impressive.”  The one she cites for autism is not original research but just a speculative rumination that includes brief, unconvincing reports of three patient observations and talks about highly controversial and disproven hypotheses as if they were proven facts. She wants to repeat previous studies using pasteurized camel milk; obviously pasteurization is a wise move, but rather than repeating previous studies, why not do better designed, controlled studies?

I didn’t know what to make of one study I found on PubMed. Its abstract said

Camels’ milk, women’s milk and cows’ milk were kept at 30 degrees C and refrigerated at 4 degrees C. This explains the necessity to immediately freeze milk if it needs to be kept even for a few days. Cows’ milk remained good for days if stirred and then turned sour, enabling the making of cheeses and butter. Camels’ milk did not sour at 4 degrees C for up to 3 months. This means that camels’ milk is mainly good only for drinking, as was promised to this animal by the Prophet.

Isn’t it inappropriate to make religious comments in scientific articles? Is religious support pertinent? In Sunni Islam, the Sahih Bukhari, one of the six major Hadith collections, does include several verses where the prophet Muhammad is said to have advocated drinking camel’s milk and urine as medicine. For instance,

The climate of Medina did not suit some people, so the Prophet ordered them to follow his shepherd, i.e. his camels, and drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). So they followed the shepherd that is the camels and drank their milk and urine till their bodies became healthy. Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels.

The Sahih Bukhari’s medical advice is not reliable or even consistent. It also says

Healing is in three things: A gulp of honey, cupping, and branding with fire (cauterizing). But I forbid my followers to use (cauterization) branding with fire.

Does that mean Muslims shouldn’t bother with any medical treatment but honey and cupping?

I’m not just picking on Muslims. Other religious texts also give questionable medical advice.  In the Essene Gospel of Peace, Jesus gave detailed instructions for colon cleansing using river water and a long-necked gourd:

Seek, therefore, a large trailing gourd, having a stalk the length of a man; take out its inwards and fill it with water from the river which the sun has warmed. Hang it upon the branch of a tree, and kneel upon the ground before the angel of water, and suffer the end of the stalk of the trailing gourd to enter your hinder parts, that the water may flow through your bowels.

I’d rather drink camel milk than do that.

There is even a book Love Thine Enemas and Heal Thyself. One of the customer reviews on Amazon.com says “This book helps people understand the love of God, in a very intimate area.”  You can find the darnedest things on the Internet! But I digress…

There is a website, Camel Milk for Health that recounts one (only one!?) story about a young man who had an undiagnosed condition that allegedly made him “allergic to all foods…unable to eat or digest any foods, unable to absorb any food nutrients” so that he was “subsisting on a tablespoon of rice and a tablespoon of rice milk per day.” Do you believe that? His parents claim he was cured by drinking camel milk, and they tell how they had to battle the authorities to get special permits to import the milk into Canada. The website announces a symposium to be held in Vancouver BC on February 9th with 3 panelists entitled “Camel Milk: A New Alternative Medicine.” The main speaker is a retired professor of veterinary medicine from Israel who has done some of the research. The symposium is sponsored by an orthodox Jewish congregation, the oldest and largest synagogue in Vancouver. I am puzzled, because camels and camel milk are trayf (not kosher) and are forbidden to orthodox Jews.

While looking for evidence of possible health benefits, I came across some intriguing camel trivia in the Wikipedia article:

  • Camel milk can’t be made into butter by conventional churning methods.
  • The Abu Dhabi Officer’s Club serves camelburgers. Bubonic plague has been transmitted by eating camel liver.
  • The ancient Roman emperor Heliogabalus enjoyed eating camel’s heel.
  • Camel blood is consumed in Northern Kenya.
  • Camel lasagna is available in Alice Springs, Australia.

It’s nice to know these things. Forgive the digression.

If you want to try camel milk, you can’t. Selling it is illegal in the US. According to a CBS news report in July 2010,

The FDA allows people to drink camel milk, but it can’t be imported or sold in the U.S. until a test for drug residues is validated, said FDA spokesman Michael Herndon.

Could this be a conspiracy by Big Dairy to prevent competition?

