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    Wound Healing (Holistic)

    Wound Healing (Holistic)

    About This Condition

    Repair the damage to your skin and other soft tissues by caring for affected areas and focusing on your overall health. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
    • Deal with deficiencies

      Stick to a healthy diet and take a multivitamin to prevent deficiencies that can slow wound healing

    • Get support from vitamin C

      Take at least 1,000 mg a day of vitamin C to promote connective tissue repair

    • Try on topicals

      Apply an ointment containing zinc, chondroitin sulfate, and/or gotu kola to speed healing of skin wounds

    • Discover the benefits of bromelain

      To reduce swelling and speed the healing time for surgical wounds and soft tissue injuries, take several hundred milligrams a day of this pineapple-derived enzyme during the first several days after surgery or injury

    About

    About This Condition

    Wound healing is the process of repair that follows injury to the skin and other soft tissues.

    Wounds may result from trauma or from a surgical incision. In addition, pressure ulcers (also known as decubitus ulcers or bed sores), a type of skin ulcer , might also be considered wounds. The capacity of a wound to heal depends in part on its depth, as well as on the overall health and nutritional status of the individual.

    Following injury, an inflammatory response occurs and the cells below the dermis (the deepest skin layer) begin to increase collagen (connective tissue) production. Later, the epithelial tissue (the outer skin layer) is regenerated. Dietary modifications and nutritional and herbal supplements may improve the quality of wound healing by influencing these reparative processes or by limiting the damaging effects of inflammation.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms include swelling, stiffness, tenderness, discoloration, skin tightness, scabbing, itching, and scar formation.

    Eating Right

    The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

    Recommendation Why
    Go for the protein
    Help the body build and repair tissue by eating a diet high in protein and adequate in calories. Good protein sources include fish, chicken, and soy products.

    Building and repairing tissue requires adequate amounts of calories and protein to fuel the repair mechanisms, as the skin and underlying tissues are made of protein. While major wounds from extensive injuries or major surgery significantly raise protein and calorie requirements, optimal healing of minor wounds should not require changes from a typical, healthful diet.1 In a study of malnourished people with skin ulcers , those who were given a diet containing 24% protein showed a significant reduction in the size of the ulcer, whereas those given a diet containing 14% protein had no significant improvement.2 This study suggests an increase in dietary protein can improve wound healing in malnourished people. It is not known whether the same benefit would be observed in well-nourished people.

    Supplements

    What Are Star Ratings?

    Our proprietary "Star-Rating" system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

    For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

    3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

    2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

    1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

    Supplement Why
    3 Stars
    Bromelain
    3,000 MCU (2,000 GDU) three times per day for several days, followed by 2,000 MCU three times per day
    Learn More

    Supplementation with bromelain , an enzyme derived from pineapple stem, prior to and following a surgical procedure has been shown to reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain.3 Bromelain supplementation has also been shown to accelerate the healing of soft-tissue injuries in male boxers.4 The amount of bromelain used in these studies was 40 mg four times per day, in the form of enteric-coated tablets. Enteric-coating prevents the stomach acid from partially destroying the bromelain. Most currently available bromelain products are not enteric-coated, and it is not known if such products would be as effective as enteric-coated bromelain.

    3 Stars
    Vitamin B-Complex
    Follow label directions
    Learn More

    Thiamine (vitamin B1),5 pantothenic acid (vitamin B5),6 and other B vitamins7 have all been shown to play a role in wound healing in animal studies. For this reason, although human research is lacking, some alternative healthcare practitioners recommend a high-potency B vitamin supplement to promote wound healing.

    3 Stars
    Vitamin C
    1 to 3 grams daily
    Learn More

    Vitamin C is needed to make collagen (connective tissue) that strengthens skin, muscles, and blood vessels and to ensure proper wound healing. Severe injury appears to increase vitamin C requirements,8 and vitamin C deficiency causes delayed healing.9 Preliminary human studies suggest that vitamin C supplementation in non-deficient people can speed healing of various types of wounds and trauma, including surgery, minor injuries, herniated intervertebral discs, and skin ulcers.10 , 11 A combination of 1-3 grams per day of vitamin C and 200-900 mg per day of pantothenic acid has produced minor improvements in the strength of healing skin tissue.12 , 13

