Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
November 19, 2018
Honey is more than a sweet dessert. Honey has been used to heal wounds for 5,000 years. Raw honey contains anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory components that can actually repair and regenerate tissues. I have written about honey in several articles in the past. HERE. HERE. HERE.
In 2017, Sami K. Saikaly and Amor Khachemoune published an update on the research supporting the benefits of honey on wound healing. In their article, they described three major clinical uses of raw honey:
- Acute wounds
- Chronic wounds
- Malignant wounds
In 2018, Sarkar et al. reported on their study about honey being incorporated into a unique surgical dressing to assist with the regeneration of damaged tissues.
Interestingly, the healing properties of raw honey can benefit lesions in the mouth. Let’s get into the facts.
3 Clinical Uses
1. Acute Wounds
When it comes to burns, there are problems with bacterial contamination of the wound. In a study by Maghsoudi et al., the researchers compared the application of honey dressings and mafenide acetate in two randomized groups of 50 patients with fresh partial thickness burns. Their study showed the honey-treated group had faster healing along with better infection control and reduction of inflammation than the mafenide acetate group.
In another study by Subrahmanyam, skin graft donors were divided into a honey-treated group and a Vaseline gauze-treated group. The honey-treated group had significantly faster healing than the Vaseline-treated group.
2. Chronic Wounds
Khadanga et al. compared the effectiveness of honey and povidone iodine dressings in decubitus ulcer healing. Decubitus ulcers develop in patients who are lying in bed for an extended period of time. A significant reduction in subjective pain was recorded for the honey group compared to the povidone iodine group. However, both honey and iodine were effective with healing the ulcers.
Saha et al. reported on a randomized study comparing honey treatment plus metronidazole powder to metronidazole powder alone in cancer patients with bedsores. There was a statistically significant improvement in wound healing and a decrease in pain among the honey plus metronidazole group compared to the metronidazole group alone.
In another study, Kamaratos et al. performed a double-blind study examining the use of Manuka-impregnated honey dressings in type 2 diabetic patients with foot ulcers. These patients were divided into a honey treatment group and a saline-soaked gauze-dressing control group. The honey decreased the healing time. In addition, the honey group required no antibiotic treatment while some of the control group required antibiotic treatment and hospitalization.
3. Malignant Wounds
Malignant wounds occur in 5–10% of cancer patients, with the most common side effects being malodor and exudate. Lund-Nielsen et al. conducted a randomized study comparing the use of Manuka honey-coated bandages with silver-coated bandages in patients with malignant wounds and advanced cancer. The honey group experienced significantly less malodor and exudate compared to the silver-coated bandages.
Effects in the Mouth
Raw honey has decreased malignant odors and inflammation from oral squamous cell carcinoma. Honey is also effective in healing mucositis, which can be a complication from cancer treatment. Those patients suffering from dry mouth have had relief using honey to swish and swallow several times a day. Various bacterial infections in the mouth also have been treated with honey rinses.
Honey is considered by many as a sugary dessert without any redeeming qualities. Raw honey is without a doubt a significant medicine that is natural, effective, and with little to no side effects. It should be in everyone’s medicine chest for good reason. Its efficacy is well-researched in wound healing.
 Saikaly, S.K. & Khachemoune, A. Honey and Wound Healing: An Update. Am J Clin Dermatol (2017) 18: 237. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40257-016-0247-8
 Sarkar, R., Ghosh, A., Barui, A. et al. Repositing honey incorporated electrospun nanofiber membranes to provide anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory microenvironment for wound regeneration. J Mater Sci: Mater Med (2018) 29: 31. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10856-018-6038-4
 Maghsoudi H, Salehi F, Khosrowshahi MK, et al. Comparison between topical honey and mafenide acetate in treatment of burn wounds. Ann Burns Fire Disasters. 2011;24(3):132–7.
 Subrahmanyam M. Dressing accelerates split-thickness skin graft donor site healing. Indian J Surg. 2015;77(Suppl 2):261–3.
 Khadanga SDD, Karuna T, Khetri R, et al. Effects of topical honey dressing in decubitus ulcer. Asian J Med Sci. 2015;6(4):99–101.
 Saha A, Chattopadhyay S, Azam M, et al. The role of honey in healing of bedsores in cancer patients. South Asian J Cancer. 2012;1(2):66–71.
 Kamaratos AV, Tzirogiannis KN, Iraklianou SA, et al. Manuka honey-impregnated dressings in the treatment of neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers. Int Wound J. 2014;11(3):259–63.
 Lund-Nielsen B, Adamsen L, Kolmos HJ, et al. The effect of honey-coated bandages compared with silver-coated bandages on treatment of malignant wounds-a randomized study. Wound Repair Regen. 2011;19(6):664–70.
 Drain J, Fleming MO. Palliative management of malodorous squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity with Manuka honey. J Wound Ostomay Continence Nurs. 2015;42(2):190–2.
 Khanjani pour-fard-pachekenari, A., Rahmani, A., Ghahramanian, A. et al. The effect of an oral care protocol and honey mouthwash on mucositis in acute myeloid leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy: a single-blind clinical trial. Clin Oral Invest (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00784-018-2621-9
 Charalambous, Andreas et al. The effectiveness of thyme honey for the management of treatment-induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients: A feasibility randomized control trial. European Journal of Oncology Nursing , Volume 27 , 1 – 8
 Atwa, Al-Dany A et al. “Effect of honey in preventing gingivitis and dental caries in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment” Saudi dental journal vol. 26,3 (2014): 108-14.