Can honey cure cold sores? Waitara Pharmacy joins national trial

Waitara Pharmacy owner Margaret Helms is helping hand out medical grade Kanuka honey as part of a national clinical trial.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Waitara Pharmacy owner Margaret Helms is helping hand out medical grade Kanuka honey as part of a national clinical trial.

Your mum may have 'bee'-n right when she mixed medicine with honey - and a clinical trial testing liquid gold as a cold sore cure could be the "bees knees" if it proves better than standard treatments.

For the past few weeks any patient walking in to Taranaki's Waitara Pharmacy seeking help for a cold sore has been told about the national study, which aims to determine if Kanuka honey removes the sting caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus - otherwise known as a cold sore - more effectively than creams.

Anyone who wants to take part is then blindly allocated either the standard treatment or the honey and will be compensated $25 at the end of the trial, which could go on until the end of the year.

Margaret Helms' pharmacy is the only one in Taranaki taking part in the study.

 

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"There's an increasing resistance to antibiotics and that played a little part in me wanting to be involved in a trial with something natural," she said. "You can put it on your toast if you don't finish the tube."

The trial organisers aim to have 950 people taking part around the country. So far, 500 have signed up, including seven from the Waitara Pharmacy.

The study was an incredible opportunity for the town and the country, Helms said.

"Medical trials are usually something that happens in America and involve millions of dollars, and this is quite a unique way of getting local people trying a New Zealand product," she said.

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But before people grabbed their own jars of the sweet treat from the cupboard, Helms said the 10mg black tubes of liquid gold being used in the trial are a specific type of honey.

"Obviously you can't just use the honey you put on your toast and the next day put it on a wound. It has to be medical grade honey."

Medical grade honey means the product has undergone purification and is sterile, so no contaminants, bee parts or pollen remain, trial lead Dr Alex Semprini said.

He said honey has been used for conditions such as wounds and ulcers for thousands of years, but more recently it has been commonly used in hospitals for the preservation of healthy skin tissue.

The new cold sore treatment "may-bee" in its early phase, but Semprini was optimistic as he had run a series of small pilot trials in various skin conditions that showed a positive response.

And of the Taranaki participants, Helms has already heard from patients buzzing about the honey product.

"He said it reduced his cold sore by two days," she said of a patient who rang up on Tuesday.

With a little chuckle, she added: "And he found it hard not to lick it off his lips because it tastes so nice."

 - Stuff

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