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Healing Wounds With Honey

April 11, 2017

by David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

I had a great chat with Louis Carter at the Global Missions Healthcare Conference. If you don’t know Louis, he spent time as a missionary in Nigeria, and for last 20 years or so has spent a month or two, three or four times a year at mission hospitals teaching plastic and hand surgery techniques. He is now completing a book on those techniques for the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons.

During our conversation, Louis brought up the wonderful healing properties of raw honey on wounds and ulcers. Today I received a note from Dr. Dan Galat, an orthopedist at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, relating how Louis’ advice saved a patient’s life by healing a badly infected huge decubiti a man had.

That grabbed my interest and I started pulling some of the medical literature and was amazed. One review of the published literature concluded:

Honey has anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used as a wound dressing to promote rapid and improved healing. These effects are due to honey’s anti-bacterial action, secondary to its high acidity, osmotic effect, anti-oxidant content and hydrogen peroxide content. The use of honey leads to improved wound healing in acute cases, pain relief in burn patients and decreased inflammatory response in such patients. However, it has proven to be ineffective in chronic leg ulcers. Overall, studies have been done in favor of the use of honey in medicine. Honey has almost equal or slightly superior effects when compared with conventional treatments for acute wounds and superficial partial thickness burns.

A study from Germany used honey in immunosuppressed children with wounds receiving chemotherapy. In Germany and Australia they have MediHoney, which is simply raw honey that has been gamma radiated due to the theoretical concern there might be botulism spores in raw honey. The authors of Medical Honey for Wound Care—Still the ‘Latest Resort? state:

On the other hand, irradiating honey is only a safety measure on the side of caution since we could not detect a single case report in the literature of C. botulinum wound infection related to the use of non-irradiated honey in wound care. Surely, we do not criticize the emergency care use of raw honey directly derived from local bee keepers in countries with extremely limited medical resources in which physicians or other health care workers do not have access to conventional wound care products.

Studies out of South Africa revealed a huge cost differential between conventional wound care products and raw honey. It only cost 4 percent of conventional therapy.

This second article also describes why raw honey is so effective, as well as its use in wounds, ulcers, catheter entry sites, oral mucositis and gingivitis, herpetic lesions and some ocular surface diseases.

Dan obtained raw honey from local beekeepers, strained it, diluted it with saline and then soaked gauzes in the mixture to pack the large ulcer. One article recommends packing wounds every 12 to 24 hours until the exudate diminishes and then notes packs can be left in one to seven days.

Wish I had known about honey when I was using Milton’s solution, wet to dry gauzes and other not-so-effective treatments for wounds and ulcers. I encourage you to read these articles and others you may find, get some raw honey and give honey a try. It is good for a lot more than sweetening your tea!

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