Honey Dressings for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Millions of people all over the world are living with diabetes, a chronic condition that affects how the body regulates blood sugar. While diabetes itself presents numerous challenges, one of the most concerning complications is the development of diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs). These open wounds, typically located on the bottom of the foot, affect roughly 15% of diabetic individuals at some point in their lives.

DFUs arise from a complex interplay of factors, including poor blood circulation due to nerve damage (neuropathy) and hardened arteries (peripheral artery disease). This impaired blood flow significantly hinders the delivery of oxygen and nutrients essential for wound healing, leaving the foot vulnerable to infections and further complications. Additionally, diabetic neuropathy can lead to a loss of sensation, making it difficult to detect injuries and pressure points that could exacerbate ulcer formation.

A symbole Honey Dressings for Diabetic Foot Ulcers containing honey on left side and Monaka honey dressing on Right side.

Regular dressings are very important to managing diabetic foot ulcers. It plays an important role in healing wounds faster and reducing infection. In this article we will discuss honey dressing, its advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking for some interesting information about honey dressings for diabetic foot ulcers, then you are definitely in the right place.

Honey and its Antibacterial Properties

Honey, the golden nectar produced by bees, occupies a unique place in human history and culture. Beyond its delicious taste, honey has a variety of attractive properties and is a versatile natural product with potential applications in a variety of fields, including wound healing. But what makes honey so special in this context?

Firstly, it’s important to recognize that honey isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Different floral sources bees visit create a diverse range of honey types, each boasting unique characteristics and flavors. Manuka honey, for instance, sourced from the Manuka bush in New Zealand, is renowned for its potent antibacterial activity. Other notable varieties include clover, buckwheat, and orange blossom honey, each of them has different kinds of beneficial components.

Let’s have a look…

Manuka Honey:

  • Origin: Produced by bees feeding on the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) in New Zealand and Australia.
  • Antibacterial: Manuka honey is renowned for its potent antibacterial activity due to the presence of a unique compound called methylglyoxal (MGO). MGO exhibits effectiveness against various bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The higher the MGO content (measured in UMF or MGO rating), the stronger the antibacterial activity.
  • Antiviral: Studies suggest Manuka honey may have antiviral properties against certain viruses, including herpes simplex virus and influenza virus. However, more research is needed to confirm its efficacy.

Clover Honey:

  • Origin: Produced by bees feeding on clover flowers, widely available in temperate regions.
  • Antibacterial: Clover honey demonstrates moderate antibacterial activity against various bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Studies suggest it may be as effective as some antibiotics against specific strains.
  • Antiviral: Some studies indicate potential antiviral activity against the chickenpox virus, but further research is required.

Buckwheat Honey:

  • Origin: Produced by bees feeding on buckwheat flowers, known for its dark color and strong flavor.
  • Antibacterial: Buckwheat honey exhibits antibacterial activity against various bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. It may also be effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Antiviral: Studies suggest potential antiviral activity against the herpes simplex virus and influenza virus, but more research is needed.

Orange Blossom Honey:

  • Origin: Produced by bees feeding on orange blossoms, known for its light color and citrusy flavor.
  • Antibacterial: Orange blossom honey shows moderate antibacterial activity against some bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
  • Antiviral: Limited research suggests potential antiviral activity against the herpes simplex virus, but further studies are necessary.

The magic behind honey’s antibacterial properties lies in its intricate composition. One key player is hydrogen peroxide, a natural disinfectant produced by the enzyme glucose oxidase in honey. This compound effectively combats harmful bacteria, creating a hostile environment for their growth and proliferation. Additionally, honey contains methylglyoxal, a powerful antibacterial compound produced during honey production. Research suggests that methylglyoxal has broad-spectrum activity against different bacteria, including some antibiotic-resistant strains.

But honey’s benefits extend beyond just fighting bacteria. Its high sugar content creates a hyperosmolar environment, drawing water away from bacteria and dehydrating them, further hindering their growth. Additionally, honey possesses anti-inflammatory properties, potentially reducing swelling and pain associated with wound healing. Some studies even suggest that honey may promote tissue regeneration by stimulating the growth of new skin cells.

Research on Honey Dressings for DFUs

The potential of honey in wound healing has garnered significant research attention, and studies investigating its efficacy in DFUs show promising results. Several key findings have emerged:

  • Faster Healing: Research suggests honey dressings may accelerate wound closure compared to conventional dressings. A meta-analysis of multiple studies revealed a 26% reduction in healing time with honey usage. This accelerated healing can significantly improve patient outcomes and prevent complications.
  • Infection Control: Honey’s potent antibacterial properties shine against common wound pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Studies demonstrate reduced bacterial counts and lower infection rates in wounds treated with honey dressings compared to standard care. This translates to a decreased risk of serious complications like osteomyelitis and amputations.
  • Pain Relief: The anti-inflammatory effects of honey offer pain reduction benefits for patients with DFUs. Studies report significant improvements in pain scores compared to traditional dressings, providing much-needed comfort and improving quality of life.
  • Beyond the Buzz: Various types of honey dressings exist, each with its own application method. Medical-grade honey, sterilized and standardized for purity, is often incorporated into gauze pads or gels. Alternatively, honey-impregnated wound dressings offer convenient pre-packaged options. Choosing the most suitable type depends on individual needs and healthcare professional recommendations.