The Camel Milk for Health website links to the Oasis Camel Dairy website, which is interesting and has some cool pictures. The OCD is producing camel milk but is not legally allowed to sell it. What they can and do sell is camel milk soap for $5.00 in varieties like “gold frankincense and myrrh” and “rosemary mint.” They also sell camel milk chocolate bars.

All of the research seems to be on one-hump camels. It’s not clear whether Bactrian camel milk is equally efficacious. The “one hump or two” question remains to be answered; but there’s no rush, since we can’t get either kind of milk. Jabalicious and other brands have recently come on the market in the UK, but those of us who live in the US will have to either wait for FDA approval or buy our own camel and milk it ourselves.

Posted in: Nutrition

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52 thoughts on “One Hump or Two? Camel’s Milk as a New Alternative Medicine

  1. Ben Kavoussi says:

    Ah, this is hilarious!

  2. Draal says:

    “enable it to penetrate deeper into the human tissue and cells [whaat?]”

    There are scientific literature examples of antibodies entering cells. Potential target for gene regulation using Anti-DNA antibodies. Whaaat?

  3. ConspicuousCarl says:

    This will only bring chaos and confusion.

    The phrases “Camel Lite” and “Cup of Joe” are already taken.

    Bartenders won’t be sure if they are supposed to spit in it or not.

    People will trample each other while racing to the milk jugs at the grocery stores because they don’t want to get stuck with an ugly one.

  4. tmac57 says:

    This story really got my back up!

  5. “The high levels of insulin in camel’s milk and the antibodies, which are much simpler in structure than human milk antibodies, enable it to penetrate deeper into the human tissue and cells, which means that the milk has the potential to serve as a major weapon against many human illnesses.”

    Draal,
    1) Do you have any reason to think that oral insulin in camel’s milk — a protein ingested orally — has any effect at all on human blood sugar?

    2) Assuming that we give up drinking human milk[!] and start drinking camel’s milk instead, and that our tissues and cells are all of a sudden deeply penetrated by the camel antibodies in the milk, against what human illness specifically would this serve as a major weapon?

  6. Just like us humans wanting camel’s milk to cure all our ills. But I say, Ask not what the camel can do for you. Ask what you can do for the camel.

    “Karakurt spiders [Latrodectus tredecimguttatus] are being found in increasing numbers in Kazakhstan’s western Mangistau Region and they are biting.

    Livestock farms face major losses as their camels fall prey to the “flood” of deadly spiders. “{snip}
    “We need serum from the karakurt’s venom,” he says. “We are treating camels without serum using droppers now. But this is not helping much. It should be treated with serum.”

    But the serum is not produced in the country and, as Kazakh television reports, an Uzbek-made anti-venom costs more than $130.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3857927.stm

    I also say, If you are going to get a camel and milk it, please don’t import it from Kazakhstan…I’m really not in the mood for a plague of camel (and human) killing spiders.

  7. Oh, how about llamas or alpacas? They are related to camels, right? Does their milk have the same miraculous qualities? There’s lots of llamas and alpacas in the states can you sell their milk?

    Come on, we should be creative. We could get in on the ground floor of this one. :)

  8. S.C. former shruggie says:

    A major qualifier for becoming a CAM modality appears to be that it sounds exotic.

    The ability to a) consume it raw and/or b) turn it into an enema are also good predictors of success.

    Time will tell if we see “raw camel milk enema” nonsense in the coming year. (It’s only a matter of time before someone decides it cures aura cancer.)

    And to think everyone laughed when I said exoticness alone would make tiger cheese sell. I wasn’t far off.

  9. Ben Kavoussi says:

    Is it CAM or CAMel?!

  10. Ben Kavoussi “Is it CAM or CAMel?!”

    They put the CAM in Camel.

  11. wales says:

    When citing a website, which in turn cites a book (Szekely’s “The Essene Gospel of Peace”) which claim to cite ancient texts on the topic of historical hygiene/medicine practices it’s best to choose more credible scholars of texts which actually exist. According to Wikipedia’s Szekely entry (which of course is not infallible) there is no evidence that this “gospel” exists as an ancient text, and Szekely apparently never had access to the Vatican library as he claimed.

