Get 20M+ Full-Text Papers For Less Than $1.50/day. Start a 14-Day Trial for You or Your Team.

Learn More →

Healing the Bee’s Knees—On Honey and Wound Healing

Healing the Bee’s Knees—On Honey and Wound Healing Since antiquity, honey has been revered for its natural healing properties. It has been used for treatment of gastrointestinal tract illnesses, treatment of pain, and defense from infection. However, it is its historical use in the treatment of skin wounds, burns, and ulcers that has sparked a renewed interest in recent years. Emerging scientific study of honey’s therapeutic mechanisms has provided evidence for the antimicrobial and wound healing benefits behind this enduring tradition. The ancient Egyptians were almost certainly the first to use honey for the treatment of wounds and infections, with the earliest record in the Smith papyrus dating from the 17th century BC. In this oldest-known treatise on trauma surgery, honey is combined with grease and lint as a prescription for a standard wound salve. The grease is derived from animal fat and mixed with honey in a 2:1 ratio, serving as an antiseptic barrier to protect the wound from infection.1 The ancient Greeks, who viewed honey as the “nectar of the Gods,” also adopted it in their medical practices. Honey was not only used with vegetable or animal fat, but it was also mixed with white vinegar, alum, sodium carbonate, and bile. This cocktail formed an ointment known as enheme, which was used to desiccate the wound and prevent suppuration. The astringent properties of the alum, the osmotic pressure of the honey, and the alkali pH of the sodium carbonate and bile contributed to the antiseptic activity of the dressing.1 Dioscorides (circa ad 50), a surgeon in the Roman army, later wrote of honey as the treatment of choice “for all rotten and hollow ulcers.”2(p13) Indeed, its application in wound healing has continued to modern times; it is used as a traditional therapy in Ghana for infected leg ulcers,2 in the Arabian Peninsula for fungal infections of the skin,3 and in Chinese medicine to prevent scarring and discoloration.3 While novel dressings, biologic treatments, and negative pressure therapy have revolutionized wound care, honey may be finding a renewed role in the wound healing paradigm. In addition to its antibacterial and antifungal effects, honey has been observed to promote tissue regeneration through angiogenesis, granulation, and reepithelialization.2 Animal models have shown that honey reduces inflammation in superficial burns, and clinical trials comparing honey to silver sulfadiazine have found it to accelerate healing with better relief of pain, less exudate, and lower incidence of hypertrophic scarring or postburn contracture.2 Stemming from this growing body of evidence, there has been resurgence in the use of medical-grade honey in clinical practice. With honey’s wound-healing history spanning both continents and millennia, this “divine nectar” is certainly poised to find a renaissance in modern medicine. Back to top Article Information Corresponding Author: Tetyana Rogalska, MD(C), School of Medicine, Queen’s University, 80 Barrie St, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada (trogalska@qmed.ca). References 1. Lusby PE, Coombes A, Wilkinson JM. Honey: a potent agent for wound healing? J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2002;29(6):295-300.PubMedGoogle Scholar 2. Molan PC. Potential of honey in the treatment of wounds and burns. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2(1):13-19.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref 3. Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013;12(4):306-313.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png JAMA Dermatology American Medical Association

Healing the Bee’s Knees—On Honey and Wound Healing

JAMA Dermatology , Volume 152 (3) – Mar 1, 2016

Healing the Bee’s Knees—On Honey and Wound Healing

Abstract

Since antiquity, honey has been revered for its natural healing properties. It has been used for treatment of gastrointestinal tract illnesses, treatment of pain, and defense from infection. However, it is its historical use in the treatment of skin wounds, burns, and ulcers that has sparked a renewed interest in recent years. Emerging scientific study of honey’s therapeutic mechanisms has provided evidence for the antimicrobial and wound healing benefits behind this enduring tradition....
Loading next page...
 
/lp/american-medical-association/healing-the-bee-s-knees-on-honey-and-wound-healing-LJNGlWnn8l
Publisher
American Medical Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.
ISSN
2168-6068
eISSN
2168-6084
DOI
10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.3692
pmid
26964050
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Since antiquity, honey has been revered for its natural healing properties. It has been used for treatment of gastrointestinal tract illnesses, treatment of pain, and defense from infection. However, it is its historical use in the treatment of skin wounds, burns, and ulcers that has sparked a renewed interest in recent years. Emerging scientific study of honey’s therapeutic mechanisms has provided evidence for the antimicrobial and wound healing benefits behind this enduring tradition. The ancient Egyptians were almost certainly the first to use honey for the treatment of wounds and infections, with the earliest record in the Smith papyrus dating from the 17th century BC. In this oldest-known treatise on trauma surgery, honey is combined with grease and lint as a prescription for a standard wound salve. The grease is derived from animal fat and mixed with honey in a 2:1 ratio, serving as an antiseptic barrier to protect the wound from infection.1 The ancient Greeks, who viewed honey as the “nectar of the Gods,” also adopted it in their medical practices. Honey was not only used with vegetable or animal fat, but it was also mixed with white vinegar, alum, sodium carbonate, and bile. This cocktail formed an ointment known as enheme, which was used to desiccate the wound and prevent suppuration. The astringent properties of the alum, the osmotic pressure of the honey, and the alkali pH of the sodium carbonate and bile contributed to the antiseptic activity of the dressing.1 Dioscorides (circa ad 50), a surgeon in the Roman army, later wrote of honey as the treatment of choice “for all rotten and hollow ulcers.”2(p13) Indeed, its application in wound healing has continued to modern times; it is used as a traditional therapy in Ghana for infected leg ulcers,2 in the Arabian Peninsula for fungal infections of the skin,3 and in Chinese medicine to prevent scarring and discoloration.3 While novel dressings, biologic treatments, and negative pressure therapy have revolutionized wound care, honey may be finding a renewed role in the wound healing paradigm. In addition to its antibacterial and antifungal effects, honey has been observed to promote tissue regeneration through angiogenesis, granulation, and reepithelialization.2 Animal models have shown that honey reduces inflammation in superficial burns, and clinical trials comparing honey to silver sulfadiazine have found it to accelerate healing with better relief of pain, less exudate, and lower incidence of hypertrophic scarring or postburn contracture.2 Stemming from this growing body of evidence, there has been resurgence in the use of medical-grade honey in clinical practice. With honey’s wound-healing history spanning both continents and millennia, this “divine nectar” is certainly poised to find a renaissance in modern medicine. Back to top Article Information Corresponding Author: Tetyana Rogalska, MD(C), School of Medicine, Queen’s University, 80 Barrie St, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada (trogalska@qmed.ca). References 1. Lusby PE, Coombes A, Wilkinson JM. Honey: a potent agent for wound healing? J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2002;29(6):295-300.PubMedGoogle Scholar 2. Molan PC. Potential of honey in the treatment of wounds and burns. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2(1):13-19.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref 3. Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013;12(4):306-313.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

Journal

JAMA DermatologyAmerican Medical Association

Published: Mar 1, 2016

References