With the popularity of natural treatments on the rise, it’s no surprise that manuka honey—which is produced by bees—visiting the manuka bush found exclusively in New Zealand, has gained a good deal of attention. Vendors claim that it has antibacterial wound-healing properties in humans and in experimental animals.

But can it help wounds heal faster in horses than they would if left untreated? Researchers at the University of Sydney decided to find out, and they presented their findings at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas.

Presenter Andrew Dart, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, director of the university’s Veterinary Science Research and Clinical Training Unit, described two controlled studies in which he and colleagues used manuka honey on horse wounds. One evaluated UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) 20 manuka honey to see if it helped heal wounds faster, while the second compared a 66% manuka honey and water gel to 100% manuka honey for wound healing.

“Honey has been used on wounds for many years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, because its high sugar content and osmolarity draw water out of wounds and reduce edema (fluid swelling),” Dart said. “It also pulls water out of bacterial cells and helps kill them and has a low pH (slightly acidic).”

Manuka honey’s antibacterial activity works via the methylglyoxal compound, which affects bacterial RNA and protein synthesis, he explained. It has both antibacterial and immune-modulating properties, which he said makes it attractive as a wound-healing agent.

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