Does Medihoney Really Work?

If you have read some of my other posts you will already know about the fantastic benefits there are to using active Manuka honey in dressings for wounds and injuries, or post-surgery healing. If not you may still be critically asking yourself: “Does Medihoney really work?”

From alternative to conventional medicine

In 1989, the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine said that

‘the time has now come for conventional medicine to lift the blinds off this traditional remedy and give it its due recognition’

– this mostly relates to using the honey as wound dressings. There has been considerable increasing interest in the use of alternative or holistic therapies, especially as antibiotic resistance in bacteria is growing over recent times.

In many scientific reports, they extol the effectiveness of honey dressings as being in part due to its antibacterial properties. However, honey with median levels of antibacterial activity has been proven to completely inhibit wound-infecting species of bacteria at concentrations of 1.8 to 11% and a collection of strains of MRSA at concentrations of 1 to 4%. Surely with antibacterial effectiveness like this, Manuka honey dressings have got to be considered a first step in patient care (where no contraindications are present.)

Benefits of the use of honey in wound care

Clinical studies suggest that with the usage of honey as a dressing for infected wounds, they become sterile in 3-10 days. Others have reported the honey’s effectiveness in cleaning up infected wounds and halting necrosis.

Honey dressings prevent cross infection and allow burn wounds to heal unhindered by secondary infection. They also reduce inflammation and oedema and exudation, absorbing fluid from the wound. Honey has a soothing effect when applied to wounds and reduces pain from burns, in some cases reported to have fast acting pain relief for local injuries.

More importantly, when removing the honey dressings, there are no harmful effects on regenerating tissues. There is no adhesion to cause damage to the granulating surface of wounds, and there is no bleeding upon removing the dressings. Any residual honey can be removed by simple bathing.

Honey vs antibiotics

During clinical trials, twenty cases of Fournier’s gangrene were managed with systemic antibiotics, in addition to daily topical application of honey dressings. These were compared with 21 similar cases of Fournier’s gangrene, managed by the orthodox method (wound debridement, wound excision, secondary suturing and in some cases scrotal plastic reconstruction in addition to receiving a cocktail of systemic antibiotics dictated by sensitivity results from cultures.) The microorganisms cultured in both treatment groups were similar, even though the average duration of hospitalisation was slightly longer, topical application of honey showed distinct advantages over the orthodox method. Three deaths occurred in the group receiving orthodox treatment, while the group treated with honey suffered no deaths whatsoever. Response to treatment was faster in the group treated with honey, although some of the bacteria isolated from honey-treated patients were not sensitive to the antibiotics used, the wounds became sterile within a week.

Side effects?

Allergy to honey is rare, but there could be an adverse reaction to either the pollen or bee proteins in honey. In reports of clinical studies where honey was applied to a total of 134 patients, it was stated that there were no allergic or adverse reactions. There was an unrecorded case where there was a minor haemorrhage after applying honey. Because honey contains up to 40% glucose, there is a theoretical risk of it elevating blood glucose levels of diabetics when applied to a large open wound.

Sterilized, medical honey

Honey sometimes contains spores of clostridia, which poses a small risk of wound botulism. None of the honey used in trials was sterilized, and there are no reports of any type of infection resulting from the application of the honey to wounds. If spores had germinated, they would be unlike to survive in the presence of the hydrogen peroxide generated in diluted honey. The vitamin C content in honey could be of particular importance, as this particular nutrient is essential to collagen synthesis. Medihoney products are sterilized by gamma-irradiation.

Emblematic success story

You may have heard of the story of kidney-transplant recipient Tom Lloyd. He got a rare infection in his right leg which aggressive antibiotic treatment failed to stem and that infection spread to his spinal fluid. Doctors told him that they would either have to amputate the leg, or cut out the dead skin and replace the flesh from another part of his body.

It was at this point that a nurse suggested Medihoney.  Within two weeks, the natural remedy had done something traditional medicines had failed to do over the two preceding months. Needless to say, when he and his wife booked a cruise down under, they felt it imperative to tour Comvita as part of their trip.

2 thoughts on “Does Medihoney Really Work?

  1. Studies in animal models have demonstrated that honey leads to faster healing and reduced inflammation than controls in infection-free superficial burns and full-thickness wounds and in wounds experimentally infected with Staphylococcus aureus.8 There are case reports describing burn wounds not responding to conventional treatment which healed when honey dressings were used.

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