CHRONIC WOUNDS AND THE HEALING POWER OF HONEY
- A chronic wound is a wound that will not heal.
- Chronic wounds are thought to be “stuck” in the wound healing cycle and are most often seen in older adults.
- If a wound is not healing as expected within 2-3 months, it is considered chronic.
People have been using honey as a wound dressing for thousands of years. Manuka honey is an antibacterial honey. It is sold under the name Medihoney, Antibacterial Honey by Medihoney™ Pty LTD, of Richlands, Australia. It is available as a standardized medical honey in the United States. Medical researchers have only recently begun to understand the reasons for its effectiveness. Doctors are starting to understand that honey is a biologic wound dressing. It has multiple biological effects working together to hasten healing. Manuka honey has become a useful product in the treatment of chronic wounds.
COMPONENTS OF MANUKA HONEY
The physical properties of honey play a major role in the improved healing process.
- Honey’s natural acidity, increases the release of oxygen from blood.
- It decreases the activity of destructive enzymes in the wound.
- Its high sugar concentration draws fluid out of the wound (same effect obtained with vacuum therapy).
- Honey has two types of antibacterial activity and the ability to kill many types of bacteria.
- Hydrogen peroxide is the main antibacterial agent in most honeys.
- Hydrogen peroxide is easily destroyed by the enzyme catalase, found in human tissues.
- Methylglyoxal is the main antibacterial agent in manuka honey and is not destroyed by human tissues.
- Different amounts of these substances in each honey is the reason for the different potency of different honeys.
SCIENCE FACTS ABOUT MANUKA HONEY
Manuka honey can be diluted by large amounts of wound fluid and still maintain enough antibacterial activity.
Good clinical evidence for honey shows it is:
- a stimulant of the immune response.
- a promoter of tissue growth for wound repair.
- a substance that lowers inflammation and
- a substance that causes rapid separation and shedding of dead tissue.
Ongoing studies are providing scientific explanations for these effects.
- Allergic reaction, especially in people with bee allergies.
- Possible interaction with certain chemotherapy medications.
- Possible blood sugar rise.
HOW MANUKA HONEY IS USED IN CHRONIC WOUNDS
Honey used to treat wounds is a medical grade product, specially treated and prepared as a dressing. Honey is most commonly used as a surface antibacterial agent to treat infections in different wound types.
- Leg ulcers
- Pressure ulcers
- Diabetic foot ulcers
- Chronic wounds from injury or surgery
The amount of honey used depends on the amount of fluid coming from the wound.
- Large amounts of fluid need large amounts of honey.
- Dressings should be changed depending on how rapidly the honey is being diluted by fluid.
- The wetter the dressing, the more frequent the changes. This should become less frequent as the honey starts to work on healing the wound.
- Dressings should be occlusive to prevent honey from oozing out from the wound.
- The honey should be placed on a dressing, then the dressing should be applied to the wound.
- The honey should not be applied directly onto the wound.
- Dressing pads soaked with honey are commercially available as a less messy alternative.
- Cavities or deep wounds need to be filled with honey to reach deep into the tissues.
- The wound bed should be filled with honey before applying the honey dressing pad.
A doctor should see all difficult to heal wounds. The doctor should create an appropriate plan of care. The plan should be executed and carefully followed by experienced wound care medical personnel.