Honey and healing: 27 years of research at Limoges University Hospital

“We started to use honey on general surgery wards and transplant units in 1984, under the direction of Professor Bernard Descottes, Chief of Surgery”, Ghislaine Pautard tells us. The professor had read of studies carried out abroad on the healing properties of honey. “At the time, we didn’t have very many effective treatments for healing”, the nurse explains. Professor Descottes suggested to his team that they do some academic research into the subject, and then observe the effects of dressings with honey on patients. and this is how it all started!

“First of all we used honey made from all different flowers that we found in the region”, Ghislaine Pautard explains. “Then, a pharmacological thesis, written at the Limoges Faculty of Medicine, on the antibacterial properties in honey showed that the nectar originating from plants like lavender and thyme had a higher level of antibacterial activity than other plants containing these properties” she adds. Reassuring results then came to light. “We saw quickly that honey had a really beneficial effect on healing”, the nurse points out.

A comparative study using blind experiments2, carried out in 1988 showed that, out of three different types of injury, the speed of healing was almost twice as fast with honey as with two other recognized medical treatments (Biogaze, Debrisan). “Between 1984 and today, more than 3000 patients have benefited from dressings with honey on our wards”, Ghislaine Pautard points out.

Honey and healing: In practice

“Honey is used in gastroenterology surgical units mainly for secondary healing, for wounds which are not closed up using stitches or surgical staples” Ghislaine Pautard explains. Dressings are made with honey if there are complications with healing or if the surgeon does not wish to close up the wound again – this happens sometimes during the restoration of gastrointestinal continuity.

The exact method of applying honey in dressings varies according to the different stages of healing. The process unfolds in three stages: debridement, angiogenesis and epithelialisation. “We have observed that honey accelerates healing especially during angiogenesis,” Ghislaine Pautard goes on to explain. At the beginning of the research, honey used at the University Hospital of Limoges was bought directly from select producers and was analysed in order to assess whether or not it contained bacteria.” Honey in tubes sterilised by Gamma rays are currently available and our hospital uses this type of product too” Ghislaine Pautard clarifies.

Is honey currently used in other medical areas? “Doctors and other medical professionals contact us for information or to find out about our protocol of care” she tells us. The protocol of care regarding honey is sent out to medical professionals only.

Honey and healing: Understanding the power of Honey and healing: Understanding the power of healing

Why does honey have this healing power? “We already know that honey possesses antibacterial properties connected, among other things, to its osmolarity and the production of oxygenated water.  Glucose-oxydase, an enzyme secreted by the hypopharyngeal glands in honey bees, transforms glucose present in nectar into a gluconic acid, releasing oxygenated water”, expains Ghislaine Pautard. “In contrast, we still do not know what happens in the actual wound”, she continues. A research group, composed of researchers at the Faculty of Pharmacology at Limoges, the Bourges University Institute of Technology and the Limoges University Hospital, are looking into the physiology of healing aided by honey. But this research has yet to reveal the secrets behind the magical effects of honey!


1 – Professor Descottes was the Chief of General Surgery and Transplant Surgery at Limoges University Hospital. He died in 2009.
2 – A blind experiment is when a study is carried out during which neither the prescriber nor patient know if the principle ingredient in the treatment is being administered or if it is a placebo (or even an entirely different treatment).

-Interview with Ghislaine Pautard, 27 February and 1 March 2012.

A Pentecostal pastor famed for handling snakes during church sermons has died after being bitten by a rattlesnake.

Mack Wolford died after being bitten by a rattlesnake. Image- Getty.

Mark “Mack” Wolford, 44, was well-known across the US state of Virginia for his lively church services, which included handling dangerous snakes in a ‘test of faith’. But the pastor died after being bitten by a rattlesnake he had owned for years, mirroring the death of his own father in 1983.

Holding an outdoor service in which serpents where passed around among church members, Wolford was bitten in the thigh by a yellow rattlesnake as he sat on the floor next to it. The service was quickly disbanded as the pastor was taken to family member’s house to recover, but he later died in hospital from poisoning.

Wolford had been bitten on three previous occasions, but did not seek medical attention as he regarded the injury as a test of faith.

“He helped me to understand the faith instead of just documenting it,” photographer and eyewitness Lauren Pond told the Washington Post. “He was one of the most open pastors I’ve ever met. He was a friend and a teacher.”

“I didn’t see the bite, I saw the aftermath” she added.

The group of serpent handlers follow the gospel of Mark, which states: “And these signs will follow
those who believe…they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

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