More evidence that honey helps equine wounds heal

Wounds treated with medical-grade honey gel were more likely to heal completely without infection than were wounds treated without honey.

A study from Israel provides more evidence of the healing power of honey.

The benefits of medical-grade honey (MGH) as a topical treatment for minor wounds have previously been established by numerous studies. Now researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem report that MGH can also aid healing of larger lacerations in horses that require suturing.

Made by bees from nectar collected from flowers, honey is about 20 percent water and 80 percent sugars, but it also contains more than 200 different proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These compounds, along with the osmotic effect of the sugars, give honey antimicrobial properties, which enable it to inhibit a number of pathogens, including Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Raw honey may also contain potentially harmful bacteria, but MGH is sterilized using irradiation.

Honey is about 20 percent water and 80 percent sugars, but it also contains more than 200 different proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

For the duration of the three-year study, several equine practitioners who were treating horses with lacerations that required suturing in the field contributed data. After deciding that the laceration required repair, the veterinarians opened an envelope that randomly allocated the case to either the treatment or control group. In each treatment case, MGH gel was applied to the exposed tissues in the wound prior to closure. Otherwise, cases were managed exactly the same.

In addition, questionnaires describing the nature of each horse’s injury, how it was treated and progress in healing were filled out by the veterinarians when each horse’s wound was sutured and again when the stitches were removed.

Click here to learn the phases of equine wound healing.

In all, the researchers collected data on 127 horses. Of these, 69 horses had MGH applied to their wounds prior to suturing, while 58 were control. Subsequent analysis, based on the case histories and questionnaires, showed that the wounds treated with the MGH gel were three times more likely to heal completely without infection than were wounds treated without the honey.

The researchers conclude that “application of MGH to lacerations prior to wound closure may be beneficial in preventing infection and dehiscence,” a surgical complication also known as separation, in which a wound reopens. They call for more studies to confirm these benefits while controlling for variables such as the location and size of the wounds.

Reference: “Intralesional application of medical grade honey improves healing of surgically treated lacerations in horses,” Equine Veterinary Journal, March 2019

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