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Wounded? Try honey

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Anti-bacterial properties could make the nectar an effective treatment for sores that refuse to mend.
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With the rise in cases of diabetes, more and more people will suffer from foot ulcers that do not heal and may end up needing amputation because treatment of chronic wounds is so difficult.

But now, an alternative treatment based on a remedy used since antiquity is getting increased attention — smearing wounds with honey.

Manuka Honey, a medicinal honey harvested from beekeepers in New Zealand, is now being marketed for application on wounds. In June, Health Canada approved it under the brand name Medihoney for use as a wound dressing and an anti-microbial. In July, the US Food and Drug Administration cleared it for use in wounds and burns.

The effects of treating wounds with honey have been noted mostly in anecdotal reports and case histories, making it hard for scientists to know whether the remedy compares favourably with standard wound dressings such as hydrogels, silver-impregnated gauzes or topical antibiotics. But in recent years, larger studies have shown promising results, and more are underway.

“In the last few years, a lot of good science has been done in the area,” says Shona Blair, a microbiologist at the University of Sydney, Australia, who studies the anti-bacterial properties of honey.

Chronic wounds are a growing medical problem. Each year, an estimated 100,000 diabetics will lose a limb through amputation, mostly as a result of non-healing wounds.

Acute wounds are usually treated by keeping them moist and sterile, which promotes the innate wound-healing ability of the body. But in patients with underlying conditions such as diabetes, a small crack in the skin often fails to heal and can develop into a chronic wound.

Such a wound runs a great risk of becoming infected, which in turn reduces the chance of healing — a vicious cycle that can lead to severe infection, even down to the bone. Chronic wounds are at times treated surgically, by removing dead skin to promote healing. Patients are also treated with off-loading orthotic shoes to prevent applying pressure on the wound, but these are cumbersome and rarely efficiently used.

The honey treatment involves putting it on bandages and applying it to wounds. Because there is a concern among some physicians that untreated honey may carry a risk of botulism — a rare but fatal disease caused by contamination — companies such as Comvita, which markets Medihoney, irradiate the product to sterilise it.

There are several possible ways that honey helps wounds heal, researchers say.

Honey, rich in sugars, provides a hyperosmotic environment — meaning it will suck the water out of bacteria, killing them.

Honey is antibacterial in other ways too. During its creation, worker bees add an enzyme — glucose oxidase — to the nectar they’ve collected. When the honey is applied to a wound, it is exposed to oxygen in the air, and the glucose oxidase produces hydrogen peroxide — bleach — killing the bacteria.

Honey, Blair adds, seems to be active against troublesome antibiotic-resistant strains such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — an important thing, because chronic wounds are often colonised by such bacteria. She’s tested various Australian and New Zealand honeys against bacterial strains obtained from hospitals and found that even the strains most resistant to antibiotics failed to grow and were killed in the presence of honey.

Peter Molan, a New Zealand biochemist at the University of Waikato, has reported that Manuka honey, named after a New Zealand tree, can stop bacterial growth even when diluted up to 56 times. And in studies in piglets and rats he’s found that honey has anti-inflammatory properties, stimulating skin to grow into a wound, advancing its closure.

Patient case histories also provide evidence that honey can help wounds heal. In 2001, Dr Jennifer Eddy, associate professor at the department of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin, US, was treating a patient with an extreme case of diabetic foot ulcer. It had refused to heal despite treatment with conventional remedies: surgical debridement (or removal of dead tissue), antibiotics, hydrogel dressings and use of an off-loading orthotic.

The foot was infected down to the bone. With the threat of amputation looming, Eddy treated the patient’s wound with honey, smearing it on the bandage and applying it to the wound.

The wound healed, the leg was salvaged, and in 2005 Eddy published the case report in the Journal of Family Practice. There are more than 200 similar case reports in the medical literature, according to a 2006 review, for a wide variety of chronic wounds — diabetic foot ulcers, ulcers due to insufficient venous or arterial blood flow, bed sores, burns, wounds containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria and ones caused by weakened immunity.

Anecdotes are one thing, but the medical gold standard is a clinical trial. And that is a problem for honey, Eddy says. Last year, while at a conference, she discussed with a colleague the possibility of conducting a trial on honey. “He told me, ‘There’s no money in honey’,” she says.

