Honey is one common ingredient that many people are familiar with. Being a delicious and natural sweetener, many people use it as a good natural choice for a sweetener instead of processed sugar.
Honey contains a huge range of nutritional and medicinal value, and it has been used since the early days of the Egyptian tombs. Today, it is considered ‘liquid gold’.
In recent times, it has become quite popular due to its energy boosting and weight loss benefits. Adding a little honey to lemon water has helped people lose significant weight.
Not just weight loss, honey is a popular ingredient in folk remedies for combating common ailments, including headaches, acne, pimples, heartburn, nausea, constipation, dry skin, sleeplessness, anxiety, indigestion, coughs and sore throats, to name a few.
Also, this common kitchen staple can be used to treat leg ulcers, bed sores, burns, cuts and wounds. Honey promotes rapid healing by stimulating tissue regeneration, angiogenesis and fibroblast growth.
When applied to a wound, the enzymes introduced into the honey by bees slowly release antiseptic hydrogen peroxide, which is effective against bacteria. However, it does not cause tissue damage and inhibit fibroblast growth. Also, the osmotic effect of honey keeps the wound moist and clean, which is important for formation of healthy granulation tissue to prevent scars.
Plus, the anti-inflammatory action of honey soothes and promotes healing by reducing pain and swelling.
Numerous scientific studies have been conducted to observe the wound-healing properties that honey possesses.
A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Lower Extremity Wounds conducted 22 trials involving 2,062 patients who received honey as a wound dressing. Researchers found that honey was beneficial as a wound dressing in the following ways:
- Its antibacterial quality clears an existing infection as well as protects wounds from additional infection.
- Its anti-inflammatory activity reduces edema and minimizes scarring.
- It stimulates growth of granulation and regeneration epithelial tissues to speed up healing.
- It removes offensive odors.
A 2009 study by University of Auckland researchers found honey to be effective in reducing the healing time of burn wounds. Using data from 19 clinical trials dealing with 2,554 patients with untreated wounds, researchers found that honey helped the wounds heal quicker as compared to normal gauze and film dressings commonly used to treat burns.
A 2011 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine highlights the medicinal property and antibacterial activity of local honey.
After thorough analysis, the potential of Manuka as well as Tualang honey against microorganisms led researchers to suggest its possible use as an alternative therapeutic agent in certain medical conditions, particularly wound infections.
Another study published in 2012 in AYU – An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda evaluated the wound-healing property of non-processed honey on traumatic cutaneous wounds.
In this study, 10 patients with cutaneous wounds were randomly selected for the clinical trial. The site of the wound, shape, size, floor and margin were recorded on day 0 and observed on day 7, 15, 20 and through the end of the healing process.
Ultimately, it was found that honey provides significant improvement in the healing process as it possesses antibacterial, wound-cleansing and wound-healing properties.
Clinical Use of Honey
Several studies have proven that local honey is beneficial for wounds, cuts, minor burns, bed sores and even leg ulcers. But, this does not mean you can simply dab honey as much as you want on the affected area.
- The amount of local honey required on the wound relates to the amount of fluid exuding from the wound diluting it.
- It is recommended to apply honey to an absorbent dressing prior to application. When applied directly to a wound, the honey may run off before the application of a dressing to hold it in place.
- Honey may not soak readily into absorbent dressings. To facilitate soaking, warm the honey to body temperature. You can also add 1 part water to 20 parts honey to make the honey more fluid.
- To treat cavity wounds, a ‘blister’ of honey can be held on a wound using an adhesive film dressing.
- As infection may lie in the tissues underlying the wound area, honey dressings may be needed beyond the inflamed area surrounding a wound.
How to Use Honey to Support Healing
- Roughly measure the extent of the wound area to determine how much honey will be needed.
- Always clean the affected area with plain water to remove dirt and dust.
- Rub honey on a wound dressing and carefully wrap it around the infection. Make sure to change the bandage 3 or 4 times a day. For minor wounds, you can apply an appropriate amount of local honey. Make sure to spread the honey over the wound evenly.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
Commercial versus Raw Honey
When it comes to enjoying the benefits of honey, be aware that most commercial honey sold in stores is not a healthy choice. This is because commercial honey is heated to high temperatures and pasteurized, which destroys beneficial enzymes, antioxidants and other nutrients that are heat-sensitive.
Plus, commercial honey does not have the pollen, which has high amino acid and antioxidant content.
It is best to use raw honey for medicinal benefits. Such honey is unheated, unprocessed and unpasteurized, and it also contains bee pollen. Since it is not processed, raw honey usually crystallizes easily and may not be comfortable to use. It also will have a little cloudy texture. To mitigate this problem, you can warm the honey and then use it.
Always buy raw honey from a local honey producer in your area. Though a bit more expensive than commercial honey, raw is what you should invest in. After all, you will be using the honey to enjoy good health.
You can also eat honey to enjoy its various health benefits. However, do not feed honey to infants younger than 1 year old as it may cause infant botulism with symptoms like muscle weakness and breathing problems.