We all experience the occasional cut or scrape. Luckily, the body has natural healing processes.
However, there are also things one do to shorten the wound healing process. Keeping the immune system in good shape certainly helps.
When hurt, it’s important to maintain good hygiene to help prevent infections. It’s also possible to minimize scarring and shorten the recovery process. But there are a number of other contributing factors as well.
In the following sections, we provide some guidelines for maximizing the effectiveness of the natural wound healing process.
Read on to learn more, as well as about how red light therapy helps with wound healing.
What is a Wound?
A wound is any damage or break in the surface of the skin. Wounds may be closed or open.
They include cuts, lacerations, gashes, and tears. Wounds that go all the way through the skin to the fat layer beneath the skin, or deeper, are considered open wounds.
Bruises are closed wounds characterized by internal bleeding in and beneath the skin. They are usually caused by a fall or impact with a blunt object.
Scrapes, abrasions, and scratches are closed-surface wounds that don't go all the way through the skin.
There are various types of burns. First- and second-degree burns cause pain, swelling, and redness and are considered closed wounds. Second-degree burns also cause blistering.
Third-degree burns damage the nerve endings. On some occasions, there is little or no sensation of pain, and the skin appears dry and leathery, black, brown, yellow, or white.
Acute wounds are wounds that are new. If the healing process lasts beyond three to four weeks, the wound is considered chronic.
How to Heal an Open Wound
It’s best to get medical treatment for deep, large, or serious injuries. We also recommend following your doctor’s wound care instructions and getting medical advice regarding if and when it may be appropriate to use natural remedies to heal wounds.
The first key to fast wound healing is taking action quickly after it’s inflicted.
- Clean your wound as thoroughly as soon as possible using soap and water. Also, remove any foreign objects from the wound
- Apply pressure to stop the bleeding
- Once the bleeding stops, apply an antibiotic ointment and/or your natural remedy of choice (below)
- Wrap the wound in a sterile bandage
- Check the wound every 24 hours. Remove the bandage, check for infection, clean the wound, reapply your favorite natural remedy, and apply a clean bandage again.
- Keep the wound moist to minimize scarring (wounds heal faster with moisture; avoid drying out the new cells, which is painful and leads to scarring)
- Avoid sun exposure which will damage the new skin
Repeat daily check/cleaning/re-bandaging until the wound has healed in 4-6 weeks.
Natural Methods for Wound Healing
After cleaning the wound, several natural remedies can accelerate the wound healing process. Included in these are some of the following.
Honey for Wound Healing
Honey is an ancient remedy with potent antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It has long been used as a highly effective antiseptic wound dressing to discourage the growth of bacteria.
High-quality raw honey can be applied directly to burn wounds. Honey can also be mixed with ghee or essential oils to help heal cuts and abrasions. Honey:
- Has an acidic pH which encourages oxygen release from the blood to nourish damaged and emerging cells
- Reacts with the body’s fluids to produce small amounts of hydrogen peroxide to prevent infection without damaging tissue
- Reduces swelling and promotes the flow of lymph to cleanse the wound
- Helps keep the wound moist to prevent scarring
The active component of garlic, allicin, is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It increases the proliferation of fibroblasts, which are the cells that produce collagen. Garlic also decreases infections. Crush fresh garlic and mix with petroleum jelly in a 1:2 ratio, then apply topically to the wound.
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera has been called “the plant of immortality” by ancient Egyptian healers. The leaves contain an antimicrobial compound rich in minerals and vitamins as well as glucomannan, which promotes cellular regeneration and collagen synthesis, soothes the skin, and reduces inflammation. Aloe vera is a popular and effective natural remedy for sunburn and second-degree burn blistering. Aloe vera also keeps the wound moist. You can apply aloe directly to a wound or soak a bandage in the gel before applying.
Chamomile Tea Bags
Chamomile has soothing and healing effects on the skin. Dip a chamomile tea bag in cool water and apply directly to the wound or brew the tea normally, and apply the tea to a bandage to help wounds heal.
