Using Honey To Heal Skin Wounds
A recent review has provided further support for honey’s ability to help heal injured skin. Gathering data from 19 clinical trials involving over 2500 patients, researchers found that the use of honey shortened healing times of moderate burns when compared to conventional gauze or film dressings, though the benefits in treating grazes, lacerations, surgical wounds and leg ulcers was less clear.
Honey has been known since ancient times as a way to help mend damages to the skin, with the Greek philosopher Aristotle making mention of it and anthropological evidence dating its use back to Egyptian times over 5000 years ago.
Today, honey is used commonly as a dressing in certain countries, including Africa, though in the United States its utility is largely unknown to the general public despite a growing body of evidence that supports its usefulness as a salve.
Honey may be of particular interest to people with diabetes who are prone to skin ulcers that can result from even the most minor injuries, whereby the slightest nick can progress to an infected sore that refuses to heal. Unfortunately, in up to 20% of the cases, these conditions can progress to the point where amputation is necessary.
The antimicrobial qualities of honey, however, have been shown to be effective in these situations, as well as having fewer adverse side effects in the form of pain and scar tissue. Honey is also is more economical and easier to apply.
How honey actually works is still a bit of a mystery to scientists. They are still trying to isolate the primary component that gives it its special healing ability, though the data thus far seems to point to its antimicrobial qualities. Honey is in fact slightly acidic, and can literally pull the water out of offending bacteria (i.e., dehydrate), thus compromising their pathogenicity.
Interestingly, different types of honey seem to have varying degrees of strength, with certain strains being as much as 100 times more effective than others. The strongest one known to date is Manuka honey, which is found in New Zealand.
Honey’s role in the fight against infection could potentially become more significant as the rampant use of antibiotics increases the problem of resistant bacteria. Doctors do caution, however, against reaching for the honey in your pantry the next time you get a cut or sore. They stress that more research needs to be done in light of the fact that the support thus far has been largely anecdotal. Furthermore, because it is derived from flowers and bees, honey can potentially elicit an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals.
Even still, it is interesting when you consider that in the age of high-tech science where medical innovation continues to inspire wonder and awe, an effective cure that has been used since antiquity might very well be found in our own backyards.