Revival of honey as wound healer

By Katrina Megget

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wound healing

The use of honey as a wound healer is making a comeback and
according to a new report surgeons should be considering the
kitchen pantry as an alternative to the drugs cupboard.

In a review article, published in the October issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice​, a team looked at 18 studies covering more than 60 years and concluded "the use of honey in the surgical wards is highly recommended and patients about to undergo surgery should ask their surgeons if they could apply honey to their wounds post-operation".​ Documentation on the effectiveness of honey in wound healing began in the early part of the 20th​ century, but with the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s the use of honey was temporarily stymied. "Nevertheless, concerns regarding antibiotic resistance and renewed interest in natural remedies, has prompted a resurgence of interest in antimicrobial and wound healing properties of honey,"​ the report said. The report reviewed several studies and found: the use of honey as a dressing for infected wounds saw the wounds become sterile in as little as three days; honey reduced inflammation and hastened the subsidence of passive hyperaemia; honey rapidly replaced sloughs, gangrenous tissue and necrotic tissue with granulation tissue; it soothed and healed burns; reduced the rate of amputations in diabetic patients; and has a potential therapeutic role in the treatment of gingivitis and periodontal disease. Most studies referred to honey being spread or poured over the wound, the report said. While commercial grade honey could contain certain bacteria that could be introduced to the wound, the studies suggest the honey shown to be most beneficial, particularly against some resistant bacteria, is produced from the Manuka plant, native to New Zealand. "Honey has a number of properties that make it effective against bacterial growth, including its high sugar content, low moisture content, gluconic acid - which creates an acidic environment - and hydrogen peroxide,"​ lead author Dr Fasal Rauf Khan, from North West Wales NHS Trust in Bangor, said. "The research suggests that honey seems to be especially indicated when wounds become infected or fail to close or heal. It is probably even more useful for healing the wounds left by laparoscopic surgery to remove cancers. "Our research suggests that surgeons should seriously consider using honey for post-operative wounds and offer this to patients,"​ Dr Khan said. Earlier this week, natural health products company Comvita launched its new range of honey-based wound dressings, the Medihoney brand, after receiving US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in July. The global wound care market is worth about $6bn (€4.2bn).

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