    3 Stars
    Zinc
    30 mg daily (with 2 mg copper daily to prevent depletion), or apply topical zinc preparations regularly
    Learn More

    Zinc is a component of many enzymes, including some that are needed to repair wounds. Even a mild deficiency of zinc can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage, as well as from more serious trauma.14 , 15 One controlled trial found the healing time of a surgical wound was reduced by 43% with oral supplementation of 50 mg of zinc three times per day, in the form of zinc sulfate.16

    Whether oral zinc helps tissue healing when no actual zinc deficiency exists is unclear,17 but doctors often recommend 30 mg of zinc per day for four to six weeks to aid in the healing of wounds. Topical zinc-containing treatments, on the other hand, have improved healing of skin wounds even when there is no deficiency.18 , 19 Long-term oral zinc supplementation must be accompanied by copper supplementation to prevent a zinc-induced copper deficiency. Typically, if 30 mg of zinc are taken each day, it should be accompanied by 2 mg of copper. If 60 mg of zinc are used, it should be accompanied by 3 mg of copper each day.

    2 Stars
    Aloe
    Apply stabilized gel three to five times daily
    Learn More

    In animal studies of skin inflammation, both topical and oral aloe vera have proven beneficial in decreasing inflammation and promoting cellular repair.20 , 21 Topical aloe vera has facilitated wound healing in controlled human research, as well.22 In one controlled trial, however, topical aloe vera gel was inferior to conventional management of surgical wounds.23

    2 Stars
    Chamomile
    Apply an ointment containing 2% chamomile extract or standardized for chamazulene and bisabolol content three to four times daily
    Learn More

    A topical preparation of chamomile combined with corticosteroids and antihistamines has been used to speed wound healing in elderly people with stasis ulcers caused by inadequate circulation,24 as well as in people who had tattoos removed.25 Topical use of chamomile ointment was also found to successfully treat mild stasis ulcers in elderly bedridden patients.26

    Traditional herbalists sometimes recommend the topical use of herbs such as St. John's wort , calendula , chamomile , and plantain , either alone or in combination, to speed wound healing. Clinical trial in humans have not yet validated this traditional practice.

    2 Stars
    Chondroitin Sulfate Topical
    Refer to label instructions
     
    2 Stars
    Copper
    2 to 4 mg daily
    Learn More

    Copper is a required cofactor for the enzyme lysyl oxidase, which plays a role in the cross-linking (and strengthening) of connective tissue.27 Doctors often recommend a copper supplement as part of a comprehensive nutritional program to promote wound healing. A typical amount recommended is 2-4 mg per day, beginning two weeks prior to surgery and continuing for four weeks after surgery.

    2 Stars
    Gotu Kola
    Take a standardized herbal extract providing 60 mg total triterpenoids once or twice per day
    Learn More

    One preliminary trial found that a gotu kola extract helped heal infected wounds (unless they had reached bone).28 A review of French studies suggests that topical gotu kola can help wounds.29 One study found gotu kola extract helpful for preventing and treating enlarged scars (keloids).30 Standardized extracts of gotu kola containing up to 100% total triterpenoids are generally taken, providing 60 mg once or twice per day. Animal studies have shown that constituents in gotu kola, called asiaticosides, increase antioxidant levels during wound healing and facilitate repair of connective tissues.31 , 32

    2 Stars
    Honey
    Take under medical supervision: apply 10 to 20 ml twice per day
    Learn More
    Topical application of honey has been used since antiquity to accelerate skin wound healing.33 Honey has been shown to inhibit the growth of several organisms responsible for wound infections.34 , 35 , 36 In one preliminary study, nine infants with large, open infected wounds that failed to heal with conventional treatment were treated successfully with topical application of honey.37 Fresh unprocessed honey was applied to wounds in amounts of 5-10 ml twice daily for a period of 21 days. All infants showed marked clinical improvement after 5 days, and the wounds were closed and free of infection by 21 days. The use of honey to treat wounds should be supervised by a doctor.
    2 Stars
    Horse Chestnut
    Apply topically
    Learn More

    Horse chestnut contains a compound called aescin that acts as an anti-inflammatory and reduces edema (swelling with fluid) following trauma, particularly sports injuries, surgery, and head injury.38 A topical aescin preparation is popular in Europe for the treatment of acute sprains during sporting events.

