In ancient days when medical science was dependent on natural and herbal remedies, honey was very popular and was used to treat wounds, burns and other skin problems. But, with the new inventions such as antibiotics, moisturizers and other topical applications the use of honey for wounds treatment slowly diminished. However, in recent years honey is again being widely used to treat burns, ulcers and wounds. Many research organizations are conducting research on this natural product to make best use of its medicinal properties. Here is an overview of how to use honey for wounds and the properties of honey that make it a best remedy for wounds.
How honey helps in wound healing?
Honey acts against a wide variety of bacteria and even fungi. Properties of honey useful in wound healing include:
- Osmotic effect : the high sugar content of honey makes it a vey concentrated solution. This concentrated solution withdraws water from other less concentrated solutions. Hence, when honey is applied on wounded portion where the concentration of sugars will be comparatively less honey withdraws water and gets diluted. As a result the bacteria cannot thrive in the wounded region due to lowered osmolarity. The action of honey against Staphylococcus aureus is very rapid and perfect even after dilution. In fact, the action of diluted honey was found to be even more rapid than concentrated form. This is due to the action of an enzyme that releases hydrogen peroxide when honey is diluted. The quantity of hydrogen peroxide produced and hence, the degree of antibacterial activity varies with the honey variety. Periodic changing of wound dressing helps to maintain the therapeutic properties of honey and faster wound healing.
- Hydrogen peroxide activity : Dilution of honey results in liberation of hydrogen peroxide that serves as a strong antimicrobial agent. Honey not only acts against bacteria but also serves as an antioxidant eliminating the free oxygen radicals produced by hydrogen peroxide. By maintaining hydrogen peroxide levels it is possible to treat wounds effectively and rapidly.
- Phytochemical action: This type of phytochemical action was identified in a specific variety of honey the manuka honey. The unidentified photochemical component enables manuka honey to serve as an effective remedy for wounds even after eliminating the hydrogen peroxide.
- Boosts immune system activity: In addition to serving as an antimicrobial agent honey is also found to increase immune system activity. It is found to stimulate immune system cells the B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes and phagocytes that show phagocytic activity to eliminate microorganisms. Honey also activates the interleukins that in turn initiate the immune response. The combined phagocytic activity and immune system activation makes use of honey for wounds very beneficial.
These properties of honey that aid in treating wounds vary with the floral source of honey.
Manuka honey for wound healing
This honey collected from flowers of manuka tree that is native to New Zealand is highly effective against bacteria. The antibacterial activity is attributed to a special component the Unique Manuka Factor a phytochemical. Advantage of this honey is thephytochemical does not get destroyed with heat like the enzymes found in other varieties of honey. For safety reasons it is recommended to use sterilized honey. Manuka honey with high UMF is sterilized using gamma rays and is hence safe to use.
Whatever the honey variety you use for wounds it has to be well purified to get rid of plant pollen to which few people are allergic. On the other hand few people say that they experience a mild stinging sensation upon application of honey on wounds. However, it is safe.
How to use honey for healing wounds
For efficient wound healing using honey the following factors are to be considered.
- Amount of honey to use: It depends on the amount of fluid oozing from the wound. The amount of honey you apply should be sufficient enough to absorb the exudates from the wound.
- Frequency of changing the wound dressing: Depending on the rapidity of honey dilution by the wound exudates the wound dressing should be changed. The frequency of changing lowers as the wound starts to heal.
- Correct way of applying the honey: For better results honey should be applied to the dressing than directly on the wound. To prevent mess around the wound consider using honey impregnated dressing pads available commercially. However, for deep wounds the cavity should be filled with honey before applying the dressing pad.
For tough to heal wounds it is recommended to get it checked by the doctor to prevent bacterial infections.
Use of honey for wounds is being studied in various laboratories and most of these results show that honey works efficiently even on antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. It is also found to be more effective compared to topical applications that are generally used for wound healing. The best part is it is safe to use, inexpensive and is the immediate home remedy for wounds.