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Old-Fashioned Sugar Remedy Heals Persistent Wound

An old fashioned "sugar remedy" has shown promise in hard-to-treat-wounds. Dr. Richard Knutson refined the method in the mid 1970s.

When wounds refuse to heal, both patients and caregivers struggle. They suffer frustration as well as pain, not to mention the fear of a serious infection setting in. Several readers have written about using the sugar remedy in such cases. This old-fashioned approach may not work miracles, but many people praise its usefulness.

Milk of Magnesia and Sugar Remedy:

Q. When I was in high school, I volunteered in the nursing home at the local VA hospital. The doctors would order a mixture of regular table sugar and milk of magnesia to pack into decubiti [bedsores].

This was a very thick paste made up by the nursing staff and packed into any open wounds. It worked. I never saw any open wounds then like those I see now in nursing homes.

If I ordered that mixture for a patient today, I’d lose my license. But I did use it on my mother and the decubiti cleared in a week.

A. Thank you for sharing your memories of an old-fashioned approach to helping bedsores heal. We heard from a retired hospital pharmacist who mixed simple syrup with Aquaphor ointment to heal pressure ulcers back in the 1960s. People make simple syrup by boiling equal measures of table sugar and water.

Dr. Richard Knutson, a surgeon in Greenville, Mississippi, wrote about the benefits of a sugar-oil mixture for open wounds (Southern Medical Journal, 1981). He was kind enough to describe the history and use of “SugarDyne” for our website.

Sugar Remedy Helps Amputee:

Q. I have been an amputee for 48 years. I’ve been struggling with a pressure sore on my stump for two and a half years. My wound had staph bacteria almost to the bone.

I tried all of the modern-day medical treatments my doctors prescribed to no avail. Finally, my physician recommended treating the wound with sugar, but he never mentioned the mixture of sugar and Betadine. The recipe for this combination was online.

I started using the mixture seven days ago, twice daily, and the wound has practically sealed up with no proud flesh or drainage. In my view, this is a great remedy.

Sugar to Heal Wounds Has a Long History:

A. We first heard of the sugar cure for wounds back in 1985 from a woman who was trying to heal her grandmother’s bedsores. The earliest mention of sugar for wound healing that we could find in the medical literature was during World War I in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Sept. 4, 1915).

The sugar remedy persisted as an old wives’ tale until the mid 1970s when Richard Knutson, MD, began using sugar on hard-to-treat wounds (Southern Medical Journal, Nov. 1981).

Sugardyne Formula:

His formula involved mixing 4 pounds of table sugar with 1 pound of Betadine (iodine) antiseptic ointment and 6.5 ounces Betadine solution in a double boiler over low heat. He applied the mixture to a depth of one-fourth inch, changing the dressing and cleaning the wound daily. He treated over 5,000 patients over 15 years.

There are possible downsides. Nurses have pointed out that Betadine might damage delicate cells and slow healing. Any wound that does not heal requires careful medical supervision.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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