Healing Honey

Healing Honey

Tom Sawyer declared to Huck Finn that warts could be cured by spunk (stump) water and a magic chant … Huck maintained it was better to use a dead cat.*

While we laugh at such odd notions today, the fact is, many “old time” remedies should have a permanent place in our home medicine cabinet. In fact, a friend recently advised me that soaking with common vinegar will indeed (over a few day’s time) remove a wart.

Some time-tested, common cures and treatments are now being seriously investigated under laboratory conditions with interesting results. Grandma didn’t know exactly how or why they worked, she only knew that they did.

One of the most useful items in our cupboard is ordinary, humble honey. We might expect honey to be useful for soothing a sore throat when added to hot herbal tea (or brandy), but its medicinal uses are many.

Due to its wound-healing properties, it was used extensively during the Civil War. Doctors in battlefield hospitals, known more for butchery than for surgical success, used honey as both an immediate field dressing and for post-surgical treatment of wounds. As well as needing no refrigeration, honey also had the advantage of being readily available (a short scouting trip of the surrounding countryside usually could produce a “honey tree”), and it could be put into jars or oilcloth packets and easily transported.

The notion of “germs” was still rather vague back then, so they couldn’t have known that honey has natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties derived from enzymes in what my uncle called “bee spit”. They only knew it was useful.

Those same properties also make it helpful for treating minor burns. One old-time method was to slather butter or fat on the burn, a treatment we now know does more harm than good. The reason is, you want a wound of any kind to “breathe” and not be sealed … butter can trap bacteria and actually encourage infection. I was always taught to just use plain ice on a minor burn, then pat dry and cover with a clean bandage.

But additionally, according to a blurb in the Health section of the New York Times*, scientists have now found that honey may be a quick and easy treatment to soothe and promote healing of minor burns. One study in 2006 examined results of more than a dozen previous studies and found that small, non-serious burns healed faster when treated with gauze and a dash of honey, on average, than those treated with antibiotic creams and other dressings. A separate report published earlier found similar results.

So take the honey jar on your next camping trip … you might just find it comes in handy.

Yours in health …

* Tom Sawyer; Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain)
* “Honey Can Soothe a Burn” by Anahad O’Connor; NYTimes, Feb 19, 2008

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