Honey for Burns: An Incredible Remedy
Honey is well documented for use in all types of wounds, including cuts and puncture wounds, but it is most well documented for us on burns. There are hundreds of studies documenting the medical uses of honey for everything from severe burns to ulcers and every wound in between.
Documented historical use of honey dates back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt and honey’s medicinal properties for wounds are documented in ancient Chinese medicine, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and in the Bible.
Modern research has confirmed these beneficial uses of honey, showing its effectiveness against at least 80 harmful strains, including gram negative and positive bacteria, various types of fungus, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and MSSA (methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus).(1)
This makes honey especially important as there is widespread development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and honey is consistently affective against these strains in trials. In fact, honey routinely outperforms other common wound treatments by drastic margins. For instance, when honey was compared to silver sulfadiazine gauze dressing:
A total of 104 cases of superficial burn injury were studied to assess the efficiency of honey as a dressing in comparison with silver sulfadiazine gauze dressing. In the 52 patients treated with honey, 91 per cent of wounds were rendered sterile within 7 days. In the 52 patients treated with silver sulfadiazine, 7 per cent showed control of infection within 7 days. Healthy granulation tissue was observed earlier in patients treated with honey (mean 7.4 versus 13.4 days). Of the wounds treated with honey 87 per cent healed within 15 days as against 10 per cent in the control group. Relief of pain, a lower incidence of hypertrophic scar and postburn contracture, low cost and easy availability make honey an ideal dressing in the treatment of burns.(2)
That study, and many others, show that not only is honey an effective choice for wounds and burns, it may be the best choice available in many cases. Another study explains the many ways that honey benefits a wound:
As a dressing on wounds, honey provides a moist healing environment, rapidly clears infection, deodorizes, and reduces inflammation, edema, and exudation. Also, it increases the rate of healing by stimulation of angiogenesis, granulation, and epithelialization, making skin grafting unnecessary and giving excellent cosmetic results.(3)
Burns can be an especially dangerous type of wound, since they are very prone to infection and can be slow to heal. Honey is especially beneficial in treating burns and does not lose effectiveness like many types of treatment, nor does it show any signs of developing a resistance to certain bacteria:
There was no loss of bacterial sensibility to honey over time and no appearance of bacteria resistant mutants.(4) In many cases, honey acted where other antibacterial therapies failed,(5) possibly because honey is effectively including aggregated bacteria in biofilms,6, a situation where antibiotics and silver dressings proved ineffective.(6)
How Honey Works on Burns
There are several reasons why honey is so effective for burns (and all types of wounds). Besides the antibacterial action explained above, it also:
Even in wounds where no infection was present, honey showed anti-inflammatory properties. This shows that honey actually has an anti-inflammatory effect and this isn’t just a side-effect of its antibacterial properties.
Provides a Physical Protective Barrier
Honey creates a moist and protective barrier around the wound. since it draws out fluids and keeps the wound covered. This promotes more rapid healing (especially compared to wounds exposed to air and left to scab) and creates an optimal environment for new skin cell production. Honey also keeps the wound from adhering to the bandage during healing, which can cause new skin to be removed and slow the healing process.
Provides Nutrients Directly to the Wound
Honey provides a direct source of easily metabolized carbohydrates, vitamins and amino acids that are helpful for healing. Honey actually provides direct fuel in the form of glucose to the wound, increasing the speed and healing ability of these cells. Indirectly, honey also stimulates the flow of lymph which is helpful for healing.
How to Use Honey on Burns
Honey has been so well studied in medical treatment of burns that there is even a suggested protocol for using honey on burns (as recommended in this meta-analysis of the available studies on honey). It is suggested to:
- Clean the wound with desired method. Some listed were hydrogen peroxide, saline and betadine.
- Covering the wound with honey. Depending on the severity of the wound, this ranged from a thin layer to a very thick layer that was poured on directly.
- Covering the honey-covered area with a dry, sterile gauze. According to the source, honey dressings are not changed as often as other types due to the antibacterial and protective properties. Suggestions for changing the dressing ranged from 2 times a day to once ever 2-3 days.
Lavender for Added Benefit
Perhaps you’ve heard the often-repeated story of the French chemist and perfume maker René-Maurice Gattefossé who discovered first-hand the benefits of lavender for burns when a laboratory explosion left him literally on fire. He rolled around in the grass to extinguish the fire but was left with severe burns which developed gas gangrene.
Gattefossé had been studying the effects of lavender for several years and rinsed the wounds with lavender essence, which stopped the gangrene, provided some relief from the pain and started healing, according to the legend.
The story may or may not be completely true, and it has likely grown or changed as it has been retold, but the idea is solid. We now know that Lavender essential oil contains Linalyl Acetate and Linalol, which both have pain-reducing effects. Lavender may also have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of its own, though this is less well-studied.
There are hundreds of testimonials online from people who used lavender exclusively for minor burns with great results. I’ve used lavender topically for minor burns like sunburns and small cuts and noticed that it does help almost instantly with the pain. This was the reason I added lavender essential oil to my finger when I cut it so severely that day.
I add lavender essential oil to raw honey to make this salve for its analgesic effect, its scent and as a potential added insurance against infections like gangrene.
Lavender Honey Burn Salve
Mix the lavender essential oil and honey and transfer to the storage tube, if using. Alternately, this can be made and stored in a stainless steel tin, small jar or even just assembled as needed (hopefully you never will!).