While the research paints a positive picture, limitations exist. Some studies show mixed results regarding healing rate and pain relief, highlighting the need for further investigation with larger sample sizes and controlled settings. Additionally, standardization of honey used in research and commercially available dressings remains a concern, emphasizing the importance of seeking professional guidance before self-treating with honey at home.

Despite these limitations, the body of research suggests honey dressings offer a promising complementary therapy for managing DFUs. Their potential to accelerate healing, reduce infection, and alleviate pain warrants further exploration and integration into comprehensive wound care plans.

Practical Considerations for Using Honey Dressings

Before venturing into the world of honey dressings, remember: consult your healthcare professional first. They can assess your individual needs, ensure compatibility with other medications, and guide you on proper application within your overall wound care plan.

Now, let’s dive into the practicalities:

Selecting the Right Honey:

  • Medical-grade honey: Opt for this sterilized and standardized option for optimal purity and consistency.
  • Raw honey: Choose unprocessed, high-quality honey from a reputable source. Ensure it’s free of additives and potential contaminants.

Application with Care:

  1. Cleanse the wound thoroughly as directed by your healthcare professional.
  2. Apply a thin layer of honey directly on the wound or use a honey-impregnated dressing.
  3. Cover with a sterile secondary dressing to protect the area and absorb excess moisture.
  4. Change the dressing regularly, following your healthcare professional’s instructions. Frequency depends on wound size, drainage, and healing progress.

Monitoring for Success (and Concerns):

  • Track wound healing: Observe for signs of improvement, such as reduced redness and swelling, and smaller wound size.
  • Watch for signs of infection: Be alert to increased pain, redness, swelling, pus drainage, or fever – seek immediate medical attention if these occur.
  • Maintain regular appointments: Keep your healthcare professional informed of your progress and any concerns you may have.


  • Never apply honey directly to an infected wound.
  • Inform your healthcare professional about all medications you are taking. Some medications may interact with honey.
  • Store honey dressings at room temperature.
  • Do not use expired honey.

By following these practical guidelines and prioritizing professional guidance, you can harness the potential benefits of honey dressings while ensuring safe and effective wound care for your DFUs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Honey Dressings

Honey dressings offer several advantages:

  • Affordability: Compared to some specialized wound dressings, honey can be a more cost-effective option.
  • Availability: Raw honey is widely available, offering convenient access to this potential treatment.
  • Potential Effectiveness: Research suggests benefits in terms of healing rate, infection control, and pain relief.

However, it’s crucial to recognize some drawbacks:

  • Allergic Reactions: While rare, allergies to honey can occur, leading to skin irritation or more severe reactions.
  • Sticky Nature: Raw honey can be messy and difficult to apply, potentially impacting adherence and comfort.
  • Standardization Concerns: Purity and potency can vary in commercially available honey dressings, highlighting the importance of choosing reputable brands or opting for medical-grade honey under professional guidance.

Again, Never apply honey directly to open wounds without consulting a healthcare professional. They can assess individual suitability, recommend appropriate options, and guide proper application within a comprehensive wound care plan.

FAQ’s About Honey Dressings for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Can you use honey in a diabetic foot ulcer?

While research suggests benefits of honey dressings for diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs), consulting your healthcare professional is crucial before using it on open wounds. They can assess your individual needs, advise on suitability, and recommend appropriate options if honey dressings are a viable option for your specific case.

What is the best dressing for diabetic foot ulcers?

There is no single “best” dressing for all DFUs. The most effective approach depends on individual factors like wound size, depth, and infection status. Your healthcare professional will recommend the most suitable dressing based on your specific needs, which may include honey dressings as a complementary option in certain cases.

Can honey heal ulcer wounds?

Initial research suggests honey dressings may promote faster healing for DFUs. However, more research is needed to definitively confirm and understand the full extent of this effect. Remember, proper wound care also involves addressing underlying factors like blood sugar control and offloading pressure from the affected foot.

What is the use of honey wound dressing?

Honey wound dressings aim to:

  • Reduce infection: Honey’s natural antibacterial properties help combat bacteria that can impede healing and lead to complications.
  • Promote healing: Honey may stimulate tissue regeneration and blood vessel growth, contributing to faster wound closure.
  • Manage pain: Honey’s anti-inflammatory properties may reduce pain and discomfort associated with DFUs.
Can you leave honey on a wound?

Never apply raw honey directly to an open wound without professional guidance. Opt for medical-grade honey or commercially available honey dressings recommended by your healthcare professional. They will advise on proper application, frequency of changing the dressing, and potential interactions with other medications.


Honey dressings, with their unique antibacterial and wound-healing properties, offer a promising avenue for managing diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs). Research suggests faster healing, reduced infection risk, and pain relief, making them a potential complement to traditional wound care. However, be careful when navigating the world of honey dressings. Remember that it is most important to consult a doctor. They will assess your individual needs, recommend appropriate options, and assist in their appropriate use as part of your individual wound care plan.

Although initial  findings are promising, further research is needed to solidify the role of honey in DFU management. Standardization of honey products and larger-scale studies are crucial steps forward. Additionally, research exploring honey combined with other therapeutic agents has exciting potential for future advancements.

One thing is certain:  the path to better wound care for DFU continues to evolve.

Honey plays a valuable role in this journey due to its natural sweetness and potential healing powers, but always remember that expert guidance is  key to using it safely and effectively.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult with your healthcare professional before using any new treatment, including honey dressings.

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