    While the historical and philosophical validity of the content of ancient philosophical/religious texts can be debated endlessly, even when poking fun, IMO it’s best to stick with the texts which have some evidence for existence, and preferably those which have been translated and studied by credible linguists and historians…

    Not all information about healing in ancient texts is balderdash. There is evidence that honey has properties which inhibit biofilm growth in wounds.

  12. rmgw says:

    Three guesses who’s going to lose out all down the line here? Anyone? Yes, that’s right, the CAMELS are going to lose out: aren’t we already sacrificing cows, goats and sheep enough? (it’s truly alarming how many people don’t know these unfortunate mothers have to be impregnated every year, only to have their offspring dragged away (for meat, as replacements or just wasted) whilst humans rob the milk they don’t need – and in many cases are allergic to). Are we going to try to extort yet more out of another species now – more and better quality trials, indeed!

  13. Harriet Hall says:

    wales says “When citing a website, which in turn cites a book (Szekely’s “The Essene Gospel of Peace”) which claim to cite ancient texts on the topic of historical hygiene/medicine practices it’s best to choose more credible scholars of texts which actually exist.”

    This text itself does “actually exist” in modern languages. It is the ancient manuscript that it claims to translate that almost certainly doesn’t exist. So what? I know it is a hoax, but I decided not to explain that because that fact was not pertinent to the point I was making. I did not cite the Gospel of Peace as an ancient text. I cited it as a Christian religious text, which it is: some people believe in it and cite it, telling us to follow Jesus’ advice and take enemas. The fact that it is a hoax only makes my point stronger: it makes it just that much more inadvisable as a source of medical advice.

    And one could argue that religious texts which actually exist in ancient versions are hoaxes too, inasmuch as they describe impossible events as history and claim to be the word of God, and people of other religions do not accept them as such. And we don’t have “original” texts of the Bible, only copies of supposed originals written long after the events they describe.

  14. Harriet Hall says:

    @ micheleinmichigan,

    I thought of llamas too, but I couldn’t find any information about the health effects of their milk. I did find a website saying they were never likely to become dairy animals for several reasons including the small quantities of milk.

    I wondered about yaks, too. And about bison, reindeer, lions (just imagine!) and all other mammals. Just as we look for new drug candidates in plants in the rain forest, maybe we should be looking for them in the milk of mammals. Maybe NCCAM would fund a study. :-)

  15. Draal says:

    @Alison
    You missed my point that it is not impossible for antibodies to cross over cell walls to enter the cells (or even the blood-brain barrier) because there are examples in the literature. That was it. I made no other statements.

    As for question 1, I have no idea, probably highly unlikely but it’s not impossible. Pig insulin (only 1 amino acid different than human) has been used in the past to regulate sugar levels. So it is not a huge leap to think another animal’s insulin can affect sugar levels in a human. In fact, cow insulin works too. Granted, proteins can and do break down when administered orally. Some proteins are not digested. Does an orally digested camel insulin protein survive to some extent and have a chance to be absorbed into the blood steam? No idea.

    As for question 2, I have no idea.

  16. Chris says:

    I saw a camel milk operation on Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs”, after a quicky google, it was the Oasis Camel Dairy. Apparently the main reason they could not sell the milk was because they refused to pasteurize it. The owners claimed that would ruin its curative features. I would link to a Discovery Channel page, but each one starts by running video!

  17. Scott says:

    California Condor milk is even better. Don’t claim I’m wrong until you’ve tried it! I’ll happily sell it to you; apparently I’m the only one with the knack of getting the milk from the condors.

    *remove tongue from cheek*

    I wonder how much money I could actually make that way…

  18. JJ from Cowtown says:

    “The high levels of insulin in camel’s milk and the antibodies, which are much simpler in structure than human milk antibodies, enable it to penetrate deeper into the human tissue and cells, which means that the milk has the potential to serve as a major weapon against many human illnesses.”

    The antibodies act a little differently so the whole milk product can penetrate deeper? Whaaat?

  19. rork says:

    I once worked with a post-doc who later returned to Lebanon to try and work on Camel genetics, hoping to improve their milk output. He had this idea: Higher milk producing (volume and longer lactation period) females were kept home with youngsters, while poor producers were liberated from that task (often for pack-work, with males) earlier – and these became pregnant again earlier. This selection for the worst milk producers may have been going on to some degree for a long time. A little bit of science might help there he thought, if you want to make better milkers, and that may be true even if his anti-milk-selection hypothesis was weak. He never mentioned any miracle properties of the milk – they just made better sense than cows in certain environments.

