Psalms from the Hive
by Jeannie Saum
Honey, natural, gold and pure,
Yes, we love its sweet allure.
But did you know, there’s more for you
Coming from this sticky goo?
Not only is it tasty to devour
It can also heal cuts, sores and wounds
With its power.
Clover, Bee, and Revery
Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical idea
Honey, one of the valuable gifts from the beehive, is being used for more than just a yummy sweetener in food. With two nurses in the family, I had heard my daughters talk about using honey- treated dressings on wounds and bedsores in hospitals and nursing homes here in Ohio. As I cared for my mother in her last days, I asked every nurse and wound care specialist, in Kansas, if they were using medicinal honey. They all confirmed that yes, they were! Though none of them knew about the even more amazing benefits of propolis from the beehive, I was encouraged to hear that the natural healer, honey, was now widely accepted in the medical field. I’d like to share some information with you, documented with reliable research, on the medicinal uses of honey. I have paraphrased this information to be a little more understandable to us laypeople! The entire article, “Understanding how honey impacts on wounds: an update on recent research findings”, by Abdul Seckam and Rose, complete with references to the research and a bibliography, is available at: http://www.woundsinternational.com
Understanding how honey impacts on wounds: an update on recent research findings
Honey has been used for centuries in wound care as a topical antimicrobial agent. Licensed wound care products containing medical-grade honey first became available in 1999 and are now widely used. Honey’s therapeutic properties come from its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Laboratory evidence published in the past 5 years is helping the medical community understand how honey works to heal wounds and is now being integrated into modern medical practice. A range of medical honey products are available from several manufacturers for use on traumatic wounds, surgical incision sites, burns, sloughy wounds, and pressure ulcers.
Some researchers have criticised that clinical evidence to support the use of honey in the treatment of superficial wounds and burns was of low quality. By contrast, a review of 19 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with a total of 2554 participants suggested that honey improved healing times in mild to moderate superficial and partial thickness burns when compared to conventional dressings. Another recent review of 33 RCTs noted that participants using honey had increased from 1965 in 2006 to 3556 in 2011, with a broadening in the range of wound types included, the choice of dressings available to clinicians, and the types of honey employed. Clinicians suggest that the effectiveness of different types of honey dressings used on similar wounds, be studied to test and compare the healing effectiveness of each.
Therapeutic properties of honey
Research has shown that honey has the following qualities: antimicrobial activity, deodorizing action, debriding action and osmotic effect, anti-inflammatory activity, antioxidant activity, and enhanced rate of healing. Essentially, honey can be regarded as an antimicrobial agent with the ability to promote wound healing.
Chemically honey is a complex substance whose antimicrobial components have been well established but , all honeys are not equal. Methylglyoxal was shown to contribute to the antibacterial activity of manuka honey, frequently used medicinally. Many honeys generate hydrogen peroxide on dilution, but manuka honey does not produce detectable levels and, as such, has been called a non-peroxide honey.
Honey has a broad spectrum of activity against bacteria and fungi. Gram-positive bacteria are
often involved in wound infection. Staphylococcus aureus – the most common cause of wound infection – has been shown to be inhibited by relatively low concentrations of honey. Antibiotic resistant strains, such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-sensitive and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VSE and VRE) have shown to be inhibited by honey. A recent study showed that the growth of 15 cultures of Streptococcus species isolated from wounds were inhibited by honey.
Of Gram-negative bacteria commonly implicated in wound infection, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, enteric bacteria, Stenotrophomonas species, and Acinetobacter baumannii, have been shown to be susceptible to honey in vitro. Honey works in several ways to inhibit bacteria including: interrupting cell division, causing cell walls to break down, and damaging the bacteria’s DNA.
Patients with infected or highly exuding wounds may experience wound malodor. Honey has been shown to have a deodorizing effect in patients with malodorous wounds, which is probably due to the inhibition of bacteria. This trait is most notable within 24 hours of the application of honey to the wounds
Antimicrobial resistance to honey
With the introduction of new antimicrobials into clinical practice, the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria normally follows at some point. But experiments in which bacteria were exposed to low concentrations of manuka honey failed to select for honey-resistant strains. While these findings do not prove that bacterial strains won’t become resistant to honey in the future, they do suggest that the possibility is slight.
Debriding action of honey and osmotic effect
The role of honey in wound debridement ( the removal of dead tissue) has been described in research. Manuka honey was demonstrated to promote improved debridement, compared to a hydrogel. Manuka honey reduces the PH in the wound, preventing the formation of nonviable tissue.
The osmotic effect (ability to attract and hold water) of honey has been thought to encourage lymphatic flow to devitalized tissue, while reducing bacterial load This promotes debridement by allowing substances to form in the wound that lower the quantity of nonviable tissue .
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of honey
Wounds that do not progress through the usual phases of healing persist in a chronic inflammatory state caused by damaging chemicals and reactions in the wound. One way to interrupt this chronic inflammatory cycle is to remove free radicals with antioxidants and honey is known to contain antioxidants that scavenge free radicals. Although the anti-inflammatory effects of antioxidants in honey have been demonstrated in animal models, clinical studies are scarce, but it may be that these effects explain the benefits seen in treating burns with honey.
The use of honey in modern wound care is still met with some skepticism. Since the advent of evidence-based medicine, changing clinical practice depends on providing clinicians with appropriate levels of evidence of clinical efficacy. Although honey has become a first-line intervention in some wound care clinics, larger and better designed studies are needed to cement the role of honey in modern wound care.
I have witnessed the healing effects of honey and propolis on wounds and sores. Honey and/or propolis have replaced triple antibiotic, burn ointment and other wound treatments in our family medicine cabinet, and they can in yours, too! Hopefully, research will continue to be done in this country, so Americans can further benefit from these natural treasures! Meanwhile, jump in and try out the healing resources – powered by bees!
3I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
4 For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,
6 so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.