Aim: To synthesise the evidence regarding honey's role in health care and to identify whether this evidence applies more specifically to cancer care.
Design: Systematic review.
Methods: The inclusion and exclusion criteria were agreed by two reviewers and a keyword strategy was developed. EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED, MEDLINE, COCHRANE and PUBMED databases were screened to identify suitable articles. The citation list from each included study was also screened for potentially suitable papers. The key findings from each study were entered onto a data extraction sheet.
Results: In total, 43 studies were included in the systematic review, which included studies in relation to wounds (n = 19), burns (n = 11), skin (n = 3), cancer (n = 5) and others (n = 5). In addition, a systematic review regarding honey use in wound care was also included. While the majority of studies noted the efficacy of honey in clinical use, five studies found honey to be equally as effective as the comparator and three found honey to be less effective than the comparator treatment. Other research did not illustrate any significant difference between standard treatment regimes vs. honey treatment. Studies were generally poor in quality because of small sample sizes, lack of randomisation and absence of blinding.
Conclusions: Honey was found to be a suitable alternative for wound healing, burns and various skin conditions and to potentially have a role within cancer care.
Relevance to clinical practice: In the cancer setting, honey may be used for radiation-induced mucositis, radiotherapy-induced skin reactions, hand and foot skin reactions in chemotherapy patients and for oral cavity and external surgical wounds.