Wound healing is an impressive process when you think about it. You create new tissue from scratch. They shed skin, repair damaged blood vessels, recruit dozens of immune system mediators to come to the site and reshape the wounded area. And in most cases you do a great job. The bleeding stops, the wound heals, no scar forms and the damaged tissue looks and functions like new. Remarkable.
But you don’t have to leave it to chance. It turns out there are many natural ways to heal a wound quickly.
Note: These are recommendations for minor wounds that you can treat at home. If your wound has any of the following characteristics, you should see a doctor:
Jagged or irregular cuts that may not heal without stitches Gaping openings that won’t stop bleeding Extreme pain Foreign objects Signs of infection (putrid smell, pain that doesn’t go away, sores that don’t seem to heal) Animal bites
The good news is that most wounds are not that serious and can be treated well at home. Here’s what to do:
1. Do the basics
The basics are basics for a reason: they work.
Clean the wound by irrigating (spraying with water) and an antiseptic solution such as iodine. Cover the wound with a clean bandage. Contrary to popular belief, a wound should not “dry out”. This will only make it more painful and slow down the healing process. A wound should be covered and kept moist. Change the bandage if necessary. wait for it to heal
That’s the basics, but there’s a lot more you can do to speed up the process.
2. Eat more protein
How the body responds to a severe burn is an extreme representation of how the body responds to wounds in general. It goes into metabolism, and one of the most important nutrients that support metabolism during the healing of a wound or burn is protein.
You can make or buy magnesium chloride oil. To make it, purchase magnesium chloride flakes, fill a spray bottle about 3/4 full with the flakes, and cover with warm distilled, spring, or reverse osmosis water. Shake to dissolve, then apply to skin. It can sting a little, especially on the wound, but it should help healing.
5. Swim in the cold ocean
Well, the warmer and more brackish the water, the more likely it is that meat-degrading bacteria live in it. The bacterium in question, Vibrio vulnificus, thrives in brackish water (1-2% salinity) warmer than 64°F. So be careful. I would avoid anything over 70 degrees water with open wounds. But if your ocean is actually cold, like the Pacific Ocean off the California coast, and you’re actually in seawater (3-5% salinity) and not brackish water (1-2%), you’re probably safe, and in my experience accelerate wound healing. I remember doing this as a kid in Maine – just washing my scrapes with cold sea water. Part of this is probably magnesium content, as I described in the previous section. But much of this cannot be explained by magnesium. It’s something “different” to go into the sea with scratches.
As for the “sharks can smell blood from miles away” thing, that’s nothing to worry about. Sharks have sensitive olfactory bulbs that can detect small concentrations of substances in the water, such as blood. But they still obey the laws of physics. The diluted blood has yet to reach them physically, and they must determine where it’s coming from and if it’s worth the effort.
6. Apply red and infrared light
Both infrared and red light (aka “low-level laser therapy” or “phototherapy”) show promise in treating and speeding up the healing process of wounds by increasing blood flow, reducing inflammation, and improving collagen metabolism, but there is no established clinical method method for treating actual wounds with light devices. One thing you could try is to expose both sunrise and sunset as those are the times of the day that are most enriched with infrared and red light.
What I have done in the past for other types of injuries and general joint pain is to use infrared saunas. I like this method a little better because instead of holding a concentrated infrared or red light device directly over the wound and estimating how long to use it, you enjoy the sauna and let indirect rays do the work.
Red light/IR light devices are pretty safe things to try, but I don’t have any specific recommendations for their use on wounds. However, I am confident that they will probably help. I have and like the Joovv.
7. Apply honey
Honey works well on wounds as it acts as a broad spectrum antibacterial agent and as a general promoter of tissue healing thanks to its antioxidant compounds, acidity, natural hydrogen peroxide production and osmotic effects. They haven’t figured out all the reasons why it works, but honey seems to speed wound healing.
Manuka honey gets the lion’s share of accolades for its healing properties, but there’s pretty good evidence that there are even better honeys out there. Buckwheat honey, for example, was just identified in a recent study for having the highest levels of compounds with the greatest wound-healing potential.
If you’re not sure if your honey will help you heal, what I’ve found about honey is that the darker the honey, the better. The darker, the more active and possibly the more effective in wound healing. Whether it’s manuka honey, buckwheat honey, or the dark wildflower honey from your local farmer, pretty much any honey will help heal wounds. Heck, there’s even evidence that simple sugar, white table sugar, can improve wound healing when applied topically. After rinsing and cleaning the wound, apply honey.
8. Apply black seed oil
I wrote about black seed oil for oral use as a dietary supplement a while ago, but it turns out that topical black seed oil is also a powerful wound healing accelerator—especially when combined with honey.
Apply a few drops to the wound or scratch. To mix it with honey, mix both together and then apply.
9. Try fasting (for chronic wounds)
To my knowledge, this specific intervention—fasting for chronic wound healing—has not been tested. But Nrf2 is a signaling pathway activated by fasting that has been shown to improve wound healing in diabetics suffering from chronic “slow-healing” wounds and ulcers. Start with a 24-hour fast and go from there.
10. Take vitamin C
As you may know, most mammals produce their own vitamin C. Humans are one of the few mammals that don’t and must obtain it through diet or supplements.
To study the effects of removing vitamin C from the wound healing process, scientists genetically modified a group of laboratory mice so that they no longer produced vitamin C. While a normal mouse produces all the vitamin C it needs, these genetically modified mice didn’t. So they took the vitamin C zero mice and wounded them. A group of wounded mice received vitamin C in their diet. A group doesn’t. The vitamin C null mice that received vitamin C in their water healed just as well as the normal mice with vitamin C production intact. The vitamin C null mice, which were not supplemented with vitamin C, had poor healing.
These weren’t humans, but humans are very similar to the vitamin C null mice. Because most animals produce extra vitamin C after an injury, humans should also get some extra vitamin C when recovering from a wound.
11. Get enough zinc
Zinc is another necessary co-factor in the wound healing process. One study found that diabetics with ulcers healed faster and had smaller sores after taking 50 mg of zinc sulfate for 12 weeks compared to a placebo. Well, diabetics tend to be zinc deficient, so this may not be the case for everyone with a scratch or abrasion. Most people following a Primal eating plan get plenty of zinc from red meat and shellfish — but it’s a good idea to make sure you’re eating enough.
I wouldn’t bother with extra zinc if you only have a minor scratch, but if it’s more serious like a bad burn then there’s no harm in adding some extra zinc.
You don’t have to try them all together, but some work better together. I would use magnesium oil right after cleansing and dressing. Maybe rinse in the sea if it was cold enough. I would take vitamin C and zinc with meals. I would take collagen before any red light/IR treatment. I would add honey and black seed oil every time you change the dressing. If the wound was old, I would fast for a day.
How do you heal a wound? What works for you?
About the author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the primal food and lifestyle movement, and New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, in which he explains how he combines the keto diet with a primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which in 2009 is credited with accelerating the growth of the Primal/Paleo movement and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark founded Primal Kitchen, a real food company that sells Primal/ Paleo, Keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen clips.
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