The USA has been looking into the possibility of using honey more frequently for the treatment of wounds. However, New Zealand has used certain honeys as a traditional treatment for some time.
The Waikato University Honey Research Unit in New Zealand has made a large and comprehensive study of the medical advantages of honey, an ancient food and medicinal item since at least the late 1980s The University of Bonn (Germany) has added evidence for honey in wound healing in 2006.
Some related personal experience tells me that honey is extremely important in these two areas. My experience comes from once knowing a farmer that was hurt in the barn far from his farmhouse at the time that he cut his forearm deeply with a sickle.
A natural miracle
This farmer has been cut before and knew what to do on the farm in such accidents. He poured several pounds of sugar into the wound (he was out of honey) and doused it with kerosene, thus saving his own life. He claimed to have not needed stitched to close the wound and that if he had had honey in the barn, the healing would have been quicker, since honey fights off “germs.”
He kept turpentine, kerosene, honey, and sugar in the barn for first aide purposes as well as for fuel of the machine and human kind.
Several reports of honey in successful wound management include controlled studies showing quick clearance of infection by the antibacterial effects of the honey. Honey examined has to slow-release hydrogen peroxide to fight infections (additional actions of honey operate toward this end as well).
The researchers at Waikato and elsewhere have learned that in ancient times, physicians recognized the different types of honey had specialty treatment properties, some being best suited for wound treatment. These include types for eye salves, skin ointments, and burn treatments. It turns out that sugar does, in fact, clear away infections, but sugar dressings must be changed more frequently than do honey dressings. The farmer of old was right and telling the truth, so it seems.
Wound Treatment USA
In America, honey is being used to treat chronic wounds of the diabetic, elderly, and other patients. Honey is thick enough to protect wounds while they heal and is antibacterial as well. Honey uses natural body-produced fluids for moisture in the wound for healing. In addition, it does not irate skins as antibiotics are prone so to do.
For wound treatment, unpasteurized honey is best and should be kept in a cool place, protected from light – a cool pantry or even a cool closet or basement is fine.
Manuka Honey is the best honey in New Zealand known for treating and curing wounds, according to Waikato University. It is collected from manuka bushes that grow wild. One additional similar honey was found only in very limited parts of Australia, growing wild.
In New Zealand, “active manuka honey” and the small amount of the related Australian variety available is the only honey on the NZ market that has been tested for antibacterial action. Specifically, it contains an additional antibacterial factor found only in honey produced via Leptospermum plants and this has been named Unique Manuka Factor or UMF. Together, the two antibacterial factors may produce a positive synergistic action (towards healing) greater than either of the two alone.
All this gives hope to the chronic diabetes patient that suffers non-healing wounds and/or large water blisters on the lower extremities. In parts of the USA, the need has arisen for specialized wound-healing treatment centers, and even mobile wound treatment vans, because some of these patients can no longer walk, because of their wounds. Honey may also be effective for treating bed sores, rashes, and perhaps even (and hopefully) the lesions suffered by some AIDS patients.
Step by step application
These are directions written for using honey (especially manuka honey) for wound treatment, based on the findings of the Waikato University Honey Research Unit, the Ohio State University, OhioHealth System, and Mt. Carmel Health:
1. Wash the wound with sterile water or saline. Spread the honey on a thick or multi-layered cotton-gauze pad, not on the wound itself, because this is more efficient. In New Zealand, you can purchase ready-soaked honey pads – cut them a bit larger than the wound area for complete treatment. The more fluids are oozing from the wound, the more honey you need to use and the more often you must change the dressings. Dilution of the honey kills its effectiveness. In the UK, Activon Tulle pads are available.
2. For most wounds, use about 1 ounce of honey on a 4″ X 4″ gauze dressing pad. If you use a 8″ x 8″ pad, you will need at least 4 oz. of honey. In this larger a wound, see your doctor as soon as possible. A 4″ x 8″ pad requires 2 oz. of honey.
3. In case of an abscess, a depression, or a hole in the tissue, a) fill that area with honey first and then b) place a honey-prepared pad over top of it. Consult a doctor as soon as possible in these cases.
4. Cover the honeyed pad that is on the wound with a waterproof covering, such as a larger adhesive bandage. Cover this all with a plastic bag if you need protest it while showering or bathing, or if you will be in the rain, washing dishes, etc.
5. Check the wound ever 3-4 hoursand change the dressing daily, up to three times in a day early on. Check the dressings to make sure they are still moist and not too dry.
A dressing that sticks to the wound means that you need to change it more often. Discard old dressings in such a manner as children and pets will not have access to them.
6. As the honey works, you should need less frequent dressing changes because of its anti-inflammatory action that reduced the amount of fluids oozed from the wound in infection defense. You may go from 2 dressings daily down to one, then down to one every 2 days, then 1 twice a week, and so on until healing is completed.
Watch for adverse effects
Allergic reactions to honey can occur because of a specific allergy to a specific pollen in the honey. These pollens are almost always filtered out via filters in wound-treatment honey. Occasionally, a slight stining sensation results from honey used in the eyes as a salve.
Additionally, food-honeys may contain spores. For wound treatment, use gamma-irradiated honey that you can purchase, unless you need to stop a large wound in an emergency and pressure alone is not working. Use your best judgment in this decision.
If the wound victim is allergic to bee stings, consult a physician before attempting to use honey on a wound.