The potential healing power of honey dates back as far as 8,000 years ago, and it’s use as a natural healing remedy is still very popular today. Honey’s long history of medicinal use has made it a highly researched substance, and results have shown it has antimicrobial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing properties. These properties have prompted researchers to evaluate honey as a potential therapy for chronic wounds.
To compare the healing capabilities of honey, the researchers recruited 45 participants with chronic wounds that lasted for longer than six weeks to engage in the study. The participants were randomly separated into two groups. One group received a honey dressing for their wound and the other received a 10% Povidone iodine dressing. Wounds were washed with saline before the application of honey or Povidone, and were re-bandaged every other day. The dressing was repeatedly changed for six weeks or until complete healing was achieved. The results of this study showed that 31.8% of the individuals in the honey group reached complete wound healing – the group that received Povidone, on the other hand, had zero success in healing their wounds.
The researchers also assessed honey’s effect on wound closure, subjective pain ratings, and comfort of the dressing. The honey group demonstrated an increase in wound closure, a decrease in pain, and an increase in comfort – a significant difference from that of the Povidone group, which did not experience the same positive effects. No adverse effects were reported during this study.
Ultimately, this study supports the use of honey for wound care but also has limitations that warrant further research. For example, to reduce the chance of bias, the study should have been double-blind. In other words, both the researchers and participants should have been “blind to,” or unaware of, which intervention was used for each group, and repeated trials should have been conducted for validation. It’s also difficult to know how well honey would perform compared to other non-iodine based wound care. Further comparative studies would be helpful in this regard.
In a recent Cochrane review (where all clinical studies are pulled together for a comprehensive conclusion), honey was evaluated as a treatment for wounds and the reviewers concluded that honey may have positive effects on healing burns and surgical wounds, but could not find enough evidence to say the same about chronic wounds. Keep in mind that the honey used in these studies is of medical grade, decreasing the chance of infections and allergic reactions.
Honey should never be used in infants because of the risk for botulism poisoning.
Conclusion: Honey seems to perform better than iodine in helping chronic wounds, although more studies are needed to assess this. Honey may also be helpful in caring for burns and surgical wounds.