Review Article | Open Access
Honey for Wound Healing, Ulcers, and Burns; Data Supporting Its Use in Clinical Practice
The widespread existence of unhealed wounds, ulcers, and burns has a great impact on public health and economy. Many interventions, including new medications and technologies, are being used to help achieve significant wound healing and to eliminate infections. Therefore, to find an intervention that has both therapeutic effect on the healing process and the ability to kill microbes is of great value. Honey is a natural product that has been recently introduced in modern medical practice. Honey's antibacterial properties and its effects on wound healing have been thoroughly investigated. Laboratory studies and clinical trials have shown that honey is an effective broad-spectrum antibacterial agent. This paper reviews data that support the effectiveness of natural honey in wound healing and its ability to sterilize infected wounds. Studies on the therapeutic effects of honey collected in different geographical areas on skin wounds, skin and gastric ulcers, and burns are reviewed and mechanisms of action are discussed. (Ulcers and burns are included as an example of challenging wounds.) The data show that the wound healing properties of honey include stimulation of tissue growth, enhanced epithelialization, and minimized scar formation. These effects are ascribed to honey's acidity, hydrogen peroxide content, osmotic effect, nutritional and antioxidant contents, stimulation of immunity, and to unidentified compounds. Prostaglandins and nitric oxide play a major role in inflammation, microbial killing, and the healing process. Honey was found to lower prostaglandin levels and elevate nitric oxide end products. These properties might help to explain some biological and therapeutic properties of honey, particularly as an antibacterial agent or wound healer. The data presented here demonstrate that honeys from different geographical areas have considerable therapeutic effects on chronic wounds, ulcers, and burns. The results encourage the use of honey in clinical practice as a natural and safe wound healer.