Honey has been used for centuries to treat burns, boils, infected and non-healing wounds and ulcers because of its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The sweet, viscous food substance made by honey bees and related insects can also treat diabetic wounds and help prevent amputations.
Diabetes can cause wounds to heal more slowly, making treatment with conventional therapeutics an uphill struggle. Slow and non-healing injuries are vulnerable to infection, which can result in amputation of a person´s feet and legs. Some infections may even be antibiotic-resistant. However, science is coming round to the idea that a relatively new approach using an ancient remedy may be able to help.
Honey has been used as an alternative medicine since ancient times. Its medical importance has been documented in some of the oldest medical literature in the world.
Honey's antibacterial properties are due to several factors, including its low pH, high sugar content, and hydrogen peroxide production, which hinder microbial growth. This chemical compound is created when bees add an enzyme to nectar. Honey also contains defensins 1, a protein produced by bees that eliminates germs in honey and may also be effective when applied to wounds.
Today, numerous scientific reports have demonstrated the success of honey treatments against diabetic wounds.
In a study to look at the role of honey in wound dressing of diabetic foot ulcers, 172 patients with complicated and non-healing diabetic foot ulcers had their wounds dressed with thick layers of honey. Only three patients (1.75%) underwent big toe amputations. In comparison, two patients (1.1%) had below-knee amputations leading scientists to conclude that honey significantly reduced the rate of amputation and improved wound healing.
A research paper in the Journal of the Royal Medical Services presented evidence that dressings with honey and a standard saline preparation significantly speeded up the healing of diabetic foot ulcers and reduced the need for amputations by 50%.
Manuka honey, which comes from the nectar of the pinkish-white flowers of Manuka plants, is also very effective against germs. In a study published in the International Wound Journal, 63 type 2 diabetes patients with neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers were split into two groups. One group was treated with manuka honey-impregnated dressings, while the other group was treated with conventional dressings. Each patient was followed up once a week for 16 weeks. In group one patients, the average healing time was 31 days, and 78.1% of the ulcers became sterile during the first week. In group two, the average healing time was 43 days and 35.5% of the ulcers became sterile during the first week.
Overall, 97% of group one ulcers healed, while the figure for group two was 90%. The scientists concluded that manuka honey is an effective treatment for neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers that reduces the healing time and promotes the rapid disinfection of ulcers.
Honey is packed with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fructose, sucrose, amino acids and other products that may play essential roles in wound healing. For example, by stimulating tissue growth and angiogenesis. This is the process by which new blood vessels are formed from pre-existing vessels, which increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients in the wound area.
Inflammation is a normal part of the body's defensive mechanism against injury and infection, but prolonged or excessive inflammation can slow down diabetic wound healing or even cause further damage.
The sweet fluid's organic acids, flavonoids, natural sugar and phytonutrients all play a role in fighting inflammation. Suppressing inflammation in the wound reduces vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels), which reduces the retention of fluids and its associated pain and promotes healing.
In research published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, scientists investigated the topical application of honey to help treat diabetic foot ulcers and help prevent amputation.
In the study, researchers collected several bacterial strains from the infection site of diabetic foot ulcers. The samples were processed in a hospital laboratory, and 40 different types were isolated, including E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus. They were treated in the lab with varying concentrations of honey. The results revealed that the antibacterial effects of honey are concentration-dependent. Undiluted honey killed bacteria faster than other dilutions, and all concentrations killed bacteria within 24 hours.
Here at the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Treatment (MINT), we provide successful, personalized treatments for diabetic ulcers and wounds.
Book an appointment with Dr. Akinwande and the team who can treat you at one of our convenient locations in the St Louis area. Call us today or request an appointment online.