Manuka honey shown to be effective treatment on horses’ leg wounds

manuka bush
Honey made by bees who feed on the Manuka bush (or tea tree) has exceptional antibacterial qualities.

Manuka honey has been in our medicine closet for awhile. We use it on cuts and scrapes instead of antibiotic ointments.

Honey has been used to treat wounds for more than 2,000 years and it’s becoming even more important as an antibacterial agent as more strains of bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. In hospitals, honey is used to treat MRSA and other resistant strains.

Manuka honey is one of the “super” honeys.  It is produced by bees that feed on the Manuka plant — also know as the tea tree. Research shows that honey heals primarily because of a natural hydrogen peroxide antibacterial property present in varying levels in most honeys. Manuka honey’s high sugar content creates a waterless environment in which the bacteria that are infecting a wound are unable to survive. Also, thanks to the presence of an enzyme called glucose oxidase, it is acidic, which apparently adds to its unique antibacterial properties.

Manuka honey is available in different “strengths” known as Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) ratings. While this might sound bogus, the strength of the honey does seem to correlate to its healing abilities.

Now researchers in Sydney, Australia, have studied the use of manuka honey on horses’ leg wounds and found that it accelerates healing by as much as 27%.

According to an article in

“Wounds in horses, particularly leg wounds, have long healing periods,” said lead researcher Dr Andrea Bischofberger.

“But we found applying a manuka honey gel throughout healing led to 27 per cent faster healing times.

“Wounds in horses which received no treatment took an average of 64 days to heal, while those treated with manuka honey gel took 47 days to heal,” said Dr Bischofberger, who will present her findings tomorrow at a veterinary science conference.

“When applied for 12 days we found these wounds healed just as well as those treated with pure honey.”

Using a manuka honey gel means expensive bandages can be avoided, Dr Bischofberger explained. “With its faster wound-healing times and its bandage-free application, the manuka honey gel solution is an extremely versatile and affordable topical wound product.”

In a third study, Dr Bischofberger and her colleagues investigated how manuka honey actually worked to speed up wound healing.

While it seems to have an anti-bacterial effect and immune-modifying effect on the key initial healing phase, the inflammatory stage, the honey’s exact healing mechanism is still unclear.

“What we do know is treating wounds with manuka honey leads to healthier tissue regrowth,” Dr Bischofberger said.

“Wounds treated with manuka also showed improved new blood vessel and skin surface growth compared to control wounds.”

It looks like I’d better bring a jar of Manuka honey over to the barn, too.

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