Honey, I shrunk the wound

It seems that the media has at started reporting using honey for wound care in hospitals. Honey has been used for wound care throughout history, from c.2600 until the 1940s when antibiotics replaced it. However, due to increasing drug resistance, hospitals are starting to research honey for wound care again. It is recommended by many as a good treatment for wounds in the wilderness. Procurement while out there can often be challenging and/or painful, so don’t go about this lightly.

Vandamme et al did a systematic review of 55 papers on honey use for burns, ulcers, and other wounds. They found that for burns, honey helps wound healing and has an antibiotic effect, but evidence for wound debridement, anti-inflammatory properties, pain, and odor was lacking. For ulcers, however, evidence wasn’t as good for healing and antibiotic properties, with fewer studies showing benefit. It also did poorly for anti-inflammatory, debridement, and deodorizing properties. “Other” wounds show improvement in wound healing with honey, but antibacterial, debridement, and wound reducing properties lack evidence.

Overall, the strongest evidence for antibacterial properties was in burns, but 5 of 7 were from the same author. For other types of wounds, the antibacterial evidence was pretty weak. The best evidence for honey is for wound healing properties, which is less applicable to the wilderness setting. They end the paper, of course, with a call for further studies.

Vandamme L, Heyneman A, Hoeksema H, Verbelen J, Monstrey S. Honey in modern wound care: a systematic review. Burns. 2013 Dec;39(8):1514-25. [PMID 23896128]

Further Reading

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EBM Gone Wild

Wilderness Medicine

Emergency physician with interests in wilderness and prehospital medicine. Medical Director of the Texas State Aquarium, Padre Island National Seashore, Robstown EMS, and Code 3 ER | EBM gone Wild | @EBMGoneWild |

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