Medihoney Gel and How to Use it for Wounds

This tasty salve has been used to treat wounds and speed healing as far back as ancient Egypt. It fell by the wayside in recent history as we discovered a plethora of powerful antibiotics to treat infections. Now it is making a resurgence as more and more bacteria strains develop resistances to overused antibiotics.

So far, bacteria have not been able to develop lasting resistance to honey, and it is unlikely that they will do so in the future[13].

Honey has a wide variety of wound healing and antibacterial properties recognized by the medical community. The company Derma Sciences has incorporated honey into a variety of different wound care products that treat diabetic foot ulcers, leg ulcers, pressure sores, 1st and 2nd degree burns, and other cuts and scrapes.

One of Medihoney’s most attractive attributes as a wound treatment is its ability to fight off Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other resistant strains of bacteria when other antibiotics have failed[2,8,11].

Index:

Benefits of Medihoney Gel

  1. Provides a moist, sterile, nutrient-rich healing environment
  2. Decreases wound pH, accelerating healing processes and decreasing wound size
  3. Absorbs liquids that exude from the wound
  4. Passively removes necrotic tissue
  5. Produces antioxidants that absorb free radicals at the wound site
  6. Kills antibiotic resistant bacteria including MRSA

Although Medihoney comes in a variety of products that include bandages and tapes, I recommend the Medihoney gel because it works on wounds of any size or shape with normal sterile gauze and tape.

Medihoney Gel vs Normal Honey

There are several benefits to using Medihoney gel over wild or store-bought honey. Medihoney gel is medical-grade and is harvested from a specific type of flower in New Zealand called the Manuka flower. With food-grade, honey there is no control over the ingredients; the honey's properties will be different in every jar.

This isn't a problem for normal wound care, but wild honey should not be relied on for more serious treatment. The consistency of natural honey is also not great for use as a wound coating because it is a sticky, viscous liquid. Medihoney gel is mixed with other ingredients like wax and oil to make it an ideal consistency for wound application.

How Does Honey Work?

Honey is produced in wide variety over much of the world, and varies considerably in composition depending on the ingredients it is made from. All honey will work to speed wound healing because it provides a moist, nutrient-rich environment that is good for skin regrowth. Honey also contains a wide variety of antimicrobial substances, the most well-documented being hydrogen peroxide[5,12].

These antimicrobials release slowly over time at levels that are high enough to suppress bacterial growth but low enough to leave human cells unharmed. This is very similar to the way Iodosorb gel works, but instead of iodine, honey releases hydrogen peroxide.

Medihoney produces antioxidants at high concentrations in wounds that neutralize superoxide anion radicals before they can damage tissue[10]. Although antioxidants are a common buzzword synonymous to ‘healthy,’ we usually hear about them in food.

Oxides are highly reactive compounds that damage body tissue by ripping chunks out of the first thing they run into. Antioxidants are a fatted calf sacrificed to the oxidants to appease them. If an oxidant runs into an antioxidant before it runs into body tissue, it will combine with the antioxidant and be satisfied. The more antioxidants are in an area, the more likely that oxidants will run into an antioxidant before hitting sensitive body tissues.

Antioxidants found in food are good, but they have a limited effect on antioxidant concentrations in the wound bed because they spread throughout the entire body. Putting honey on the wound site dramatically increases the number of antioxidants available for vicious free radicals to grab directly at the healing site. This protects your body tissue as it works to heal itself.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey, the honey used in Medihoney gel, has gotten a lot of attention for some of its unique antibiotic characteristics that may make its wound healing properties above average. Usually honey's medical properties are assessed based on the levels of hydrogen peroxide released over time, but Manuka honey exhibits other antibiotic properties not caused by peroxide[3]. The newly discovered, special ingredient is called methylglyoxal and is so far only associated with Manuka honey[4,5].

Those selling Manuka honey treat methylglyoxal as a miracle cure not found anywhere else, even going so far as to give it a special label called Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). While it IS only found in Manuka honey, there is no such thing as a miracle cure; it is another antibiotic that has both benefits and limitations. For example, when examining the effect of honey on ringworm fungal infections, Manuka honey was compared to a high-peroxide honey.

The study found that the high peroxide honey worked better because ringworm is not affected by methylglyoxal[9]. While this is only one example, and there are others where the reverse is true, it highlights the fact that Manuka honey is not the be all end all of honey products. In fact, methylglyoxal suppresses peroxide release causing Manuka honey to have lower than average peroxide levels[14].

Medihoney is an excellent wound care product, but other honeys like Malaysian Tualang honey and Chilean Ulmo honey show promising results in areas where Manuka honey is lacking. Ulmo honey is high in peroxide and was shown to be more effective against MRSA than Manuka honey[6]. Tualang honey was also found to be more effective at fighting some strains of microorganisms when compared to Manuka honey[7].

How and When to Use Medihoney

While Medihoney gel can be used on normal wounds and burns with great results, it is specifically designed for wounds that have difficulty healing on their own. These wounds include full thickness wounds, pressure ulcers, diabetic ulcers, leg ulcers, traumatic wounds, surgical wounds, and 1st and 2nd degree burns. When treating long-term wounds, Medihoney gel, paste, and calcium alginate can cause skin maceration of healthy tissue, so they should only be applied to the wound bed.

Medihoney Gel/Paste

  1. Cover the wound area making sure the gel makes intimate contact with the wound bed.
  2. Do not cover healthy skin with the gel as it will cause maceration.
  3. Cover with a sterile absorbent dressing and tape it in place.

The main difference between the gel and the paste is the thickness of the substance. The paste is thinner and easier to spread inside deep wounds.

Medihoney Calcium Alginate Dressing

  1. Cut the dressing to approximately the same size as the wound.
  2. Cover the entire wound area and roll back any of the dressing that overlaps healthy skin as it will cause maceration.
  3. Cover with a sterile absorbent dressing and tape it in place.

The alginate dressing is thick and especially good for filling in deep wounds where tissue is removed or hollowed out.

Medihoney HCS Dressing

  1. Remove the backing to expose the sticky side of the dressing.
  2. Cover the wound completely.
  3. It is okay to overlap this dressing with healthy skin; it will not cause maceration.

The HCS dressing is especially good for covering burns and absorbing liquid from exuding wounds. It comes in adhesive and non-adhesive versions. The non-adhesive versions can be cut to the shape of the wound then covered with a secondary dressing.

Medihoney Honeycolloid Dressing

  1. Remove the backing.
  2. Cover the wound completely.
  3. It is okay to overlap this dressing with healthy skin; it will not cause maceration.

The Honeycolloid dressing works similarly to the HCS dressing, but it absorbs less liquid.

The Bottom Line

Medihoney works as described, but it is not necessarily better than other medical honeys. While eating it will not cure cancer, it is a very effective wound treatment option. For other wound care options check out Puracol Plus and Iodosorb Gel.

Notes:

  1. Manuka honey gum was shown to reduce plaque and gingivitis in a pilot study[1].

Additional Resources:

  1. Medihoney Case Studies
  2. The Use of Medihoney in the Military

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About Peter Oldani - Author of Inside First Aid

About the author

Peter Oldani graduated college with a B.S. in biomedical engineering, worked as an EMT to gain hands on experience in emergency medicine and completed active shooter training as part of New York State’s initiative to prepare civilian organizations for disaster response.