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Saving Feet With Honey
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Saving Feet With Honey

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Treating infections with sugar and honey goes back for centuries.  With the expense of antibiotic therapy, along with the inevitable bacterial mutations that weaken their effectiveness, I wonder why we don't use honey therapy more often for wound infections.

stronghoneybeeclipartThis article about an unassuming physician from North Carolina deserves to be read again if you missed it.

From The Hickory Daily Record:

" MORGANTON -- Ancient Egyptians were the first to treat wounds with honey. But with the discovery of antibiotics, the sweet stuff surrendered to the latest in treatment options and was essentially forgotten.

Much like recalling a distant memory, Dr. Frank Steele is reviving the use of honey, along with polarized light therapy, for wound care and, in some cases, an alternative solution to amputation.

Steele, a general surgeon, is now medical director of the Comprehensive Wound Healing Center at Valdese Hospital and at Blue Ridge HealthCare’s new Affinity Face and Body Center.

Steele said as a youngster he recalled seeing a short movie about an African Safari where a villager used honey to treat a child’s sore leg.

“I never thought that almost six decades later I would be doing the same thing,” he said.

Returning from recent trips to San Diego and Toronto, Steele has presented his latest work titled “Healing problem wounds using a combination of polarized light and honey.”


With this successful treatment, amputations of several limbs have been prevented.

“He’s good,” Elsie Parlier said. With severe ulcers on both feet, more than one physician told her amputation was her only option. “They told me they would have to take my feet off,” Parlier said, “and I told them I would do what I could.”

She made an appointment with Steele, who had doubts about saving her right foot. “He saved both of them,” Parlier said.

Now using a walker, Parlier lives on her own after spending eight months in various rest homes where Steele would bring his portable polarized light and honey filled syringe.

“One therapist told me I would never walk, and I came home walking with a walker in March,” she said.

Parlier also went through skin grafts and hyperbaric oxygen treatments to complete the healing process. She continues to receive treatment of polarized light and applications of honey and sterile dressing.

For more than eight years Steele has worked with polarized light for the treatment of some wounds.

“It will either help or do nothing,” he has told patients.

“It can’t burn you and it helps relieve pain,” he said about the temperature light, which only reaches 56 degrees and is much like light reflecting off the surface of a mirror.

He also cleans the wounds and does what they call surgical debridement - removing the dead tissue from the wound.

Nothing to Lose

In 2002, Steele was treating a colleague with one amputated leg who suffered from diabetes, bad kidneys and a bad heart.

“Losing that other foot meant a lot to him. Without it he would become dependent,” Steele said.

He began polarized light treatment, which healed a spot, but after five months, the extreme inflammation and MRSA created complications, and a hole emerged in one toe. “Conventional treatment was to take off his leg.” Steele said.

Antibiotics go where there’s blood supply and with dead tissue, no antibiotic could get there, he added. Since honey isn’t dependent on the blood supply to get there, it eventually produced results.

The colleague said he had nothing to lose and asked Steele to put honey in the hole.

“We applied honey every day for two and a half months. He was getting better almost immediately and kept his leg,” Steele said.

During recent wound symposiums, Steele has shown documented photographs of the treatment. As a true test, a 76-year-old female diabetic presented a challenge for the honey treatment with venous stasis ulcers that remained after undergoing four years of treatment at another wound center.

“Following 10 months of treatment with honey the treated leg literally looks better than her other, non-treated leg,” Steele said.

FDA approved dressings made with manuka honey in alginate sponges are being used in some nursing homes. Manuka honey is produced from the manuka, a wild New Zealand shrub.

Steele’s results have been from locally-produced, raw, non-pasteurized honey which contains an enzyme that causes slow molecular changes.

“Antibiotics work on the developing germ - the next generation - while honey works on this generation,” Steele said. “If you put a germ in honey it will suck the water out of the germ. Essentially germs can’t live in honey.”

The light and honey are not dependent on each other. “The light puts energy in the wound and reduces pain while the honey messes with the germs,” Steele said. Currently, he credits saving seven limbs from four of his patients.

Another patient was told by three different physicians she would need amputations to treat her pressure sores.

“When I first saw her she couldn’t stand up. Now she is walking, driving and very happy,” Steele said.

In fact she called just to let him know she was shopping and said, “Thank you.”

Steele said, “A number of places are using honey as a first line of treatment not if all else fails.“

More on this topic:


Study: Manuka Honey Dressings Decrease Wound pH, Size

... non healing wounds have an elevated alkaline environment. The acidic pH of Manuka honey makes it a potential treatment for lowering wound pH, but the duration of effect is unknown. Lowering wound pH can potentially reduce protease.

Derma Sciences MEDIHONEY(TM) Helps to Save Patient’s Limb

patented honey-based technology — and is the leading brand of honey-based dressings for the management of wounds and burns. The product has been shown to be effective in a variety of wounds and burns, and was recently ...

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