October 1, 2022

Ozturk’s students prepare for their work studying the reaction of bacterial cultures to honey by practicing their precision and accuracy transferring food coloring dye with a micropipette.
SEPTEMBER 15, 2022 — The jars filled with deep and light amber shades of honey taking up most of the shelves in the office of Ferhat Ozturk are evidence of his decade-long love exploring the medicinal potential of the sticky and sweet ingredient. This fall, Ozturk, an assistant professor in the UTSA College of Sciences’ Department of Integrative Biology, is expanding students’ understanding of honey as an antibiotic and healing agent.
Ozturk and his students will spend the semester testing varieties of honey in various bacterial cultures to identify which are best at killing and/or inhibiting the growth of these bacteria.
“Honey has been used as an antibacterial solution for thousands of years. The Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Turks, for example, used honey for wound healing. It’s been shown to kill bacteria—almost any bacteria,” Ozturk said. “Our main objective is to find which honey can be used best for which disease and at the same time which honey has the most healing potential.”

Ferhat Ozturk and his students will spend the semester testing varieties of honey in various bacterial cultures to identify which are best at killing and/or inhibiting the growth of the bacteria. Photos by Ari Castañeda
But before battling bacteria, Ozturk’s undergraduate students sharpened their skills with a micropipette, a tool used to transfer a measured volume of liquid. To prepare for their work studying the reaction of bacterial cultures to honey, the students first practiced their precision and accuracy with the tool by transferring food coloring dye.
“It’s a learning process,” Ozturk told one student as they measured microliters of colored dye.
With its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antioxidant and anti-aging properties, honey is effective as a treatment for many ailments and conditions. Honey can soothe inflammation resulting from intestinal and gum diseases. It protects cells from free radicals that cause illnesses and helps replenish them to a healthier state. With no side effects, Ozturk points out that honey can also serve as an aid to treating mouth sores suffered by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Ozturk, who regularly visits beekeepers and attends bee conventions, is collecting honey samples from San Antonio and other regions of Texas. He’s searching for the leading medical-grade honey that can help heal infected wounds and prevail against antimicrobial resistance—when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them.
“Not every honey has the same potential for every bacterium,” Ozturk explained. “Buckwheat, for example, has one of the highest potentials of healing properties but there’s still medicinal activity in the lighter colored honeys.”
Having moved on from colored dyes, Ozturk’s students are becoming acquainted with bacteria. Carefully transferring a bacteria liquid culture into an agar plate, Nhi Ho, a sophomore studying microbiology, said she chose Ozturk’s course for its interesting topic and because it provided her with a hands-on research opportunity as an undergraduate student.
Ho and the rest of the class spread the liquid culture on the small plate. Once growth occurs—results should be visible two days later—the students will introduce honey.
“Honey is healing for mankind,” Ozturk said. “It changed my approach to medicine. I made the link and the more I learn how honey has been used as medicine, the more fascinated I become.”
Ari Castañeda
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