Study: Is Honey an Effective Treatment for Wounds?

Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, but when it comes to effectively treating wounds, not all honey is created equal.

A new study from the University of Sydney found that honey with a high Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) had a positive impact on open wounds on horses.

The research was led by Professor Andrew Dart from the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science, and was published in the September issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal.

In a news announcement from the university, Dart said, “Honey has been used to help healing of wounds since ancient Egypt. Recent interest in Manuka honey has been for its superior antibacterial activity, particularly in humans, where it can be effective against many of the antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.”

According to Web MD, Manuka honey is named for the Manuka plant, native to Australia and New Zealand and prized for its supposed healing properties. Manuka honey is made from the nectar of the Manuka plant.

The University of Sydney statement noted that Manuka honey is graded for its antibacterial activity. “Most honeys are active against bacteria because they contain an enzyme, glucose oxidase, which produces hydrogen peroxide from glucose,” the university said. “With heat treatment and time, this enzyme is destroyed. The active constituent in Manuka honey is methylglyoxal, which actually increases in concentration over time.”

The study found that when honey with UMF 20 was applied daily, wounds healed faster than wounds treated with generic honey and wounds that were left untreated.

Lower-grade UMF 5 honey resulted in better healing versus untreated wounds and wounds treated with generic honey. Wounds treated with generic honey fared no better than wounds that were left untreated.

Lead researcher Dart said, “If a wound is heavily contaminated or at risk of infection, using a high UMF Manuka honey is warranted, but if the wound is not heavily contaminated, then using a lower and less expensive Manuka honey may be beneficial. Store-bought generic honey probably has no beneficial effect over no treatment.

“While it is not possible to directly translate this research to humans or other animals, it is likely that the effects are similar and safe based on the body of research available.”

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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