How honey ‘cures’ cold sores effectively as anti-viral creams
It is already used as a topping on breakfast. But scientists say honey may also be able to fight cold sores.
Notoriously difficult get rid of, cold sores are normally treated with anti-viral creams bought over the counter.
But honey derived from a tree in New Zealand has been found to be just as effective at healing the blistering sore in a trial.
Participants in a trial used either cream or honey, both of which cleared the pain and wound within nine days.
The substance, produced by bumble bees, has a long history of therapeutic use with some studies showing it has antibacterial properties.
Researchers at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ) led the trial of 952 participants.
They compared treating cold sores with honey to anti-viral aciclovir cream, branded as Zovirax in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Viraban in the United States (U.S.).
The honey was derived from the native kānuka tree in New Zealand, before being sterilised and boosted with extra antimicrobial ingredients.
All of the patients were asked if they wanted to participate when they went to one of 76 community pharmacies in the first 72 hours of their cold sore episode.
They were then randomly assigned either five per cent aciclovir cream or the honey cream Honevo, which was mixed with ten per cent glycerin.
While applying their treatment five times daily, they were asked to self-record data for pain and cold sore progression.
Their entries were monitored for 14 days or until the cold sore fully healed.
The researchers found that those using the acyclovir experienced symptoms for an average of eight to nine days with an open blister for around two days.
Honey proved to be just as effective without any changes in healing time, the findings in BMJ Open showed.
The authors wrote: “Both treatments had similar efficacy across all outcome variables including time to healing, pain resolution and proportion of aborted episodes between treatment groups. Both treatments were considered highly acceptable by participants.”
Leading the research, Dr. Alex Semprini said the results prove patients can chose an alternative option that is evidence-based.
He said: “This means that patients with a preference for natural and alternative medicines, as well as pharmacists who sell these treatments, can have confidence in the effectiveness of this kānuka honey formulation as a further treatment option for cold sores.”
The study had a few caveats; one being that the healing time for a cold sore was not compared with no treatment at all.
It was also funded by a New Zealand company called HoneyLab, whose product was tested.
Herpes viruses cause cold sores. Around seven in 10 people in the UK are infected with the viruses, according to estimates.
Around 30 per cent of people suffer recurrent attacks of cold sores, usually caused by the type one virus. Being kissed by someone with an active cold sore most commonly passes on cold sores on the lips. They begin as a small red patch that blisters before bursting, leaving a raw area that scabs.