Sweet Blood
A back country treatment for open wounds

By: Alan Halcon

Next time you’re out camping and you cut yourself you might consider grabbing the sugar and pour it on the wound… Seriously!

At our Recent Dirttime event, our Wilderness Medicine Instructor, Brian P of raems.com, suggested you pour sugar into an open wound. Though many people were amazed, others smiled as they remembered it as one of mom’s old time remedies.

the use of sugar and honey on open wounds is deeply rooted into our history. Research shows, or at least suggest that sugar and honey were used to treat the wounds of combatants thousands of years ago.

Honey (Glucose structure)

Bees use an enzyme known as glucose oxidase to make honey. Glucose oxidase breaks glucose (sugar) down into hydrogen peroxide, making it a great anti-septic used to fight germs. The amount of hydrogen peroxide is limited, occurring where the moisture contacts the honey, creating a fine oxidizing layer which literally “rusts” the germs to death…along with dehydrating them.

Honey’s slight acidic Ph (between 3.5 and 4) discourages the growth of bacteria.

Honey is hygroscopic (draws moisture from its surroundings) in nature. Bacteria that come into contact with honey lose their moisture content, through osmosis, to the surrounding honey and die.

The U.S Army Field Manual 3-05.70 Survival

Sugar—  place directly on wound and remove thoroughly when it turns into a glazed and runny substance. Then reapply

Bee honey— use it straight or dissolved in water

Syrup— in extreme circumstances, some of the same benefits of honey and sugar can be realized with any high-sugar-content item.”

ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2007)Honey has a number of properties that make it effective against bacterial growth, including its high sugar content, low moisture content, gluconic acid -- which creates an acidic environment -- and hydrogen peroxide. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation and swelling."

ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2006)Substantial evidence demonstrates that honey, one of the oldest healing remedies known to medicine, produces effective results when used as a wound dressing. Scientists performed 22 trials involving 2,062 patients treated with honey, as well as an additional 16 trials that were performed on experimental animals. Honey was found to be beneficial as a wound dressing in the following ways:

Honey's antibacterial quality not only rapidly clears existing infection; it protects wounds from additional infection

Honey debrides wounds and removes malodor

Honey's anti-inflammatory activity reduces edema and minimizes scarring
Honey stimulates growth of granulation and epithelial tissues to speed healing

Sugar (Sucrose structure)

In 1976, Herszage and Montenegro of Argentina used ordinary sugar to treat the
wounds of two patients with post-surgical necrotic cellulitis.

In 1980 Herszage and Montenegro reported the use of sugar paste in 120 infected wounds and recorded a cure rate of 99.2%. It was observed that odor and secretion began to diminish within 24 hours and disappeared totally after 72 to 96 hours of treatment.

In 1985, Trouillet et al used commercially available granular sugar to treat 19 patients with acute mediastinitis (infection in the middle of the chest cavity) after heart surgery. After an average of 7.6 days of treatment, eradication of bacterial infection was noted along with the granulation of tissue  

Sugar, like honey, is hygroscopic and through osmosis kills bacteria. To use you place it directly on wound. When the sugar on the wound begins to liquefy and turns into a glazed runny substance, it is losing its hygroscopic ability along with its bacteria killing osmotic pressure. Clean thoroughly and reapply sugar. This may have to be repeated several times.

Unlike honey however, sugar doesn’t have the benefits of bees to create the disinfectant hydrogen peroxide. It also does not have the viscosity of honey which may make it difficult to keep the healing properties of sugar packed into the wound. Fortunately, there is a way to make a gel like sugary substance that does contain a disinfectant.

Sugardine (SugarDyne is patented to SugarDyne Pharmaceuticals of Greenville MS)

Horse owners have undoubtedly heard of “sugardine”, if they’ve ever had to treat their horse for thrush.

Unlike using sugar in certain wounds, “sugardine” Because of the paste is easily packed into a wound and stays there. It also has the added benefit of an antimicrobial.

To make “sugardine”, mix about 80% white table sugar with 20% of 10% povidone or betadine to form a paste
Stronger solutions than 10% povidone or betadine have been found fatal when more than 30% of a person’s intact skin was painted with the solution. And using tincture of Iodine may cause toxicity if applied to burns or large wounds.

A standard field treatment is to first control the bleeding (usually by direct pressure), debride (remove dead or dying tissue), flush the wound, place sugar into the wound and cover with a povidone soaked light dressing

Caution should be used with sugar placed directly on a “bleeding” wound as its hygroscopic ability may cause more bleeding


The use of any of these treatments is in no way a replacement for seeking professional medical attention. The purpose of this article  is to provide the reader with information on things that have been and are being done to treat certain injuries.

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