Eddy did manage to obtain funds for a randomised, clinical trial comparing store-bought honey against standard treatments for intractable foot ulcers. Since March, seven patients have been recruited; the goal is to recruit 40. Results are expected in about two years, Eddy says.

A three-year-long study at the University of Bonn, Germany, reported good healing rates in the use of honey as a dressing for wounds in 15 children with cancer, a population prone to non-healing ulcers because of weakened immunity after radiation and chemotherapy.

Preliminary results of another clinical trial comparing honey with hydrogel dressings in 100 patients with chronic leg ulcers were presented in May at a wound meeting in Scotland. The honey-dressing group healed faster and had less infection than the standard treatment group.

Other studies are underway: One, at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, will compare a honey-based anti-bacterial wound gel product to standard treatment in about 80 children with burns. A smaller pilot study will look at honey treatment in head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiation.

Some specialists are not too optimistic about the benefits of honey in wound management. “It’s good with butter and bread — I don’t think honey on Band-Aid is the answer,” says Dr Adrian Barbul, chair of surgery at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University.

But Dr Arne Simon, director of paediatric oncology at the Children’s Hospital of Bonn University and first author of the study on children with cancer, says that although more clinical studies are needed, the data for the children, at least, looked good. Specialists, he says, should consider standardised honey when faced with other wounds that just don’t want to heal.

Click to read the usefulness of honey 

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Health Alert

Can Chocolate Benefit Your Health & Brain?

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A special cocoa, designed to retain naturally occurring flavanols, could help maintain healthy brain function. This could eventually lead to new weapons against cognitive decline and dementia.

Several studies have indicated that flavanols could improve blood vessel function.

For example, research has shown that the indigenous population living on islands near Panama, who consume a type of cocoa rich in flavanols on a daily basis, also experience unusually low rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

The relative risk of death from heart disease on the Panama mainland is 1,280 percent higher than on the islands.

These benefits might also extend to the brain, and could have effects on learning and memory. British researchers studied the results on the brains of young women by studying their brains via magnetic resonance imaging while completing a complex task.

Consumption of the special cocoa resulted in regional changes in brain blood flow for as long as three hours, meaning that cocoa flavanols may have potential as a treatment of vascular damage within the brain.

One of these flavanols — epicatechin — is responsible for the vascular benefits the Kuna Indians, mentioned above, experience when they drank certain cocoas. Epicatechin results in improved circulation and higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood.

The beneficial chocolate bioflavanoids are actually in the relatively cacao bean.

Not only can consuming small amounts of this type of chocolate protect your heart, it may also enhance blood flow to your brain and improve your cognitive health as you age.

Before you run to the grocery store in search of the perfect chocolate, however, scientists agree patients receive the most benefits from minimally-processed dark chocolate. Some guidelines to keep in mind about consuming chocolate;

Consume chocolate only in moderation.

Stay with dark chocolate because it has antioxidant properties that protect your body from oxidative stress.

Eat chocolate only if you’re healthy.

From a nutritional perspective, most people know that there are better foods to eat than chocolate, though from a pleasure perspective plenty of people would disagree.
However, many people are reluctant to give up chocolate even though they know it’s not the best food out there, and most people feel they are depriving themselves if they don’t allow themselves a treat every so often.

If You’re Not Healthy, Don’t Eat It
Chocolate, even if it is dark, still contains large quantities of sugar, and eating sugar is one of the most devastating things you can do to your health. If you’re sick, your immune system is working hard to combat your illness, but sugar weakens the immune system. So eating chocolate will only make it harder for your immune system to fight the illness.

If you have a chronic health problem, the most important physical thing you can do for your health is to stop all sugar. If you want to know more about the negative effects of sugar, check out Nancy Appleton’s article, “124 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health.”

Avoid Eating Too Much Chocolate
Even if you’re healthy, you don’t want to eat huge amounts of chocolate. The key is to eat it in moderation (something like once every two weeks) and enjoy it when you eat it. A small bit of chocolate can be very satisfying if you savor each bite, rather than just wolfing it down.

It’s also important to recognize when you eat chocolate. If you are constantly craving sweets, you are likely not eating the correct balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates for your Metabolic Type. If you tend to crave chocolate when you are upset, bored or lonely, then you could benefit from resolving these underlying emotional issues (and we all have them) that are driving you to seek comfort from chocolate.

It’s also possible to be addicted to chocolate. If you have chocolate cravings that are just too strong to pass up, then this likely applies to you.

Help taken from:Mercola.com