The antimicrobial properties of honey may be effective in treating eczema and preventing skin infections. However, people should only use medical grade honey.

Honey has a long history of therapeutic use as an antibacterial agent, and researchers have investigated its potential for treating various skin conditions.

This article explores the different types of eczema and what causes them. It also discusses research about using honey for eczema and potential safety concerns. Additionally, it outlines the standard treatments for eczema and answers some frequently asked questions.

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Eczema refers to a group of inflammatory skin conditions that cause irritated and itchy skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) explains that there are different types of eczema with varying causes.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, which often begins in childhood, is the most common type of eczema. It is a complex disease, and scientists think that the immune system, environmental triggers, and family history all play a part in its development.

People with this type of eczema often develop an itchy rash or patches of dry skin.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with something that irritates it. Common irritants include detergents and bleach, chemicals, and plants.

The symptoms may include itchy skin, a rash, and blisters.

Dyshidrotic eczema

This eczema occurs on the hands or feet and causes tiny, itchy, fluid-filled blisters.

People with dyshidrotic eczema may be hypersensitive to certain medications, personal care products, or metals. They may experience flare-ups that alternate with periods of remission.

Hand eczema

Occurring on the hands, this type of eczema causes dry, chapped skin that may crack or bleed. People who have wet hands throughout the day or work with chemicals may develop hand eczema. Also, chefs may develop hand eczema due to a reaction to the food they prepare.

Neurodermatitis

Neurodermatitis is a type of eczema that is limited to one or two patches of skin and may occur due to a mind-body reaction, meaning that intense emotions trigger the physical symptoms. Another name for the condition is lichen simplex chronicus.

People with neurodermatitis tend to scratch the itchy area repeatedly, especially during sleep. Over time, the repeated scratching causes the skin to become thicker.

Nummular eczema

Nummular eczema causes itchy, raised, round-to-oval spots to appear on a person’s skin. The spots grow together to form large, slightly raised patches.

The spots may appear on the hands, forearms, or lower legs, with stress, extremely dry skin, and hypersensitivity among the possible triggers.

Nummular eczema is similar in appearance to ringworm and psoriasis, so a person should consult a dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis.

Stasis dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis is a common type of eczema that develops in people with poor circulation, usually in the lower legs. The condition causes swelling, bulging veins, and discolored skin.

The skin may itch, harden, and cause pain.

Some research suggests that the medicinal properties of honey may benefit people with eczema.

For example, a small 2017 study found that atopic dermatitis lesions significantly improved after applying manuka honey for 7 consecutive days.

The researchers suggest that honey has antibacterial properties that may help counteract skin inflammation. They explain that Staphylococcus aureus bacteria colonize the skin of 70–90% of people with atopic dermatitis. S. aureus produces inflammatory toxins, which may lead to infections.

A 2016 review indicates that scientists worldwide have recognized honey for its therapeutic healing properties for the skin, particularly for wounds and burns. In addition, honey may promote tissue repair, modulate the immune system, and have antimicrobial properties.

The review suggests that honey may help treat contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. However, scientists need to conduct further research into the effects of honey on other types of eczema and other skin diseases.

According to research, manuka honey is the type of honey that has the most beneficial medicinal properties. Manuka honey comes from Leptospermum, or the manuka tree, and contains an antimicrobial substance called methylglyoxal, which is not present in other kinds of honey.

Medical grade honey uses manuka, and manufacturers treat it to remove contaminants. The same research indicates that both manuka and medical grade honey are effective against various microorganisms.

An older review noted that doctors might use honey to promote wound healing. They may apply medical grade honey from a tube to the skin before adding a dressing. Alternatively, they might use a honey dressing.

In a 2017 study, researchers applied medical grade honey to the skin and covered it with gauze overnight to treat atopic dermatitis. Over 7 days, the participants washed the honey off each morning and reapplied it at night.

The previous review advises that a person should not apply unregulated, unlicensed honey to wounds because it may contain pesticides and harmful bacteria.

A person should seek advice from a healthcare professional about how to use medical grade honey for eczema and whether it may be helpful for them.

People should be aware that although honey allergies are rare, there have been case reports in which anaphylaxis resulted from honey. In addition, research indicates that people allergic to bee venom may react to honey, and those with diabetes should monitor their blood glucose if applying honey to the skin.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

The AAD advises that a skin care plan for eczema may include bathing, applying moisturizer, and being gentle with the skin.

In addition, the AAD notes that doctors or dermatologists may prescribe the following topical treatments for atopic dermatitis:

Dermatologists may also recommend phototherapy, which uses UV light to treat atopic dermatitis. However, due to the risk of skin cancer, a healthcare professional will carry this out in a controlled environment. People should not attempt to treat themselves with tanning beds.

If someone with eczema develops an infection, the AAD explains that a doctor may prescribe antibiotics, antivirals, or antifungal medications.

Below are the answers to some common questions about eczema and honey.

Can honey cure eczema?

Some studies suggest that medical grade honey may relieve the symptoms of eczema. However, scientists do not fully understand how honey may benefit skin conditions, and further research is necessary.

Is honey good for inflamed skin?

Research indicates that honey has anti-inflammatory properties and may benefit inflamed skin. However, honey not of medical grade may be contaminated with pesticides or bacteria and could worsen symptoms.

Are honey and lemon good for eczema?

No research concludes that ingesting honey and lemon helps eczema. Instead, most studies use honey as a topical treatment for the skin.

Honey has antimicrobial properties that may reduce inflammation in the skin. However, scientists are still researching its effects on eczema, and most studies use medical grade honey.

A person should speak with a dermatologist if they would like to try medical grade honey for eczema. However, they should be aware that regular honey may contain contaminants that might worsen the symptoms. Additionally, in some people with allergies or diabetes, honey may cause adverse effects.