After thousands of years of being used as a wound dressing honey is finally gaining the scientific evidence to back up its effectiveness2.  Honey is a power house when it comes to wound healing because it aids and accelerates the healing of the wound in multiple ways.

  • Honey’s physical properties alone benefits wounds.
    • Honey is acidic – It has a PH of around 3.2 – 4.5 3, and topical acidification of wounds increases the release of oxygen from hemoglobin which promotes healing 4.
    • Honey creates an Osmotic flow – Honey’s high sugar content gives it an osmotic effect that pulls water out of the wound without dehydrating the wound5. This circulation of lymph fluids is similar to negative pressure wound therapy.
    • Dehydrates bacteria cells – As long as the sugar content doesn’t become too diluted by the wound fluids it can inhibit bacteria growth by dehydrating the bacteria cells6. Pastes made from sugar alone have been shown to be effective wound dressings5.
  • The bioactivity of honey.
    • Antibacterial – Honey contains antibacterial properties, but this action can vary greatly between different varieties of honeys7.
      • Hydrogen Peroxide – The antibacterial effect of most kinds of honeys that aren’t related to the honey’s acidity and osmolarity is because of hydrogen peroxide8. The hydrogen peroxide in honey is present because of an enzyme bees add to the honeycomb’s nectar called glucose oxidase.
      • Manuka honey – Honey that comes from Manuka trees (Tea trees) has another antibacterial activity in addition to hydrogen peroxide. This is caused by a substance called methygloxal which is formed from the dihydroxyacetone that comes from the nectar of the Manuka tree9.
    • Anti-inflammatory – The anti-inflammatory properties of honey are well known and well exploited for other ailments, but this anti-inflammatory action also benefits wounds. Burns and inflamed wounds were shown to have decreased edema and less scarring when honey was used to treat them11.
    • Immunostimulatory – Honey possesses Immunostimulatory properties and causes the body to produce cytokines10. Cytokines are a wide variety of substances that are secreted from immune system cells that signal to other cells in the body, in the case of wound care they help accelerate wound healing. This Immunostimulatory action is also hindered in part by the anti-inflammatory activity of honey.
    • Wound Debriding – Honey has also been found to be an effective debriding agent12, debriding being the removal of dead tissue in the wound to promote healing. One theory of why honey causes debridement is that it raises the activity of an enzyme called plasmin that breaks down fibrin, a protein formed from blood clots. Fibrin creates a fibrous mash in the wound that disrupts the flow of blood.

Here is my own experience with using honey as a wound dressing. In 2012, I cut my foot on a piece of sheet metal. I cleaned up the wound and put a glob of honey on it. I did that for a week, changing the dressing and reapplying honey every night.

Day it happened.

Day it happened. I was expecting the loose flap of skin on top to die off, but I put the honey underneath it and rolled it back in place as best I could.

Day 1

Day one of  the honey dressing. The loose flap of skin healed back to my foot pretty well.

day 2

Day two. Ignore my nasty ass toe nail.

day 3

Day three.

Day 4

Day four.

Day 6

Day five. Finally cleaned that toenail out.

Day 6

Day six.

Day 7

Day seven.

day 1 vs one week

One week applying honey.


  1. Molan, P. & Rhodes, T. Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing. Wounds 2015;27(6):141-151
  2. Forrest RD. Early history of wound treatment. J R Soc Med. 1982;75(3):198-205.
  3. White JW. Composition of honey. In: Crane E, ed. Honey: A Comprehensive Survey. London: Heinemann; 1975: 157-206.
  4. Kaufman T, Eichenlaub EH, Angel MF, Levin M, Futrell JW. Topical acidification promotes healing of experimental deep partial thickness skin burns: a randomised double-blind preliminary study. Burns Incl Therm Inj. 1985;12(2):84-90.
  5. Biswas A, Bharara M, Hurst C, Gruessner R, Armstrong D, Rilo H. Use of sugar on the healing of diabetic ulcers: a review. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010;4(5):1139-1145.
  6. Topham J. Sugar for wounds. J Tissue Viability. 2000;10(3):86-89.
  7. Molan PC. The antibacterial activity of honey 2. Variation in the potency of the antibacterial activity. Bee World. 1992;73(2):59-76.
  8. Molan PC. The antibacterial activity of honey 1. The nature of the antibacterial activity. Bee World. 1992;73(1):5-28.
  9. Adams CJ, Manley-Harris M, Molan PC. The origin of methylglyoxal in New Zealand manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey. Carbohydr Res. 2009;344(8):1050-1053.
  10. Tonks A, Cooper RA, Price AJ, Molan PC, Jones KP. Stimulation of TNF-a release in monocytes by honey. Cytokine. 2001;14(4):240-242.
  11. Molan PC. Re-introducing honey in the management of wounds and ulcers – theory and practice. Ostomy Wound Manage. 2002;48(11):28-40.
  12. Molan PC. Debridement of wounds with honey. J Wound Technol. 2009;5:12-17.
  13. Zbuchea A. Up-to-date use of honey for burns treatment. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. 2014;27(1):22-30.

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