Honey has been used as a traditional remedy for burns and wounds for centuries, though it is rarely mentioned in mainstream medicine these days. You might be skeptical that the honey you spread on your morning toast could actually heal wounds. But many studies have shown that honey has strong antibacterial properties when it comes to treating injuries and infection. Honey has also been found to help with tissue healing.
The honey that shows the best results for wound and burn healing is a type called manuka. This particular honey is made by bees from the flowers of the manuka tree in New Zealand. It has been clinically shown to have antibacterial properties over and above those of other honeys. All honeys contain hydrogen peroxide produced from an enzyme that bees add to the nectar. Apparently manuka honey has something above and beyond hydrogen peroxide. Even though numerous tests have been done — especially by researchers in New Zealand — no-one has ever discovered exactly what this extra ingredient is. But what researchers do know is that manuka honey works equally well on bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and just about any other infectious organism.
How is honey made by bees and why is it a unique and effective wound healer? It takes one bee — which must work very hard — to make two tablespoons of honey in its lifetime. Half of what the bee makes it eats, and the other half it stores. Every time you eat a spoon of honey, it represents a bee’s lifetime of work. It takes the nectar of one and a half million flowers to make a single jar of honey and a hive of bees may collectively fly 55,000 miles to get that. A hive of bees can deliver as much as 50 pounds of honey for its keeper. Honey lasts for over 100 years in the comb. Honey that was found in Egyptian tombs was still edible (remember Cleopatra was famous for her honey and milk baths?).
So, all-in-all, honey is a pretty amazing substance. But what do the research trials say about its effectiveness as a wound healing agent?
In one clinical trial done on New Zealand white rabbits, researchers wanted to test the theory that honey could heal wounds as well as or even better than conventional topical creams. Forty rabbits were randomly assigned to four equal groups. A small incision was made on the skin of the left thigh of each rabbit. Five rabbits in each group were twice daily treated with a topical application of five ml of pure untreated honey. The other rabbits in each group remained as untreated controls. Biopsies were performed on all groups post-operatively.
The researchers found that those treated with honey showed less swelling and had fewer white cells invading the wound. The treated rabbits also had better wound contraction (healing), and improved formation of skin over the wound. The researchers concluded that honey applied topically on wounds accelerates the healing processes and appears to have an ‘important property that makes it ideal as a dressing for wounds.”