Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Washington Post Article Looks at Use of Honey in Wound Healing

Could Honey, an Ancient Remedy, Make a Comeback in Contemporary Wound Care?
By Eric Frederick Trump, The Washington Post, 8/7/2007

For biochemist Peter Molan, honey's ancient power to heal is not a matter of faith. So sure is he of the science behind it that he frequently applies the stuff of his research on himself -- and on his wife.

"She had a persistent boil on her buttocks," he explained. Since no standard salves had helped, he liquefied a dollop of a particular variety of honey known as manuka in the kitchen microwave, poured it over gauze and applied it.

The molten honey burned her.

"Fortunately, manuka is effective in treating burns as well as boils," Molan said cheerfully. Within a short time, he said, both boil and burn healed.

Manuka honey -- widely used for wound treatment in New Zealand, where Molan is co-director of Waikato University's Honey Research Unit -- is becoming increasingly accepted for this purpose around the world. Research over the past two decades, much of it conducted in Molan's lab, has focused on the potential for manuka to be used as an antimicrobial that may one day stand alongside such standard wound treatments as silver dressings and penicillin.

Manuka has also attracted attention because, in an era when the efficacy of pharmaceutical antibiotics is under threat, it has shown some promise in the treatment of wounds infected with especially challenging bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the superbug whose incidence increased 32-fold in U.S. hospitals between 1976 and 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Manuka dressings have been in use for some time in Great Britain and Australia as well as in New Zealand; earlier this year they were cleared for use as an antimicrobial dressing in Canada; and last month the Food and Drug Administration cleared them for use in wound and burn care -- though not as an antimicrobial drug -- making them the first honey-based products cleared for medical use in the United States…

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