wound healing

Use of Honey in Wound Care – Effectiveness of Honey Wound Dressing

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Honey has been cherished for centuries, not only as a delectable treat but also as a powerful wound treatment. In modern wound care, the application of honey in wound dressings has become standard practice. But what sets honey apart, and how does it surpass conventional dressings in promoting healing? Delve into the intricate world of medical-grade honey and explore the evidence supporting its effectiveness in wound healing.

What is Honey?

Honey, a delightful amber-colored liquid produced and stored by honey bees, holds numerous therapeutic properties. Bees collect flower nectar with high sugar content and transform it into honey through regurgitation and enzymatic activity. The final product, honey, comprises approximately 15-20% water, fructose, glucose, 22 amino acids, 30 bioactive plant compounds, and 31 minerals like zinc and magnesium. A critical component of honey’s antimicrobial prowess is glucose oxidase, which generates hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid when honey comes into contact with water.

Medical-Grade Honey for Healing

In modern wound care, medical-grade honey takes center stage as a therapeutic agent. This raw honey undergoes gamma irradiation, filtration, and testing while retaining its essential compounds. The process eliminates the risk of Clostridium botulinum contamination without subjecting the honey to heat or pasteurization.

Harnessing Honey's Healing Potential

The topical application of medical-grade honey positively impacts the wound healing process through multiple mechanisms. Its natural acidity, with a pH of around 3.5-4.5, aids in topical acidification of wounds, enhancing oxygen release from hemoglobin and promoting healing. Moreover, honey exhibits antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, rendering it a highly effective wound treatment.

The antibacterial power of honey combats various microorganisms, including notorious bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, thus expediting wound healing. Bacteria within wounds metabolize amino acids, leading to malodor. Honey wound dressings mitigate this issue by providing glucose as a preferential food source for bacteria, which avoids the production of odorous amines and sulfurs.

Unraveling the Enigma of Manuka Honey:

Among honey varieties, Manuka honey stands out with its exceptional antibacterial activity, largely attributed to methylglyoxal, formed over time from dihydroxyacetone present in Leptospermum nectar. However, its limited production in specific regions makes it expensive and prone to adulteration. To combat this, New Zealand introduced stringent testing standards, including the presence of Leptospermum scoparium pollen DNA.

Forms and Applications of Honey Wound Dressings

Medical-grade manuka honey comes in various product formulations, such as Activon Manuka Honey, Medihoney, Therahoney, and Manukahd. These diverse options cater to different wound types, ensuring the delivery of honey’s healing benefits.

Considerations and Future Research

While honey provides an alternative to harsh antiseptics and silver-containing products, patients with bee allergies must avoid honey-based dressings. Additionally, the selection of honey forms suitable for specific wound types may prove challenging.

Further research is essential to establish robust evidence regarding honey’s efficacy in wound healing. More randomized controlled trials are needed to compare different honey types and identify the active ingredients responsible for promoting wound healing.


Honey wound dressings offer a promising treatment option, facilitating moist wound healing while providing antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. The rigorous testing of products containing a higher percentage of actual honey ensures the retention of its ancient, time-tested properties. As we delve deeper into the realm of wound care, honey continues to emerge as a compelling agent, nurturing the path to quicker and more efficient wound healing.
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Author: Janet S. Mackenzie, MD, ABPS, CWSP, AAGP

Janet S Mackenzie MD, ABPS, CWSP, AAGP is the Chief Medical Officer at Vohra Wound Physicians. She has been with the company since 2013 and has almost 30 years of wound care experience as both a plastic surgeon and a wound care specialist. After obtaining a Master’s degree in Education, she obtained her Medical Degree from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She trained in general surgery at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and plastic surgery at McGill University. She is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the American Board of Wound Management, and the American Board of General Medicine, and is a Certified Wound Specialist Physician (CWSP).

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