Historical treaties have told us about medical aspects of honey, and describe the benefits of its use inside or externally for more than four millennia. The antimicrobial properties of honey have been documented in 1894, and about 50 years later American and European authors started to speak about valuable properties of honey in the treatment of wounds. Active use of honey stopped with the advent of antibiotics, honey was relegated to the level of folk remedies for a few decades. Scientific research allow to understand better the mechanisms of wound healing and the biological effects of honey. Physiological reaction to injury involves the inflammatory phase, proliferation and regeneration. An assumption that honey has beneficial effects on wound healing in each phase. Affecting the phase of inflammation, honey can limit the spread of infection, having activity against many bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and methicillin-resistant strains of S. aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci. However, antibiotic prophylaxis does not promote faster healing of wounds, as well as the antimicrobial effects of honey can not fully explain its effectiveness in wound healing. Effect of honey may depend on its ability to activate the production of cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukins, which help to remove alien substances from the wound and to form new blood vessels. Unlike some other means used for wound dressings, honey is not cytotoxic to keratinocytes and fibroblasts, which helps in the healing of wounds. Honey can promote the formation of granulation tissue and epithelialization, and thus reduce the healing time of wounds. With increasing of antibiotic resistance and the development of wound care as a medical specialty, interest in honey for wound care began to revive. Honey has been studied for the treatment of both acute wounds (eg, burns, surgical and traumatic wounds) and chronic wounds (eg surgical infections, bedsores, ulcers of the lower extremities).
Most studies of honey usually are of low quality, with the lack of “blinding” data and the small sample size. A meta-analysis of 19 studies from the Cochrane Controlled Trials Registry showed that honey reduces time of healing of burns of second degree, on average, for 5 days, compared with conventional dressings, but does not promote healing of chronic venous leg ulcers when used in combined with compression stockings. Scientists refer to the lack of data to evaluate the effect of honey on other acute and chronic wounds. Other systematic reviews have led to similar conclusions.
Honey-containing dressing has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration of USA (FDA) as a medical device, which does not undergo the testing for safety and efficacy as drugs. Varieties of honey differ depending on the origin of the flower, and a special forest manuka honey, registered under the name Medihoney ™, is used in the manufacture of surgical bandages. Bees collect nectar from flowers of Leptospermum scoparium, known as tea tree, manuka, myrtle, and others, and these trees are common in Australia and New Zealand. Honey of Manuka leptospermum is extensively studied, but other varieties are also used in the treatment of wounds, and it is difficult to determine whether the described properties characteristic of all varieties of honey or specific ones. The honey, that was approved by the FDA for use in dressings, is not similar to honey, what we see in the grocery store. Medical honey was filtered and purified by gamma irradiation of pathogens such as Clostridium botulinum. Heating of honey kills bacteria, but it reduces its effectiveness. Finally, several studies using different varieties of honey for the treatment of acute and chronic wound showed improvement, but the interpretation of the results of existing studies is limited. It is required to make a large blind randomized controlled study with sufficient long-term observation of patients to determine the role of honey in wound healing. Patients should be warned that the medical honey is probably safer to treat wounds than food honey, which may contain pathogenic microorganisms. Side effects of honey for external use are usually mild – local skin reactions and pain.
First aid :
You can use manuka honey in the treatment of minor cuts, scrapes and burns, honey promotes natural healing.
Clean the wound. Then generously apply manuka honey on the affected area. Cover it with a clean cloth (you can wrap) and keep the bandage dry. Change the bandage at least once a day.
Always first immediately cool the burn with cold water, and then apply honey.
For other natural healing of wounds:
Honey can also be applied to ulcerative skin lesions and wounds received as a result of some infections.
- Generously and evenly put honey to the clean wound.
- Use about 1 tablespoon of honey to 5 cm of wound.
- The bandage should extend beyond the wound.
- Use dressing with waterproof backing for skin ulcers and large wounds.
- Change the bandage at least once a day. Change more frequently (up to three times a day), if the wound gives much selections. Exudation is reduced when the wound heals.
- If the dressing sticks to the wound, this means that you need a more frequent change of dressing or honey is not enough. Be sure to use a lot of honey.
- Waterproof dressing is better because it hold more honey in contact with the wound. Absorbent dressing removes honey from the wound.
- Pressing honey dressings are used in the treatment of varicose ulcers.
- Sometimes after applying of honey you can feel burning. This is because of the acidity of Manuka honey. Acidity – is a “component”, which stimulates healing. Typically, burning pain is temporary. The use of honey should be stopped if the burning pain continues. Some people stop to use honey for a short time, and then resume treatment without any problems.
- Be sure to use a clean and sterile spatula to apply honey and clean, sterile dressings.
- Healing can be slowed by poor blood circulation or diabetes.