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Can Honey Treat Wounds?

Honey has been used for centuries as a healing agent for wounds. Honey lost its popularity as a healing agent after antibiotics arrived in the 1940’s. Scientists are reexamining some of the time-proven treatments for wound care as concerns mount about antibiotic-resistant organisms.

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One of these old remedies is honey, which is now being reexamined with fresh eyes. How can honey be used to manage wounds? Honey is known to soothe burns and speed up healing. Manuka honey and honey have been shown to be effective against certain strains of resistant bacteria. Manuka is a New Zealand native that comes from the same plant. How does honey aid in healing?

Honey has been shown by human monocytes to stimulate the production of inflammatory cytokines. In response to pathogens, immune cells secrete cytokines. These cytokines signal immune cells to increase their response.

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How much honey should you use? There is much debate about how much honey is needed to treat wounds. Although there are not many studies that specifically address honey’s use in diabetic ulcer management, the majority of them have been favorable. In more than 100 cases of chronic wounds, honey has been shown to be more effective than traditional treatment.

In one particular study, honey was effective when several other treatments had failed in a diabetic foot ulcer colonized with Pseudomonas, vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It is believed that the wound healed slowly. Some of the beneficial components of honey may have been lost due to the way it is processed.


Although there have been no allergic reactions to honey, some people may be sensitive to pollen and bee proteins in honey. Tissue can become dehydrated if honey is consumed in large quantities. This can be easily treated with saline packs. Although few patients reported discomfort that was so severe that honey application was not tolerated, some patients did experience temporary stinging. Because honey is a honey-based product, honey cannot be directly applied to wounds. The honey can be squeezed from the dressing and may cause irritation.

Exudative wounds may also wash out the honey. Dressings containing honey are now available in sterile forms. These dressings are designed to handle large amounts exudate. The honey in these dressings will remain in direct contact with the wound being addressed. When dressings become saturated, they should be changed. New information is constantly being made available about wound care management. The amount of information available to health care professionals can be overwhelming.