Seal's shark bite healed with honey

 Assets Images Patient-Images Gupta732X334
The folks at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California do the work of heroes. Whenever a seal, sea lion, dolphin gets in trouble, the dedicated team of full-timers and volunteers head out and try to help. They heal and return to the wild a huge number of these wonderful animals. My family has been members for years and the hospital is a favorite place for my young daughter to visit. Today they released an awesome story of success: They used honey as an antibiotic to heal a shark bite wound on an elephant seal.
"Honey has gained recent popularity in both human and veterinary medicine as a wound treatment due largely to its natural healing properties. It has a very high sugar content and as a result binds water molecules strongly. That makes the water unavailable to organisms trying to make a living in the area. This is why honey can be safely stored on the shelf without refrigeration. Honey also contains a variety of compounds that may enhance the tissue response to infection and inflammation. It's less expensive than most topical antibiotic ointments and evidence suggests it is just as effective. So the Center's staff and volunteers cleaned the wound and applied a generous layer of honey to it. Thanks to both the honey and the tincture of time, Gupta's wounds healed very quickly. In fact, he was released on October 25 at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Shore, California."
"Gupta: Sweet As Can Bee!"



  1. In related news, reports of bears attacking seals and sea lions are up 5000% this year at Point Reyes National Shore, California. Film at 11.

  2. For a minute there, I was worried that Seal had been bitten by a shark.

    Is honey’s effectiveness diminished by the temptation to lick the wound?

    1. “honey is actually used as a healing/cure in islam:

      And honey is also used to turn human corpses into “mellified” tasty confections!

      Paraphrased via Mary Roach’s book Stiff, chapter 10 “Eat Me”:

      In Arabia, old men willing to give their bodies to others eat and bathe only in honey. When they die, they are placed in a honey filled coffin for 100 years, creating a medicine for the treatment of broken and wounded limbs, or internally for other complaints–a medicine which probably works, via a remarkable coincidence, just as well or as poorly as, er, regular honey.

      1. From the wik ( ):

        “…mentioned only in Chinese sources, most significantly the Bencao Gangmu of the 16th-century Chinese pharmacologist Li Shizhen. Relying on a second-hand account, Li reports a story that some elderly men in Arabia, nearing the end of their lives, would submit themselves to a process of mummification in honey to create a healing confection.”

        In other words, this story has never been verified, and originally came to light in a rather round-about way…

  3. I’m new to the bay area and had no idea this existed. Thanks Boing Boing, I can’t wait to become a member!

  4. When I saw the headline sans photo I thought “Wow – Seal got bitten by a shark? And who thought to treat it with honey?”

  5. Note of Caution: Unpasteurised honey (and even pasteurised honey) can contain fungal spores and bacterial cysts (Clostridium Botulinum), so if you are going to do this kind of thing (BUT I AM NOT A DOCTOR NOT YOUR DOCTOR AND THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE) please consider not using it on immuno-compromised individuals or infants under two years of age, and please consider it wise to ensure that bleeding is staunched before applying honey. Though it will bind with water to make it unavailable to germs, it might introduce a germ to the bloodstream, which could be carried away, and find a nice environment someplace else in the body.

    The same physio-chemical operation that makes honey antibiotic also makes peat a great preserver of meat in the short term (a sugar in the peat prevents bacterial and mold growth on, for example, salmon, making grav lax — which is why grav lax is made today with salt and sugar more often than peat. Damn. Hungry now.)

  6. Once when I was installing a sub-floor, a clip of 1 3/8″ crown staples started to slip out of my off-hand when I was using the pneumatic gun. Without thinking, I mistakenly tightened the grasp of my thumb on the bundle of clips in my left hand. The clip sliced through the pad of my thumb, save for a bit of skin that was still attached.

    Since I was on the job site and it was located in a pretty rural setting, rushing off for quick stitches before returning to the job wasn’t an option. So, I went out to my stepvan and scavenged for something to not only stop the bleeding but also to allow me to finish my work before I could get it taken care.

    I knew the benefits of honey (and onion, too, for that matter) because my uncle is a beekeeper but I only had ever tried it when I removed a splinter/sliver after handling luan or skinned a knee/elbow. I had some raw local honey courteous of my uncle, some run-of-the-mill paper towels and duck tape in my van. I went to work and started to clean the cut with an unopened bottle of water.

    As I rinsed it, I held the pad part of my thumb in place with my ring finger. I used my pocketknife to flip the skin up, filled it with honey and flipped it back down. I continued to apply pressure. After only a few minutes, I wrapped paper towels around my thumb and then taped it all down good with duck tape. I was back working within 20 minutes, maybe closer to a half hour, or so.

    It was mostly healed in a week. It was completely sealed shut and no longer tender after two and half weeks.

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