When durable medical equipment Manuka honey isn’t available to treat a chronic wound, can over-the-counter (OTC) honey products serve as an effective substitute? Poster presenters from the 2018 Wild On Wounds national conference looked for evidence in two case studies.

Despite rapid developments in new wound care technology, clinicians are turning to an ancient approach to speed healing and control bioburden: honey.

As early as 3,000 BC, Egyptians and other civilizations relied on honey as a topical wound treatment. With the discovery of antibiotics, however, honey quickly fell out of favor.

As antibiotic resistance drives the search for alternatives today, therapeutic honey enjoys renewed attention from researchers.

Is Manuka honey the only effective option?

Most of the studies on medicinal honey focus on durable medical equipment products, which typically contain honey extracted from the nectar of a Manuka tree.

Based on the evidence, medical-grade Manuka honey has gained esteem among wound care professionals for its increased antimicrobial action compared to other types of honey. Studies also suggest medical-grade Manuka honey contains compounds that jump-start stalled wounds, reduce odor and accelerate healing.

Of course, real-world wound care treatment decisions often depend upon pricing, vendor contracts and reimbursement sources. What are the options when insurance issues and cash costs preclude the use of Manuka-based durable medical equipment products?

In a poster presented at the 2018 Wild On Wounds (WOW) national conference, a team of investigators asked this question.

WOW poster presenters investigate efficacy of OTC honey

In “How Sweet It Is: Use of an OTC Honey-Based Product to Treat Multiple Wound Types,” Michael S. Miller, DO, FACOS, FAPWH, WCC; David Hardin, MD, CWS; and Abel Aquilar, DPM, tested the efficacy of a unique OTC honey-based product on wounds where bacterial influences were not a consideration. They followed two patients who sought treatment at the Indianapolis-based Miller Care Group.

The first case featured an 84-year-old, bed-bound dementia patient who had developed a progressive open area on her left foot, exposing the tendon. Amputation was recommended, but her family refused. The investigators treated her wound twice a week with OTC medicinal honey ointment and a foam border dressing.

The second case was a 29-year-old male who injured his anterior leg during a fitness class. Though the patient had no comorbidities, his wound initially failed to improve after six weeks. Miller’s team applied the OTC honey dressing with four-layer venous compression twice a week.

In both cases, the wounds healed completely, and the patients reported a reduction in wound pain. The investigators cite this as evidence that the OTC honey-based product is an effective treatment in multiple types of wounds.

Miller and his team concluded when durable medical equipment honey products are not available to the patient, OTC honey products should be considered as an alternative.

Educating about OTC honey for wound care

Greg Brown, a representative from Healing Symphony, the OTC honey product used in the study, was thrilled to show the efficacy of his product to more than 1,000 WOW conference participants. The ointment already has found wide acceptance among the Amish, a community excluded from government health insurance programs.

“The cost of treating a diabetic ulcer with honey is one-quarter the cost of usual standard care practices,” Brown said. “Now think about the cost savings compared to an amputation.”

Brown wants more clinicians to contact him to develop additional studies or produce future Wild On Wounds posters to help showcase the benefits of the OTC honey product.

In Brown’s experience, more clinicians simply need hands-on experience with the ointment. He said he loves to see healthcare professions gain new respect for a substance once dismissed as a folk remedy.

How to become a WOW poster presenter

Miller encourages clinicians to create posters for WOW. He views these poster presentations as a valuable opportunity to compare notes, discuss new treatments and confirm the care you give is the best care currently available.

“You need not be on the podium to teach others something new and unique that they can incorporate into their wound care practice,” said Miller, an in-demand conference speaker who leads several WOW sessions each year. “Your poster presentation offers you the opportunity to enhance everyone’s education and knowledge base.”

He looks forward to presenting at WOW 2019 in Las Vegas and considers it a chance to give back to those who took the time to teach him.

If you’re interested in conducting a study for a WOW conference poster, read our blog post about the five steps to create a poster presentation. You must submit your poster abstract by June 30, 2019. Then you’ll be on your way to:

  1. Engaging with other conference attendees

  2. Raising your profile in the wound care industry

  3. Highlighting successes at your facility

  4. Honing your presentation skills

  5. Building relationships with vendors (who may not only sponsor your poster, but also help you with graphics)

  6. Soliciting feedback for future studies or speaking engagements

Miller said every wound care clinician has knowledge to give.

“Everyone treating wounds will encounter a variation on a theme, and interesting presentation of a wound condition, or stumble across a unique way to evaluate and/or treat wounds that improves healing reduces costs, or simply makes life easier for the patient,” he said.

Register to attend this year’s Wild on Wounds Conference.

Keisha Smith, MA, CWCMS

Keisha Smith, MA, CWCMS, is a freelance digital marketing consultant who works with clients in healthcare, law and behavioral health. Her specialties include content creation, social media and brand clarity. As an eight-time Wild On Wounds conference staff member and an alumna of WCEI's training program for wound care marketing professionals, she loves the exceptional passion of clinicians who treat wounds. She frequently finds herself advising friends and family to keep their minor wounds warm and moist.

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