Honey heals certain types of wounds - but only if the honey is raw

Sweet Egyptology

It sounds like a scene from Indiana Jones…

In 1862, Egyptologist Edwin Smith purchased an ancient scroll from a couple of vandals in Luxor, Egypt. About 70 years later, a University of Chicago scholar translated the text, which turned out to contain 48 medical case histories, recorded around 3000 B.C.

Case number three described treatment for an acute head wound. After stitching the wound shut, oil and honey were applied to prevent infection.

5,000 years later, that might still be the best treatment.

Rapid healing

In the introduction to a new study titled “Honey as a Topical Treatment for Wounds,” University of Auckland (New Zealand) researchers write, “Honey has been used since ancient times as a remedy in wound care. Evidence from animal studies and some trials has suggested honey may accelerate wound healing.”

To determine if honey actually speeds healing in acute and chronic wounds, the Auckland team searched several databases and found 19 studies in which wounds were treated with honey. More than 2,500 subjects participated in these trials.


  • In acute wounds (burns, lacerations) honey had a significant effect. In some moderate wounds where damage to nerves and blood vessels occurred, healing time was reduced by as much as five days compared to conventional treatments.
  • The use of honey in chronic wounds (diabetic ulcers, arterial and venous ulcers, pressure ulcers, and infected surgical wounds) did not significantly increase healing time compared to conventional treatments.

Raw deal

In the conclusion to their review, the Auckland researchers note that the results don’t provide enough evidence to guide clinical practice. But what about some guy, for instance, who tries jumping off his roof onto a trampoline and ends up with an acute head wound (and a spot on America’s Funniest Home Videos)?

Before downloading his footage to the AFHV website, he should call his doctor, of course, or go straight to his local ER. And then, after a medical professional has been consulted about the pros and cons of honey healing, he might try applying some honey to his wound.

But not just any honey will do.

Here’s what HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., had to say about honey in a previous e- Alert: “In the raw state (and the word ‘raw’ is vital here…’uncooked’ does not qualify) honey contains enzymes and nutrients that can be very useful to the body. Unfortunately, heat destroys many of them, and commercial honey is heated to keep it from crystallizing inside processing machinery.”

You can find more information about raw honey at the website for Really Raw Honey (reallyrawhoney.com).

“Honey as a Topical Treatment for Wounds” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008, Issue 4, 10/8/08, mrw.interscience.wiley.com