    He reported young camel meat very good, but expensive.

  20. Always Curious says:

    Wow, camel milk, who’d have thought it? I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

    The journal referencing The Prophet has been out of print since 1992 (and it only ran for 21 years total). I’d not be surprised if they failed because they ran too many papers like the camel milk article (which itself is from 1984).

    @Draal
    Pig insulin, cow insulin, human insulin, recombinant insulin, etc. are all injected precisely because insulin is digested in the stomach. Changing a few amino acids is not going to change that story for camel insulin. We’ve been injecting insulin for almost 100 years and only in the recent decade are we finally, maybe, almost ready to administer insulin orally (as a specially coated pill).

  21. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ micheleinmichigan:

    CAM and CAMel reminds me of Dumb & Dumber!

  22. weing says:

    My understanding is that camels are very difficult to milk and frequently require a baby camel be present during the milking process too. Once again, it’ll be very expensive and only the very rich will be able to afford it. Even rarer still, will be cheese made from camel’s milk.

  23. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ wales

    “Not all information about healing in ancient texts is balderdash. There is evidence that honey has properties which inhibit biofilm growth in wounds.”

    You might be right. Nonetheless, comparing an empirical remedy found in an ancient text with modern medicine, is comparing a camel and a Ferrari.

    There are many “camel-level” remedies that might work. For instance, the U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Handbook states that in absence of medication, one can eat a cigarette or drink two spoonfuls of gasoline to treat intestinal parasites…

    However, just as I don’t recommend going to work riding a camel, I do not recommend swallowing cigarettes for parasites, putting honey on your wounds, or drinking camel milk for your diabetes!

  24. @Ben Kavoussi “You might be right. Nonetheless, comparing an empirical remedy found in an ancient text with modern medicine, is comparing a camel and a Ferrari.”

    Hmm, When comparing a Ferrari and a camel, I’d first want to know the application. I don’t recommend taking a Ferrari through the desert dunes, for instance.

  25. Oh, that’s in no way meant to disagree with Ben Kavoussi’s point. It’s only that I prefer camel’s over Ferrari’s, except for resale value.

  26. Scott says:

    You know, I just took a second look at the title of this post. That could SO be taken the wrong way…

  27. Harriet Hall, drat, my entrepreneurial alpaca woo plan’s are crush.

  28. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    Slightly less exotic, and also with lots of dubious health claims is mare’s milk (i.e. horse milk).

  29. Ben Kavoussi,

    What’s wrong with honey on a wound, besides the mess factor? I can think of lots of things wrong with eating cigarettes to treat parasites (toxicity, lack of specificity), but not a lot of things wrong with packing a wound with something safe to eat. Sugar is even used by people who have alternatives — like cardiac surgeons.
    http://www.dermnetnz.org/treatments/honey.html
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_v128/ai_3905029/
    http://www.smtl.co.uk/WMPRC/DressingsTimes/vol3.2.txt

    People who don’t have a lot of options — doctors in African leper colonies treating osteitis and osteoarthritis of the extremities in older patients — use sugar with success too:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10987045
    From that article: “Up to now the method using ordinary sugar was applied in the treatment of infected wounds, eschars and postsurgical infections. Our experience shows that it also can be indicated to treat bone infections. This method is easy to apply also under often difficult field conditions and is very cheap.”

    I like the idea myself: it’s cheap, lets the wound dry, doesn’t have fibres to get stuck in the wound, and by all accounts leads to very nice healing.

    And then of course are the sugar-iodine ointments that are commonly used.

  30. Mark Crislip says:

    I have been a moderate proponent of sugar/honey for years on wounds. I should write about it some day, but it is not as fun to write on topics you agree with. The literature is not bad as those things go.

  31. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ Alison Cummins

    Honey is good for wounds. Saliva is actually better because it contains IgA. But antibiotic ointment is the best, and that’s the point I am trying to make.

