The use of honey for wound care has been recorded for over 4,000 years with ancient Egyptian writings detailing wound prescriptions containing honey. Valued for its cleansing and healing properties honey has been effectively used in wounds with bacteria for thousands of years.
Bacteria are as natural as we are and we can’t live without them; however, there are some bacteria that are not so helpful especially when it comes to common childhood wounds. Sometimes, the risk of infection means healing is not so straightforward and bacteria that get into the body through breaks in our skin can grow and cause infection.
Honey & the Healing Process
All honey has some basic mechanisms for stopping bacteria in their tracks and encouraging the healing process. These are:
- Lots of sugar and very little water, which deprives bacteria of the water they need for survival. The water in and around the wound is attracted to the sugar in the honey. As water passes through the wound into the honey, it picks up dirt, bacteria and debris, cleaning the wound.
- A low pH, which means it is slightly acidic. This makes more oxygen available in the wound, prevents enzymes breaking down wound tissue and means it is not a friendly environment for bacteria to grow.
- A moist environment. Honey forms a moist film over the wound, preventing the healing cells from drying out and reducing scarring.
- A safe level of the antiseptic hydrogen peroxide is formed naturally when the honey draws out water from the wound.
Can Any Honey Support Healing?
There are a number of honeys around the world that have been singled out as having desirable wound healing properties, in addition to the ones listed above. Manuka honey remains the most researched medical grade honey in the world and it has been commercialised into wound dressings.
As parents, we have all been warned of the risks of feeding honey to our children under the age of one year. This is because of the risk that if spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum are present in the honey, they could cause our little ones to develop botulism.
Although the risk is very small, there have also been reports of wound botulism developing when eating honey is applied to a wound. This is not just relevant for infants but people of all ages. That’s why sterile medical grade honey is recommended when treating wounds.
Medical Grade Manuka Honey
Medical grade honey, such as Medihoney® medical grade Manuka honey, has been sterilised to ensure that no bacteria remain that could give rise to disease. Commercially available sterilised honey dressings and wound gel such as Medihoney® Antibacterial Wound Gel have a long history of safe and effective use for wound care for all age groups.