Holistic Therapies: Using Honey For Skin Lesions

  • Irenosen AddehMaster of Science (MSc), Public Health, University of Debrecen, Hungary

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Introduction

Definition of holistic therapies

Holistic Therapy is a comprehensive approach to healthcare that considers the whole person in treatment. It recognizes the interconnectedness of various aspects of an individual's well-being. Besides addressing the physical and mental aspects of treatment, it also emphasises the importance of considering one's social and spiritual well-being.

This approach acknowledges that these different facets of our lives are closely intertwined, and when they are harmoniously balanced, the potential for healing and wellness increases significantly.

Importance of holistic approaches for skin health

Skin conditions can negatively impact the quality of life, treating them on a surface level (i.e., only treating the symptoms) may provide a temporary relief but does not always treat the underlying condition.1 Holistic approaches promote long-term skin health, and do this in several different ways: 

  1. They can help identify the root cause by evaluating hormonal imbalances, stressors, lifestyle factors, gut health, and any other contributing factors
  2. Each person’s skin is different, and holistic approaches take into account individual variations, allowing for personalised treatment plans that consider specific needs/preferences
  3. They often minimise invasive methods and prioritise natural processes, thus reducing potential adverse reactions
  4. Holistic approaches can address the whole person's condition and improve not just the appearance of the skin but also promote overall wellness, including mental and emotional health

Overview of skin lesions

Definition and types of skin lesions

Skin lesions are distinctive areas of the skin that stand out from surrounding areas because of variations in size, shape, and colour. These marks typically arise from damage or injury to a specific skin region. There are two main classifications for these lesions: primary and secondary.

Primary skin lesions originate on previously healthy skin and include moles, skin tags, blisters, freckles, and benign growths that are not cancerous. On the other hand, secondary skin lesions develop due to trauma or changes to primary lesions and can manifest as ulcers, scars, or sores.

Common causes of skin lesions

Various skin lesions can be attributed to a wide range of potential causes. Some of these causes are:

  • Hereditary: inherited from parents and appear as birthmarks or moles
  • Bacterial or viral infections: such as those caused by viruses like HIV or bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus
  • Immune responses triggered by allergic reactions
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) radiation from the sun
  • Adverse effects of medications
  • Underlying medical conditions

The healing properties of honey

Honey, a natural product of bees, is known to have medicinal properties besides to its nutritional properties. It has, since ancient times, been used to treat burns, ulcers and boils among other things. Its healing properties come from the fact that it has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, moisturising and wound-healing properties.2 Honey as a medicine, can improve immunity, apparent infection of wounds, reduce inflammation, improve tissue healing and balance sugar in the body, among other things. 

Antibacterial properties

Honey can dehydrate bacteria by drawing moisture out of the environment, and it can also prevent microbial growth by making the environment inhabitable, owing to its high sugar content, low pH3 and hydrogen peroxide content; thus preventing or stopping bacterial infections. 

Anti-inflammatory properties

Honey is made up of many compounds, including water, sugar, minerals, vitamins, and many more, but it is the flavonoids4 (chemical compounds) found in honey that mitigate and reduce inflammation. Honey also disrupts bacteria's cell wall and membrane, thus removing the bacteria that trigger inflammation.

Moisturizing and wound-healing properties

Honey can be used to accelerate the process of wound healing.3 Honey's high sugar content creates an environment that encourages wound healing by drawing moisture to the area and promoting the formation of new tissue.

Honey also triggers the leukocytes (white blood cells) to release cytokines, which are small proteins that control the activity and growth of various immune cells. And this is what stimulates an immune response to infection, and initiates the tissue repair process. 

Using honey for skin lesions

Preparations and applications

  1. Choose the correct type of honey: To get the best possible results, use raw, unprocessed honey, which retains its natural and beneficial properties. Manuka honey is often recommended for its potent antimicrobial properties. However, other types of raw, unprocessed honey can also be effective
  2. Cleanse the affected area: Before applying the honey, cleanse the affected area gently with mild soap and water
  3. Apply the honey directly: Use a clean cotton swab or sterile gauze to apply a thin layer of honey directly onto the lesion
  4. Protect the area with a bandage: If possible, cover the area with a sterile dressing or bandage to prevent any dirt or contaminants from entering
  5. Leave it on and change it regularly: Apply the honey to the skin lesion for several hours or overnight and change the dressing regularly to maintain cleanliness

Potential side effects or allergic reactions

  1. Allergic reactions: While rare, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to honey. If you experience any itching, redness, or swelling after applying the honey, discontinue use and seek medical attention
  2. Sensitivity to bees: If you are allergic to bee stings or have a known sensitivity to bee products, it is essential to exercise caution when using honey topically. Consult with a healthcare professional before applying honey to your skin
  3. Contaminated or adulterated honey: Ensure that the honey you use is of high quality and free from contaminants, additives, or adulteration. Purchase honey from reputable sources or local beekeepers to minimise the risk of complications

    Other holistic therapies for skin lesions

    Apart from honey, many other holistic therapies could be used for skin lesions. Some of these are: 

    Essential oils

    These are highly concentrated plant extracts used in traditional medicine for various purposes, including treating skin conditions. Some essential oils that may help with skin lesions include tea tree oil, lavender oil, and frankincense oil.

    Tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it beneficial for treating skin infections and reducing inflammation associated with skin lesions. However, diluting tea tree oil before using it topically is important to avoid skin irritation.

    Lavender oil may help reduce skin lesions' inflammation, redness, and itchiness. Like tea tree oil, it should be diluted before being applied directly to the skin.

    Aloe vera

    Aloe vera is a popular natural remedy known for its soothing and healing properties. It contains compounds promoting wound healing, reducing inflammation, and moisturising skin. Applying aloe vera gel directly to skin lesions can help soothe the area and aid in healing. It is generally safe to use and well-tolerated by most individuals.

    Conclusion

    By embracing holistic therapies and incorporating natural remedies, individuals can promote their overall well-being and achieve healthier skin. This approach comprises the following vital elements: 

    1. Balanced diet: A nutritious diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins provides the necessary nutrients to support overall skin health
    2. Hydration: Adequate hydration is crucial for maintaining skin health. Drinking enough water helps keep the skin hydrated from within
    3. Skincare routine: Establishing a regular skincare routine that includes gentle cleansing, moisturising, and sun protection is essential for maintaining skin health
    4. Stress management: Effective stress reduction techniques such as meditation, exercise, or engaging in activities you enjoy can help promote healthy skin
    5. Quality sleep: Getting sufficient sleep allows the skin to rejuvenate and repair itself naturally
    6. Avoiding harsh chemicals: Limiting exposure to harsh chemicals in certain skincare products and opting for natural alternatives whenever possible can help protect the skin from potential damage

    By integrating these practices into daily life, individuals can enhance their skin health and achieve a beautiful and radiant complexion.

    Exploring natural remedies like honey for skin health can offer numerous advantages. Here are some compelling reasons to consider incorporating honey into your skincare routine:

    • Natural healing properties: With its long history of use, honey is known for its potential wound healing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties
    • Availability: Honey is easily accessible and inexpensive, which makes it a convenient option for addressing skin concerns
    • Potential benefits: Studies suggest that honey may aid wound healing, reduce infection rates, and enhance scar appearance
    • Gentle and safe: Honey is well-tolerated and considered safe for topical use, with minimal side effects
    • Complementary approach: Natural remedies like honey can work alongside traditional medical treatments, complementing the overall healing process

    Summary

    By considering these factors, you can harness the potential benefits of honey and explore its natural healing properties as part of your skincare journey.

    Please note that while honey has been used for centuries for various skin conditions, it's always recommended to consult a dermatologist or healthcare professional before trying new remedies, especially if you have pre-existing skin conditions or allergies. They can provide personalised recommendations based on your individual needs and medical history.

    References

    1. Dreno B, Amici JM, Demessant-Flavigny AL, Wright C, Taieb C, Desai SR, et al. The impact of acne, atopic dermatitis, skin toxicities and scars on quality of life and the importance of a holistic treatment approach. CCID [Internet]. 2021 Jun [cited 2023 Nov 8];Volume 14:623–32. Available from: https://www.dovepress.com/the-impact-of-acne-atopic-dermatitis-skin-toxicities-and-scars-on-qual-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-CCID
    2. Hadagali MD, Chua LS. The anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties of honey. Eur Food Res Technol [Internet]. 2014 Dec [cited 2023 Nov 7];239(6):1003–14. Available from: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s00217-014-2297-6
    3. Yaghoobi R, Kazerouni A, Kazerouni O. Evidence for clinical use of honey in wound healing as an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory anti-oxidant and anti-viral agent: a review. Jundishapur J Nat Pharm Prod [Internet]. 2013 Jul 17 [cited 2023 Nov 8];8(3):100–4. Available from:  https://brieflands.com/articles/jjnpp-18311.html
    4. Silva B, Biluca FC, Gonzaga LV, Fett R, Dalmarco EM, Caon T, et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory properties of honey flavonoids: A review. Food Research International [Internet]. 2021 Mar [cited 2023 Nov 8];141:110086. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S096399692031111X

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    Yogi Chelsea Ndinisa

    Honors in Pharmacology, University of Pretoria, South Africa

    Hello, I'm Yogi Chelsea Ndinisa, a dedicated and passionate human physiology graduate with a strong interest in medical communications. My journey into the world of medical writing stems from a diverse educational background and a genuine desire to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and public understanding. As someone who deeply values effective communication, I believe that translating complex medical concepts into accessible and engaging content is crucial for empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health.

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