Honey is about 17 percent water and the rest is made up of two types of sugar, fructose and glucose, both of which attract water. As a supersaturated substance, honey does not dissolve at room temperature, giving it its viscous, gooey texture. When a bacterium, mold, or fungus enters the body, honey will work to suck the water right out of the foreign substance, rendering the invader useless. Honey also doesn’t contain enough water for bacteria or the like to live off, which is why it doesn’t spoil.
But sugar isn’t the only ingredient that makes honey a supercharger antibacterial fighting machine. Bees add glucose oxidase to the mix, which makes honey very acidic and virtually impossible for bacteria to grow in. And when glucose oxidase breaks down, it converts into hydrogen peroxide, which destroys bacteria’s cell walls.
Honey also contains a sprinkle of a protein called bee defensin-1, which is a part of the bees’ immune systems designed to protect them against bacteria, specifically those that cause disease. In 2010, a study conducted on the bees at a molecular level isolated the defensin-1 protein, which revealed how their honey is able to treat burns and skin infections, making it a potent antibacterial ingredient.
Ultimately, the ingredients found in honey are bacteria’s nightmare, which is why healthy adults can reap the benefits from its properties with a daily dose of the sweet stuff. However, parents should abstain from feeding infants under the age of one honey because about 10 percent of honey samples also contain botulinum spores in them. The clostridium botulinum bacteria is the one and only bacteria that can resist honey’s antibacterial properties because they’re already dried out so honey cannot destroy it by sucking out its water source. While a healthy adult immune system can fight off the spores from growing inside of us, infants have a young and underdeveloped system, making it risky to try the sweet stuff too young.