Honey as a topical treatment for wounds

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8:(4):CD005083. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005083.pub2.


Background: Honey is a viscous, supersaturated sugar solution derived from nectar gathered and modified by the honeybee, Apis mellifera. Honey has been used since ancient times as a remedy in wound care. Evidence from animal studies and some trials has suggested honey may accelerate wound healing.

Objectives: The objective was to determine whether honey increases the rate of healing in acute wounds (burns, lacerations and other traumatic wounds) and chronic wounds (venous ulcers, arterial ulcers, diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, infected surgical wounds).

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (May 2008), CENTRAL (May 2008) and several other electronic databases (May 2008). Bibliographies were searched and manufacturers of dressing products were contacted for unpublished trials.

Selection criteria: Randomised and quasi randomised trials that evaluated honey as a treatment for any sort of acute or chronic wound were sought. There was no restriction in terms of source, date of publication or language. Wound healing was the primary endpoint.

Data collection and analysis: Data from eligible trials were extracted and summarised using a data extraction sheet by one author and independently verified by a second author.

Main results: 19 trials (n=2554) were identified that met the inclusion criteria. In acute wounds, three trials evaluated the effect of honey in acute lacerations, abrasions or minor surgical wounds and nine trials evaluated the effect the honey in burns. In chronic wounds two trials evaluated the effect of honey in venous leg ulcers and one trial in pressure ulcers, infected post-operative wounds, and Fournier's gangrene respectively. Two trials recruited people with mixed groups of chronic or acute wounds. The poor quality of most of the trial reports means the results should be interpreted with caution, except in venous leg ulcers. In acute wounds, honey may reduce time to healing compared with some conventional dressings in partial thickness burns (WMD -4.68 days, 95%CI -4.28 to -5.09 days). All the included burns trials have originated from a single centre, which may have impact on replicability. In chronic wounds, honey in addition to compression bandaging does not significantly increase healing in venous leg ulcers (RR 1.15, 95%CI 0.96 to 1.38). There is insufficient evidence to determine the effect of honey compared with other treatments for burns or in other acute or chronic wound types.

Authors' conclusions: Honey may improve healing times in mild to moderate superficial and partial thickness burns compared with some conventional dressings. Honey dressings as an adjuvant to compression do not significantly increase leg ulcer healing at 12 weeks. There is insufficient evidence to guide clinical practice in other areas.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Burns / therapy
  • Honey*
  • Humans
  • Leg Ulcer / therapy
  • Pressure Ulcer / therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Surgical Wound Infection / therapy
  • Varicose Ulcer / therapy
  • Wound Healing*
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*