Honey is a very sticky, runny substance and using it on a wound dressing can be a very messy business. Researchers had to solve this problem before they could develop a Mānuka honey dressing for sale. So how did they do this?

Using honey directly

You can put honey directly onto a wound. But honey is quite sticky, which makes it difficult to spread over a large area. It also runs if it gets too warm (due to body heat). Can you imagine having honey running down your leg because you’ve used it on a cut on your knee?

Dressing the right way

As well as avoiding a mess, it is important for honey to stay on the wound if it is going to help the healing process. Researchers at the University of Waikato found that the best way to do this was to soak the wound dressing in honey. But honey is extremely concentrated with sugar, and very few materials will soak it up.

From prototype to product

Professor Peter Molan tried many prototypes before finding the perfect material for a honey wound dressing: fibres made from a seaweed material called alginate.

Making the ideal dressing

Developing the Mānuka honey wound dressing has taken a lot of hard work, ideas, wounds, and conversations between researchers and woundcare specialists.

The goal: A Mānuka honey dressing that is easy to use, safe, and really heals wounds.

 

Testing in the clinic

Before they could be made commercially, the dressings needed to be tried out by doctors and nurses – and patients needed to agree to their use.

The trials also needed to be carefully set up so that fair comparisons could be made between the honey dressings and other standard wound dressings. This is because any medical product must be scientifically proven to work before it can be sold – and before doctors and nurses will recommend its use.

Trial results

A trial of Mānuka honey wound dressings found that they were better than other dressings at getting rid of superbug infections and stimulating healing. After four weeks the superbug MRSA was eradicated from 70% of the honey treated wounds, but from only 16% of the hydrogel treated wounds. Researchers also found using Mānuka honey significantly reduced wound pain after one week.

A 108-patient trial looked at venous leg ulcers that had not healed under standard treatment. Half the patients had a common wound care gel added to their treatment, and the other half received the Mānuka dressing. After 12 weeks, around 44% of the honey group had complete healing, compared to 33% in the control group. 

From bees to bandages

Testing different dressing materials and trialing prototypes has led to the production of a Mānuka honey wound dressing, which is now sold worldwide by Comvita.

These dressings have lots of practical and medical advantages: They are easy to use, they kill bacteria and help tissue to regrow and lots of people like the fact that they use a natural ingredient: honey.

 

    Published 1 June 2007, Updated 26 April 2011