Can you use honey to treat a burn? © Daniel Bright

Can you use honey to treat a burn?

The sweet, sticky, golden stuff isn’t just a tasty treat, it’s also an ancient wound healer.

Honey has been used for treating wounds, including burn wounds, for thousands of years, as far back as ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Today, we know that honey has both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and several studies over the last few decades have found that honey can reduce healing times, infection and inflammation, even when compared to conventional wound treatments such as antiseptics.

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There are likely to be many mechanisms at play in honey’s wound-healing abilities, and we don’t know the full story. But we do know that honey stimulates white blood cell production, which triggers tissue repair and regrowth. Honey is also acidic, so it lowers the pH of a wound, which hinders bacterial growth and speeds up healing. Honey’s high sugar content is also bad news for bacteria, causing them to become dehydrated, while honey’s antioxidants help to reduce inflammation.

Doctors today still use honey-infused dressings to treat wounds, including burns. But you shouldn’t use the honey from your cupboard at home without speaking to a doctor first. Medical honey has been sterilised, whereas standard honey contains microbes that could get into the wound and cause problems.

For burns, you’re best off putting the affected area under the cold tap for at least 10 minutes, before picking up a gel or dressing at your local pharmacy. Save the honey for your toast instead.

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