By Matthew Regulski, DPM, CWS, FAPWCA, Inside Cosmeceuticals, 3/15/2010
Honey has been used as a wound dressing for centuries. Evidence for its medicinal use has been found in ancient writings, including a papyrus dating to the 17th century B.C. In modern times, it was in common use during World War I and II, but it began to wane in popularity with the rise of antibiotics around 1940. Only in the last decade have microbiologists begun to understand its precise medical benefits and the special properties of one particular variety: active Leptospermum (manuka) honey (Leptospermum scoparium) derived from the pollen and nectar of specific tea tree plants.
Researchers have found the Leptospermum species, which is native to New Zealand, has unique plant-derived components that make it ideal for the management of hard-to-heal wounds and burns, and large-scale, randomized control studies have proven its efficacy.
Active Leptospermum honey can help manage lightly to heavily exuding wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, venous stasis leg ulcers, arterial leg ulcers, leg ulcers of mixed etiology, pressure ulcers (I-IV), first- and second-degree burns, donor sites, and traumatic and surgical wounds. The honey cleans a wound and rapidly lifts dead tissue, a process facilitated by the high-sugar content in the honey, which has an osmotic effect. In addition, the honey helps to reduce edema and wound pH, and provides a moist healing environment. What is also notable is all these benefits exist without any toxicity to healthy tissue. The dressings are sterilized by Gamma irradiation. This ensures any contaminants, including clostridium botulinum spores that may be present in unsterilized honey, are eradicated.
Leptospermum honey also has a broad spectrum of bactericidal activities. Recent research revealed medical-grade Leptospermum honey is as effective as a strong combatant against antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE). S. aureus is one of the most commonly acquired pathogens in both the community and the hospital settings, and it is particularly problematic in skin and wound infections. The emergence of MRSA and VRE has seriously compromised treatment options. The current issues surrounding antibiotic resistance, and a growing body of evidence supporting the use of honey as a dressing for a wide range of wounds, have increased interest in its clinical use.
Let us examine in greater detail some of the positive therapeutic effects of active Leptospermum honey dressings…