  32. Ben Kavoussi,

    Is antibiotic ointment really better than honey/sugar? Jam keeps perfectly well without antibiotics; I’ve seen instances where a greasy ointment actually prevented a wound from drying up and healing (a reason I try to avoid ointments today); and I found links to papers by cardiac surgeons who used sugar to pack mediastinal wounds because their other stuff wasn’t working.

    If antibiotic ointment is better, so be it. But the difference between honey and ointment for a wound doesn’t seem to me (on the surface) to be on the same order as the difference between gasoline and albendazole for intestinal parasites – either for safety or effectiveness.

  33. rmgw says:

    Does NO-ONE care at all about what they may inflicting on the helpless animals involved in these wretched products? Are we not even going to admit that there’s an ethcial dimension to plundering sentient beings of what they produce for their own good or that of their offspring? What sort of people do we want to be here?

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      @rmgw,
      “Plundering sentient beings”? Gee, I hadn’t thought of it quite in those terms. I do feel really sorry for all the camels that are being milked by nomads and herders, and for their innocent babies that have to stand by and watch their mothers suffer and see their food supply robbed. Is PETA campaigning to get herding people to give up their customs around the world? I know they are attacking cow’s milk as a cruel and unhealthy product. http://www.peta.org/issues/pages/animals-used-for-food/Cow-s-Milk-A-Cruel-and-Unhealthy-Product/Cow-s-Milk–A-Cruel-and-Unhealthy-Product.aspx Save the Cows would benefit far more sentient beings than Save the Camels or Save the Whales. I feel really sorry for the cow that died to provide the steak I ate the other night, but I didn’t feel sorry enough to forgo the delicious experience of eating it. Am I an evil person?

  34. Ben Kavoussi,

    The honey discussion came from this:

    Harriet Hall quoted the Sahih Bukhari as follows: “Healing is in three things: A gulp of honey, cupping, and branding with fire (cauterizing).”

    To which wales responded: “Not all information about healing in ancient texts is balderdash. There is evidence that honey has properties which inhibit biofilm growth in wounds.”

    For me, what seems most relevant is not that some things in an ancient text might be true, but that one has to work backwards to find them. That is, we use science to identify helpful methods and then look in the ancient texts to see if something matches it. We can take honey seriously because of what we know about hyperosmolality; we don’t take cupping and cauterizing seriously except as potential causes of harm. Ancient texts are thus unhelpful health care reference guides.

    Some other bits of ancient wisdom:
    “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
    “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”

    The fact that topical honey for wounds is mentioned in one ancient text does not make a reference to drinking camel’s milk and urine in another ancient text a solid basis for incorporating camel’s milk and urine into our diets.

  35. … further, I take sugar/honey seriously as a possible wound pack not because the prophet says that oral honey is an effective and acceptable remedy but because I read a Lancet article back when it was published in 1985 and it stuck with me.

  36. rmgw,

    I do. It doesn’t just apply to exotic animals either.

    You might like this fascinating demonstration of inconsistency by an (extremely bright) urban jew living on a hog farm:
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/01/25/goat-cheese-is-the-new-veal/

  37. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ Alison Cummins,

    I agree with you. Thanks for the clarifications.

  38. Calli Arcale says:

    I used to correspond with an Israeli who, on vacation, visited a camel dairy run by Israeli Bedouins. The Bedouins were trying to make a go of this, which was challenging given that orthodox Jews won’t drink the milk. They were making ice cream from it, among other things, and he was curious enough to try it out. He said it tasted pretty vile, but I’m sure mileage varies.

    Goat’s milk would be easier to obtain — those animals breed like rabbits, mature quickly, and are amazingly adaptable. (This is also why they’re a major invasive species in some parts of the world.)

    Another commercially available milk that you don’t hear much about is sheep’s milk. Sheep’s milk cheeses are popular around the eastern Mediterranean — feta is traditionally made from sheep’s milk.

    I’d be willing to try camel’s milk, or any other milk (Venezuelan beaver cheese?), out of culinary curiosity alone. But the sorts of health claims you see are just plain ridiculous. I suppose the alternative dairies need to find some way to convince people to try the stuff, especially in America where the dairy industry is so heavily entrenched with a very standardized product.