    2 Stars
    Hyaluronic Acid
    1% solution for ears
    Learn More

    Topical application of hyaluronic acid and related compounds is sometimes used in skin wound dressings to improve healing.39 One controlled trial found a hyaluronic acid compound helpful for healing skin ulcers associated with chronic venous insufficiency.40 Improved healing of nasal surgery wounds with topical hyaluronic acid was reported in one controlled study,41 but not in another.42 A double-blind study found improved healing of perforated eardrums in patients using drops of 1% sodium hyaluronate.43 Whether oral hyaluronic acid supplements might improve wound healing has not been investigated.

    2 Stars
    Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate
    10 to 30 grams daily
    Learn More

    Preliminary44 and controlled45 studies of people with severe burns and other types of injuries46 showed that supplementation with 10-30 grams of ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG) per day significantly improved wound healing and decreased the length of hospital stays. Improved healing from major trauma and surgery has also been demonstrated with oral supplements including several grams per day of glutamine .47

    2 Stars
    Vitamin A
    Take under medical supervision: 25,000 IU daily
    Learn More

    Vitamin A plays a central role in wound healing,48 but the effect of supplemental vitamin A in people who have suffered a minor injury and are not vitamin A-deficient remains unclear. Vitamin A supplements have been shown to improve healing in animal studies,49 and may be especially useful in a topical ointment for skin injuries in people taking corticosteroid medications.50 Although there are no studies in humans, some doctors recommend 25,000 IU of vitamin A per day, beginning two weeks prior to surgery and continuing for four weeks after surgery.

    2 Stars
    Vitamin E
    400 IU daily
    Learn More

    Animal studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin E can decrease the formation of unwanted adhesions following a surgical wound. In addition, wound healing was more rapid in animals fed a vitamin E-rich diet than in those fed a standard diet.51 In another study, however, wound healing was inhibited by supplementation with a massive amount of vitamin E (equivalent to about 35,000 IU).52 This adverse effect of vitamin E was prevented by supplementation with vitamin A. Although the relevance of these studies to humans is not clear, many doctors recommend supplementing with both vitamins A and E in order to enhance wound healing and prevent adhesion formation. Typical amounts recommended are 25,000 IU of vitamin A per day and 400 IU of vitamin E per day, beginning two weeks prior to surgery and continuing for four weeks after surgery.

    Topical application of vitamin E is sometimes recommended for preventing or treating post-injury scars, although only three controlled studies have been reported. Two of these trials found no effect on scar prevention after surgery,53 , 54 and one trial found vitamin E improved the effect of silicon bandages on large scars called keloids.55

    1 Star
    Arginine
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Arginine supplementation increases protein synthesis and improves wound healing in animals.56 Two controlled trials have shown increased tissue synthesis in surgical wounds in people given 17-25 grams of oral arginine per day.57 , 58

    1 Star
    Arnica Topical
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Used topically, some practitioners consider arnica to be among the best vulnerary (wound-healing) herbs available.59 Topical use of arnica is approved by the German government for improving wound healing.60 Arnica is poisonous if taken internally.

    1 Star
    Bladderwrack
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Alginic acid is one of the main constituents in bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus), a type of brown algae (seaweed). Calcium alginate has shown promise as an agent to speed wound healing in animal studies61 but has not been demonstrated to be effective in humans.

    1 Star
    Calendula
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Calendula flowers were historically considered beneficial for wound healing, reducing inflammation and fighting infection as a natural antiseptic.62 Like echinacea , calendula is approved in Germany for use in treating poorly healing wounds.63 Generally 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of calendula flowers is steeped in hot water for 15 minutes, then cloths are dipped into the liquid to make compresses. Such compresses should be applied for at least 15 minutes, initially several times per day, then tapering off as the wound improves.

    Traditional herbalists sometimes recommend the topical use of herbs such as St. John's wort , calendula , chamomile , and plantain , either alone or in combination, to speed wound healing. Clinical trial in humans have not yet validated this traditional practice.

    1 Star
    Carnosine
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Carnosine is a small molecule composed of the amino acids histidine and alanine . The exact biological role of carnosine is not completely understood, but animal research demonstrates that it promotes wound healing.64 More research is warranted in this area.

    1 Star
    Chaparral
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Chaparral has been used topically to decrease inflammation, and pain, and promote healing of minor wounds.65 For topical use, cloths can be soaked in oil preparations or tea of chaparral and applied several times per day (with heat if helpful) over the affected area. Powdered chaparral can be applied directly to minor wounds, after they have been adequately cleansed.

