You know the saying that if you keep something long enough it will come back in style? Well, it appears that the wound care field is not immune to this concept. In this issue, an article by George and Cutting, and a book review by Gethin, focus on the revival of honey as a wound care treatment. The ancient Egyptians used honey as a wound treatment as early as 3000 BC and it has been found in Egyptian tombs.1 Although it was said to be normal in appearance, I was told that none of the researchers had the courage to taste it. Honey was an integral part of the “Three Healing Gestures” used by the Egyptians. This included washing the wound, applying a “plaster” (made from honey, animal fat, and vegetable fiber), and bandaging the wound1—not much different from the treatments used today. Recent testing of this Egyptian “wound salve” revealed that it is strongly bacteriocidal to Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and coliform bacteria.2,3 This is partly the basis for why honey is currently being used. Honey contains antibacterial agents that are active against nearly all bacteria, including common resistant strains found today. Interestingly, the antibacterial activity of honey is not solely a result of its viscosity as many have presumed.The work of George and Cutting, and Gethin’s book review, demonstrate that honey’s antibacterial effect is still present even when diluted by wound fluid. George and Cutting found that honey from the Leptospermum scoparium plant has more antibacterial activity than honey from other sources. Raw honey found in grocery stores is not sterile and should not be used on wounds—it contains bacterial spores, which might not be the best thing to put on an open wound. However, the honey described in this issue is sterile and does not present that problem. The experience at my clinic with the use of antibacterial honey is that it reduces wound pain, odor, and exudate, and also improves healing (T. Treadwell, MD, FACS, unpublished data, 2007). Patients readily accept the treatment as well.
It seems that some old treatments are making a comeback and are forging their place alongside new technologies. As some of the contents of this issue present, this “old” product may prove to be highly beneficial in the treatment of wounds, especially those colonized with resistant bacteria. If you enjoy the outdoors, I recommend that antibacterial honey be an item in your first-aid kit. If you get injured, the honey will act as an antibacterial and help your wound heal. Should you get lost,you have a tasty snack.What other wound product can claim that?