  39. pmoran says:

    Honey in wound healing? I was never impressed by the anecdotal experience of its proponents, usually hospital staff saying how rapidly venous ulcers healed with its use. But venous ulcers can heal astonishingly rapidly when the legs are elevated in hospital even if previously resistant to most outpatient types of care.

    So I was not surprised that a Cochrane review of studies on honey was lukewarm –

    Honey may improve healing times in mild to moderate superficial and partial thickness burns compared with some conventional dressings. Honey dressings as an adjuvant to compression do not significantly increase leg ulcer healing at 12 weeks. There is insufficient evidence to guide clinical practice in other areas.

    Honey would help in providing a moist, non-traumatic wound environment, but so would a lot of other substances, especially gels.

    The same lack of evidence applies to topical antibiotics and antiseptics, contrary to popular belief. In general they contribute nothing, and some probably delay healing when compared to simply providing a moist, non-traumatic environment and letting nature take its course. Burns may be a special case.

  40. Harriet Hall says:

    Does the honey attract flies?

  41. pmoran on why I hate antibiotic creams:
    “Honey would help in providing a moist, non-traumatic wound environment, but so would a lot of other substances, especially gels.

    The same lack of evidence applies to topical antibiotics and antiseptics, contrary to popular belief. In general they contribute nothing, and some probably delay healing when compared to simply providing a moist, non-traumatic environment and letting nature take its course.”

    So the antibiotic ointment > saliva > honey hierarchy is not evidence-based?

  42. Joe says:

    Harriet Hall on 26 Jan 2011 at 4:44 pm asks “Does the honey attract flies?”

    My sister says you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. However, my brother and I find we can make fruit-fly traps with a little dish detergent and vinegar in water. I haven’t done the control experiment because I’d hate to waste good honey on flies.

    @pmoran As far as I know, the rationale behind using honey on sores is infection prevention, not faster healing. But, “other healers” are not constrained by rationality (thus the Cochrane review). As long as it remains near its original concentration honey is hyperosmotic, with respect to microbes, and can deter their growth. I am not sure how long it takes for it to become sufficiently dilute (from air and bodily humidity) to stop being antimicrobial.

    This reminds me of a thermodynamic cycle one may infer concerning lotions said to to “hydrate” skin. Air sucks water out of skin. Glycerin draws moisture out of air ergo if it is used in a lotion, it draws moisture to the skin. The full analysis is that if glycerin is a stronger drying agent than air, which dries skin, glycerin certainly does not release moisture to the skin (more likely it would make the skin drier if used in quantity). (Glycerin does not penetrate the cells of the skin.) Fortunately, the amount of glycerin in lotions is trivial.

  43. pmoran says:

    Joe, I thought the claims for honey always derived from perrceived faster healing and so far as I am aware the theoretical modes of action gainst infection have not been shown to be operative.

    I thought the hyperosmolar theory of action was weak because the cells trying to clean up and repair the wound surely would also be damaged. Sustained hyperosmolarity might reduce edema in infected granulation tissue, but as an overall good thing? — I am not sure.

    NZ Manuka honey was claimed to have special antibacterial content, but this raises the question as to why that would work when other very potent antibiotic applications have not had clear replicable effects in the studies.

    Systemic antibiotics (oral or injected) do have clear benefits in contaminated wounds, of course.

  44. Ben Kavoussi says:

    I think, we are all getting off topic here!

  45. wales says:

    my links on the subject of biofilms and honey are in moderation now….

  46. Ben Kavoussi

    “I think, we are all getting off topic here!”

    Well, there’s only so many quips you can make about camels after all.

    The honey discussion may be beside the point, but can we just get over that hump?

    {I am so sorry}

  47. Joe says:

    pmoran on 26 Jan 2011 at 6:21 pm wrote “Joe, I thought the claims for honey always derived from perceived faster healing and so far as I am aware the theoretical modes of action against infection have not been shown to be operative.

    You are probably correct, I have not paid much attention to the claims.

    pmoran also wrote “I thought the hyperosmolar theory of action was weak because the cells trying to clean up and repair the wound surely would also be damaged. Sustained hyperosmolarity might reduce edema in infected granulation tissue, but as an overall good thing? — I am not sure.

    Yet, again, you make a good point.

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