1. Salcido, Richard MD

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Recently, my university's public relations office asked me to return an urgent call to a writer at U.S. World News and Report because they wanted to interview me for an article about the use of honey for the treatment of chronic wounds. At that very moment, however, I was tending to my wife who was in the recovery room after major surgery, and, therefore, prioritized my time to be with her. Happily, her surgery was a success, and she is doing well. A day or two after the surgery, I had time to return the call to U.S News and World Report only to have the writer inform me that they had already interviewed someone else.

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Consequently, I wondered why this story was an emergency with a deadline so tight that they could not wait a day. At any rate, in my musings about the exigency of this story, I thought about the grand scheme of things and the goings-on at that particular time. There seemed to be major priorities looming for everyone in general, the national issues-with the emergency financial bailout, Wall Street, and an upcoming election. For me personally, I was focused on my dear wife's recovery and our annual Clinical Symposium on Advances in Skin and Wound Care in Las Vegas, Nevada, which by all accounts was a great conference. But why was there an emergency for this article about honey, bees, and wound care? Was there a new and compelling story or discovery about the use of honey and the healing of wounds that I needed to investigate or tend to in an urgent manner? As both a physician and someone who has a family member with allergies to bee stings, I am always hypervigilant for such impending emergencies related to bees.


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.


Richard "Sal" Salcido, MD

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Selected References


Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Jonas W (ed). St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Mosby; 2005.


Healing Honey: The Sweet Evidence Revealed. Science Daily. Last accessed on November 6, 2008.


Hellner M, Winter D, Georgi RV, Munstedt K. Apitherapy: Usage and Experience in German Beekeepers. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2007; Jun 30.


Molan PC, Betts JA. Using honey to heal diabetic foot ulcers. Adv Skin Wound Care 2008;21:313-6.


Voiland A. Sweet! Honey that heals wounds: while diabetics have limited options for treating persistent sores, Manuka honey seems to work. Last accessed on October 7, 2008.