Monday, December 15, 2008

Honey, Is Apitherapy an Emergency?

Advances in Skin & Wound Care: The Journal for Prevention and Healing, December 2008, Volume 21 Number 12, Pages 552 - 552

…In fact, apitherapy (the use of products produced by honeybees, such as pollen, honey, royal jelly, propolis, and bee venom, for therapeutic and pharmacologic purposes) has been practiced since time in memoriam documented by the Egyptians and in the Bible. Recently, particular regions of the world, New Zealand and Australia, have been enthusiastically embraced by their association with wound care, bees, and honey.

Scientists performed 22 trials involving 2062 patients treated with honey. Moreover, an additional 16 trials were performed on experimental animals. According to these researchers, honey was found to be beneficial as a wound dressing through multiple mechanisms, such as an antibacterial agent, a debriding agent, and an anti-inflammatory agent. Honey is also presumed to work by reducing edema and scarring in the wound. Honey potentially stimulates growth of granulation and facilitates epithelial tissues to accelerate healing as well. Today, given the advanced technologies of therapeutic delivery (smart dressings) systems, honey is now packaged and formulated by way of Food and Drug Administration-approved wound care products and dressings that have appeared in both evidenced-based and peer-reviewed manuscripts.

I always learn from the posters, presentations, exhibitors, and personal communication at our annual symposium. One evening during the conference, I had the great pleasure of discussing this editorial with a very erudite and prominent physician in our field, and she told me about a great love story related to surgery and the use of honey as an adjunct to heal wounds.

The story occurred before the age of antibiotics, and my colleague's grandmother underwent abdominal surgery. Her grandfather was persistent in shadowing the surgeon because of his overwhelming and undying love for his wife. Infection was a great possibility in those days; the attending surgeon conceded that he should do something extra for the sake of preventing infection and this compelling love. As part of his treatment, he actually bathed the abdomen in honey and closed the wound, and in the age of high mortality and morbidity, the grandmother not only survived this major surgery, but lived well into her nineties.

As more evidence on the use of honey appears in the literature, including this journal, this age-old therapy may increase in popularity today.

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