    1 Star
    Chondroitin Sulfate Oral
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate may both play a role in wound healing by providing the raw material needed by the body to manufacture connective tissue found in skin, tendons, ligaments, and joints.66 Test tube and animal studies have found that these substances, and others like them, can promote improved tissue healing.67 , 68 , 69 , 70 , 71 One controlled trial in humans found that wounds healed with greater strength when they were treated topically with a chondroitin sulfate-containing powder.72 However, no research has investigated the value of oral supplements of glucosamine or chondroitin for wound healing in humans.

    1 Star
    Comfrey
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Comfrey has anti-inflammatory properties that may decrease bruising when the herb is applied topically.73 Comfrey is also widely used in traditional medicine as a topical application to help heal wounds.74 Witch hazel can also be used topically to decrease inflammation and to stop bleeding.75 Native Americans used poultices of witch hazel leaves and bark to treat wounds, insect bites, and ulcers.76 Horsetail can be used both internally and topically to decrease inflammation and promote wound healing.77

    1 Star
    Echinacea
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Echinacea is used among European practitioners of herbal medicine to promote wound healing78 and is approved by the German government for this use.79 Creams or ointments are applied several times a day to minor wounds.

    1 Star
    Glucosamine Sulfate Oral
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate may both play a role in wound healing by providing the raw material needed by the body to manufacture connective tissue found in skin, tendons, ligaments, and joints.80 Test tube and animal studies have found that these substances, and others like them, can promote improved tissue healing.81 , 82 , 83 , 84 , 85 One controlled trial in humans found that wounds healed with greater strength when they were treated topically with a chondroitin sulfate-containing powder.86 However, no research has investigated the value of oral supplements of glucosamine or chondroitin for wound healing in humans.

    1 Star
    Horsetail
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Comfrey has anti-inflammatory properties that may decrease bruising when the herb is applied topically.87 Comfrey is also widely used in traditional medicine as a topical application to help heal wounds.88 Witch hazel can also be used topically to decrease inflammation and to stop bleeding.89 Native Americans used poultices of witch hazel leaves and bark to treat wounds, insect bites, and ulcers.90 Horsetail can be used both internally and topically to decrease inflammation and promote wound healing.91

    1 Star
    Plantain Topical
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Traditional herbalists sometimes recommend the topical use of herbs such as St. John's wort , calendula , chamomile , and plantain , either alone or in combination, to speed wound healing. Clinical trial in humans have not yet validated this traditional practice.

    1 Star
    St. John's Wort
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Caution: It is likely that there are many drug interactions with St. John's wort that have not yet been identified. St. John's wort stimulates a drug-metabolizing enzyme (cytochrome P450 3A4) that metabolizes at least 50% of the drugs on the market.92 Therefore, it could potentially cause a number of drug interactions that have not yet been reported. People taking any medication should consult with a doctor or pharmacist before taking St. John's wort.

    Traditional herbalists sometimes recommend the topical use of herbs such as St. John's wort , calendula , chamomile , and plantain , either alone or in combination, to speed wound healing. Clinical trial in humans have not yet validated this traditional practice.
    1 Star
    Tea Tree
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Australian Aboriginals used the leaves of tea tree to treat cuts and skin infections, crushing and applying them to the affected area. Modern herbalists recommend tea tree oil (at a strength of 70-100%) applied moderately in small areas at least twice per day to the affected areas of skin.93 For a variety of reasons, some researchers have suggested that tea tree oil should not be used to treat burns.94

    1 Star
    Witch Hazel
    Refer to label instructions
    Learn More

    Comfrey has anti-inflammatory properties that may decrease bruising when the herb is applied topically.95 Comfrey is also widely used in traditional medicine as a topical application to help heal wounds.96 Witch hazel can also be used topically to decrease inflammation and to stop bleeding.97 Native Americans used poultices of witch hazel leaves and bark to treat wounds, insect bites, and ulcers.98 Horsetail can be used both internally and topically to decrease inflammation and promote wound healing.99

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    69. Glade MJ. Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan accelerates net synthesis of collagen and glycosaminoglycans by arthritic equine cartilage tissues and chondrocytes. Am J Vet Res 1990;51:779-85.

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