Honey As Healer!
Effective in Treating Infected Skin Lesions
Jem Bonnievale was 15 when he
contracted meningococcal septicemia caused by an infection of
Neisseria meningitidis. By the time the British teenager reached
the hospital, he had multiple purple batches on his legs and
fingers, which rapidly progressed to tissue death.
Both legs were amputated below
the knee as well as fingers on both hands. He endured multiple
skin grafts and suffered for months with non-healing infected
sores. His case was extreme and difficult to treat because of
the severe pain it caused. "I can't even begin to explain
how painful it was just to have a small piece of dressing changed.
The nurses tried everything to
make it easier, like changing the dressing in the bath, but it
was agony," said Jem. Over the next six months the success
of the grafts was variable and the sores showed heavy growth
of Pseudomonas and Staphlococcus aureus. All traditional treatments
were tried without success.
When nothing else had any effect
on the chronic infected sores, clinical nurse Cheryl Dunford
and her colleagues turned to honey. Dressing pads impregnated
with sterilized active manuka honey from New Zealand were applied
to one leg and a traditional dressing to the other leg. Within
a few days, the honey dressed leg showed a reduction of wound
bacteria. Both legs were then treated with the honey dressings.
Within 10 weeks, all lesions were healed. Jem was released from
the hospital, fitted with artificial legs and is getting on with
The use of honey as medicine is
mentioned in the most ancient written records. Today scientists
and doctors are rediscovering the effectiveness of honey as a
wound treatment. Peter Molan, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemisty
at Waikato University, New Zealand has been on the forefront
of honey research for 20 years. He heads the university's Honey
Research Unit, which is internationally recognized for its expertise
in the antimicrobial properties of honey. Clinical observations
and experimental studies have established that honey has effective
antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It painlessly
removes pus, scabs and dead tissue from wounds and stimulates
new tissue growth. "Randomized trials have shown that honey
is more effective in controlling infection in burn wounds than
silver sulphadiazine, the antibacterial ointment most widely
used on burns in hospitals" says Dr. Molan. The significance
of the case of the British teenager, as reported in the June
issue of Nursing Times, is that it is the first case in which
honey was used on multiple meningococcal skin lesions. The antibacterial
action was evident as the mixed infection of Pseudomonas and
Enterococcus cleared from the lesions in a few weeks and the
number of colonizing staphylococci diminished to a harmless level.
Dr. Molan believes that if honey
were used from the start in cases of meningococcal septicemia,
there would be far less tissue damage resulting. "The remarkable
ability of honey to reduce inflammation and mop up free radicals
should halt the progress of the skin damage like it does in burns,
as well as protecting from infection setting in," said Dr.
Molan. "At present, people are turning to honey when nothing
else works. But there are very good grounds for using honey as
a therapeutic agent of first choice."
Researchers believe that the
therapeutic potential of honey is grossly underutilized. It is
widely available in most communities and although the mechanism
of action of several of its properties remains obscure and needs
further investigation, the time has now come for conventional
medicine to look at this traditional remedy. With increasing
interest in the use of alternative therapies and as the development
of antibiotic-resistant bacteria spreads, honey may finally receive
its due recognition as a wound healer.