Wound healing is a complex (and sometimes lengthy) process in both the human and Veterinary field. There are ways in which we can help and support this healing process and (depending on the type of wound) the use of topical Manuka honey may sometimes be advised. This article will explore the use of honey within the Veterinary field and when it is appropriate to use it!
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How does honey work in wound healing?
Wound healing is a very complex process involving inflammation, healing, repairing and scarring. The recommended use of honey to aid wound healing is becoming more common in both human and Veterinary medicine. Honey has been a big part of wound healing and management for many years now and is sparking more and more interest.
When honey is applied to a wound, it serves multiple functions
The following list covers some of these desired properties:
- Firstly, when honey is applied it acts as a physical barrier to prevent dressings from coming into direct contact with the wound.
- When wounds begin to exudate or discharge fluid, this can indicate the presence of infection and bacteria. Honey has a high sugar content, meaning that it has a high level of osmolarity. This means that this high concentration will pull any exudate or pus from the wound bed (Lay-flurrie, 2008). This then results in water being pulled from the wound, supporting the healing process and reducing any swelling (oedema). Additionally, removing water from wounds draws out the water from within bacteria, dehydrating and killing these organisms.
- Honey has a low pH value and is very acidic. Generally, bacteria love to grow and thrive in environments that have a high pH value. Therefore, by introducing a product with a low pH, the bacterial growth is inhibited.
- The antimicrobial properties of honey is highly desirable as this supports the movement of antimicrobial stewardship. Antimicrobial resistance is a growing concern in both human and Veterinary medicine. The use of honey on wounds may avoid the requirement of antibiotics by providing a more natural alternative, although sometimes the use of antibiotics is essential in heavily infected and contaminated wounds.
Simple or superficial wounds are likely to heal with minimal intervention
However, deeper, infected or complex wounds are likely to benefit from honey application. This is supported by recent scientific research which has proven the biological properties of honey promote wound healing and fight infection (Marcombes, 2020).
Honey should never be applied to bleeding wounds or healthy granulating wounds.
Can any type of honey be used?
There are hundreds of types of honey available to buy around the world. Around 10 years ago the UK Veterinary market launched the first range of medical-grade Manuka honey and since then, many Manuka honey based products are now available. This launch followed on from many years of success within the human medical field.
We know that bees are valuable to our planet earth and bees are solely responsible for the production of Manuka honey. Real Manuka honey comes from only New Zealand, and is the product of the bees who gather their nectar from the Manuka flower.
I won’t dive into the complex biological properties, but manuka honey behaves differently to other types of honey. Manuka honey is graded for its antimicrobial effect using a grading system (UMF – unique antimicrobial Manuka factor). The greater the number, the more intense the antimicrobial effect. To achieve effective wound management, a minimum of +10 should be used. This is one of the major reasons that standard and ungraded honey should NEVER be applied directly to wounds. Please consult your Vet for advice.
To conclude, Manuka honey remains the bee’s knees in wound management. With its multiple benefits it is a useful treatment aid with wound management in Veterinary practice. Your Vet will be able to guide you on whether honey is appropriate to use in the management of your beloved pet’s wound. To answer the question, ‘is honey good for wounds?’ Yes absolutely, as long as the nature of the wound is appropriate.