More Evidence to Support Manuka Honey Use in Horse Wounds
It can take a frustrating amount of time and energy to ensure some horse wounds—especially those in challenging locations—heal. Veterinarians and owners alike are often willing to try an array of salves, sprays, and biological dressings to facilitate a positive outcome. But a researcher recently reminded equine practitioners to reach for a particular product, one that created some “buzz” a few years ago.: Honey, particularly manuka honey, can also help wound healing.

“Manuka honey comes from honeybees that collect nectar from this manuka bush’s flowers,” said Albert Tsang, BVSc (Hons.), a research student at the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science, in New South Wales, Australia, during a presentation at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 17-21, in San Antonio, Texas. “This type of honey has antibacterial and immunomodulatory effects, and recent studies support the use of manuka honey on wound healing in the equine distal (lower) limb—a notoriously challenging location to treat effectively and economically.”

Whether different types of manuka honey help healing wounds similarly and if a certain “special” ingredient exists in manuka honey compared to regular honey remain to be determined. To help answer these questions, Tsang and colleagues created full-thickness skin wounds (2.5 cm2) on eight horses’ cannon bones. They treated the wounds with manuka honey, multi-floral honey, or a saline control.

The team found that wounds treated with manuka honey healed faster than those treated with either generic honey or saline. Specifically, healing times were 90.78, 100.3, and 101.36 days, respectively.

“It is possible that processing using heat of generic honey may have inactivated some of the biologically active molecules in honey that contribute to wound healing,” he said.

Tsang also noted that the clinical effects on healing naturally occurring wounds caused by trauma and that were contaminated (as wounds occurring in the field often are) might actually be even better than those observed in the current study. The underlying reason for this difference, however, remains unclear.

The researchers’ next step involves isolating manuka honey’s bioactive constituents with the goal of further improving equine wound healing.