Honey Heals Wounds
By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (September 22, 2005)—Honey is safe and effective to use on hard-to-heal wounds, according to two recent reports (the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2005;11:511–3 and the Journal of Family Practice, 2005;64:533–5).
Honey has been used for centuries to aid in the healing of persistent wounds and burns. Documentation regarding its use dates as far back as 1700 BC. Several characteristics are likely to contribute to honey’s effectiveness as a wound-healer: it is rich in sugar, which allows it to draw infection and fluid from wounds by a process called osmosis; its acidic pH, and the presence of an enzyme that stimulates small amounts of hydrogen peroxide to form, prevent bacterial infections; and, it can promote healing by maintaining a protective barrier and by holding in moisture. Furthermore, antibacterial and wound-healing components from the plants used by the bees in the production of honey might contribute to its effectiveness. To date, more than 500 reports, including several controlled trials, of successful wound healing with honey have been published.
Thirty-two children with 43 abscesses (deep bacterial infections of the skin) participated in a recent trial performed in Nigeria. After having their abscesses surgically opened and drained, the children received oral antibiotics, and were randomly assigned to have their wounds dressed twice per day with gauze soaked in raw honey or a commonly used solution of chlorinated lime and boric acid known as EUSOL. By day 7 of treatment, significantly more of the honey-treated wounds than EUSOL-treated wounds were clean, dry, and showed evidence of healing; by day 21, healing was complete in 87% of the honey-treated wounds, while only 55% of the EUSOL-treated wounds were healed. Hospital stays were significantly shorter among the children who were treated with honey (16 days vs. 19 days).
Another recent report describes the case of a 79-year-old man with type 2 (adult onset) diabetes. Leg and foot ulcers that are extremely difficult to heal are common in people with diabetes. The man in this report had multiple diabetes-related ulcers in his foot for which he had been hospitalized five times, and had had four surgeries, including the removal of two toes. After refusing further surgery to remove his lower leg, he was sent home and instructed to treat his wounds with thick applications of ordinary honey on gauze dressings once per day. Evidence of healing was apparent within two weeks and all of the ulcers were completely healed within 12 months.
These two reports add to the wealth of evidence that honey can effectively prevent infection and promote healing in the most persistent of wounds. It has previously been speculated that pasteurized honey is less effective than raw honey. The process of pasteurization, used to sterilize commercial honeys, destroys enzymes that are believed to be important. On the other hand, raw honey may have bacterial and fungal contaminants that could infect wounds. Honey sterilized through an irradiation procedure that leaves the enzymes intact has been produced specifically for medical use. These reports, however, demonstrate that inexpensive crude honey and commercial pasteurized honey maintain powerful wound-healing properties and do not contribute to further infection.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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