Tea Tree Oil and Other Essential Oils
Tea tree oil, or melaleuca, is a natural antiseptic, anti-fungal, and antibacterial agent. It is applied topically to cuts and abrasions. Tea tree oil should not be used on burn wounds as it can be irritating.
Other essential oils such as lavender are antimicrobial remedies that reduce irritation and inflammation. Lavender is a popular remedy for insect bites and skin wounds. Lavender also supports collagen synthesis.
Essential oils are extremely potent. Never apply them without first diluting them with a carrier oil such as coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio. Apply up to three times a day. Keep all essential oils away from your eyes and mucous membranes.
It may seem counterintuitive to put Cayenne pepper on your wound, but this medicinal plant is antimicrobial and is said to quickly stop bleeding in fresh wounds. Cayenne pepper contains vitamins A and vitamin C, which are powerful antioxidants. Does putting hot pepper on a wound make it hurt more? No! Capsaicin, the active ingredient in Cayenne pepper, has analgesic properties. It is also a popular remedy for sore throats for this reason.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial ointments can help keep the injury from becoming infected and add moisture to help the wound heal faster.
Petroleum jelly acts as a waterproof barrier to keep the wound moist and protect it from contaminants. It is a good solution for wound healing if you expect your wound to remain potentially exposed in wet conditions, such as after an injury on a rainforest trek.
Coconut oil contains monolaurin, known for its antimicrobial effects. It acts as a barrier to help protect wounds. Apply directly to the wound to prevent infection and to keep the wound site moist.
The marigold is a medicinal herb used as an antiseptic wound dressing that discourages bacteria. This anti-inflammatory flower has been used to heal eczema and other inflammatory skin disorders. Calendula flowers can be crushed and boiled in water to make a tincture, or crushed and mixed with a carrier oil to help heal wounds and soothe burned or irritated skin.
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellowish appearance. The active wound healing compound, curcumin, is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Turmeric acts much like ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to reduce pain and inflammation. Turmeric can be applied topically as a turmeric/warm water paste. You can also dust a wound with turmeric or take this culinary spice as a capsule or powder.
Cinnamon tree oil has antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties that can promote wound healing. Cinnamon can be dusted sparingly on wounds. It is also available in ointments and creams used as wound dressings.
Topical Collagen and Collagen Supplements
Topical collagen wound dressings may encourage new tissue growth. However, collagen supplements or bone broth take 2-3 months to take effect. Unless you’re already taking them, there’s no point in starting just for the sake of faster acute wound healing. Supplements may, however, be helpful if you have chronic wounds.
Zinc promotes immune function and regulates the healing process. Take a zinc supplement or eat zinc-rich foods including pumpkin seeds and cashews.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to manufacture collagen and plays a key role in all phases of healing. Eat citrus fruits or take vitamin C supplements.
Food is medicine. Supporting your body with the right foods will accelerate healing.
Protein: Adding more protein to your diet will help with the tissue rebuilding process. Animal-based foods are good sources of complete protein. Plant-based proteins (including nuts, and seeds) often lack one or more essential amino acids so mix your sources to get more protein variety. Legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are top plant-based proteins..
Green leafy vegetables are high in vitamin K which helps with blood clotting. They also contain antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress in wounded tissues.
Essential fatty acids: These compounds help prevent infections. They also have an interesting effect: after several days, they decrease collagen deposition to prevent excessive scarring. Sources of Omega-3 essential fatty acids include fish, nuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Water: stay hydrated to keep fluids moving and to support cellular function.
These are the most widely known natural ways to speed up wound healing.
Risks of Open Wounds
Minor wounds typically heal completely on their own if they are kept clean and protected. Larger, deeper wounds such as surgery incisions can take up to several months to heal. Some may not heal completely for several years.
The risks of having chronic open wounds — such as diabetic foot wounds — is high. Local infections can spread quickly if left untreated.
When to See a Doctor
Always seek urgent medical care to heal serious wounds including:
- Excessive bleeding or bleeding that won't stop
- Skin that has been cut or torn with deep, jagged edges and requires stitches
- Animal or human bites (a high risk of infection)
- Wounds that are numb, which indicates nerve damage
- Blood that is spurting from the wound
- Wounds resulting from dirty or rusty objects
- Wounds filled with debris that you can’t remove
Is It Healing, Or Is It Infected?
Pain, redness, swelling, and drainage (oozing) are normal in wound healing. If you’re wondering whether the wound is healing or if it has become infected, watch out for the following and seek medical attention immediately for:
- Redness lasting beyond three weeks
- A wound that remains swollen beyond three weeks
- Pain that worsens over time
- An abnormally hot sensation
- Fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting
- A wound that won’t stay closed
- Red streaks around the wound
What Slows Wound Healing?
Picking at scabs slows wound healing and can lead to scarring or infection. Other factors that slow the wound healing process include:
- Chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease
- Medications including corticosteroids, some chemotherapy drugs, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Chronic stress
- Age: Older adults heal slower than children or young adults
- Heavy alcohol use
- A processed diet heavy in sugar and chemicals
What Makes Wounds Heal Faster?
Excellent wound care along with the following natural remedies can help your wound heal faster. Meanwhile, Red Light Therapy can also be an effective tool to help heal your wounds faster, while having numerous other supplementary benefits as well.
PlatinumLED therapy lights have allowed for my all of my patients to take their wound healing experience to the next level. Proper incorporation of photobiomodulation effectively creates the best possible healing environment, allowing for acceleration of tissue regeneration.
Functional Medicine Doctor of Physical Therapy
Dr. Alayna Newton, PT, DPT, FAFS
Red Light Therapy for Wound Treatment
Red light therapy is a natural treatment based on ancient light healing therapies. Red light therapy harnesses the beneficial properties of red and near infrared wavelengths which are part of the natural spectrum of sunlight. By isolating these wavelengths, you can get therapeutic value without the risk of UV exposure.
Daily red light treatment assists with wound healing. As you change your bandage, expose your wound for RLT treatment for three minutes (to prevent drying out the wound) before reapplying dressings and bandages.
Most minor wounds are painful. Red light is no-contact, free of side effects, and it has proven analgesic effects.
Take a look for more information about the Biomax Series to figure out whether an affordable, red light therapy panel is right for you.
Red Light Therapy Solutions
In addition to healing wounds, the many benefits of red light therapy include:
Temporary acute inflammation: Red light brings on a temporary inflammatory response that sends more white blood cells to the wound.
Reduced chronic inflammation: red light therapy reduces chronic inflammation that interferes with healing. Dr. Michael R. Hamblin, a premier red light therapy expert, wrote in a 2017 paper about its inflammation-reducing effects on chronic wound healing.
Increased collagen and elastin production to help regrow new skin: A 2014 clinical trial by German researchers found significant increases in collagen density in the skin after treatment with red light. Another study found that red light decreased the proliferation of keloid fibroblasts which form tough, raised scars that inhibit joint movement.
Stem cell activation: Red light therapy activates stem cells in the bone marrow. Stem cells mobilize to the site of the injury where they become specialized cells.
Increased blood flow: Red light therapy has been shown to promote angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels from existing blood vessels). More blood flow helps heal wounds by bringing oxygen and nutrients to the affected area. Along with blood flow, red light therapy also increases the flow of lymph to remove toxins and waste from the wound.
Cellular energy: One of the most remarkable effects of red light therapy actually occurs at the cellular level. Red light therapy stimulates the cells to produce more energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP). This supports individual cells’ abilities to repair themselves, protect against oxidative stress, and regenerate.
Discover the many ways that red light therapy can improve your health and well being in the PlatinumLED Learning Center including how it works and how light therapy treats neuropathy, psoriasis, acne, painful arthritic joints and more.
The PlatinumLED BIOMAX series are the world’s most powerful red light therapy panels, delivering five different scientifically validated red/near infrared wavelengths to ensure every layer of the wound is treated.