Minor cuts are an ordinary fact of life, and nearly always heal on their own. There is no evidence that antibacterial gels and creams will help wounds heal faster, or prevent infection. In fact, by keeping the air away from a wound, these treatments might actually interfere with healing.

The best approach to minor wounds is also the simplest and most natural: clean the wound well, and keep it clean and exposed to the air. If signs of infection develop, such as redness, oozing, or swelling, a physician should be consulted.

Proposed Natural Treatments for Minor Wounds

Application of honey (or concentrated sugar preparations) to wounds might help prevent infection and possibly speed healing.15-27,30 Honey is thought to work primarily through its high sugar content, which directly kills microorganisms. However, trace substances contained in it might also be at work. Not all studies show clear benefit, however. One trial found that antibacterial honey (Medihoney) did not significantly improve wound healing in 105 patients suffering from mostly leg ulcers.31 Conversely, topical honey improved healing time compared to saline gauze and silver sulfadiazine in 2 trials of 140 patients with skin ulcers or burns.33

Highly preliminary evidence suggests that the herb gotu kola might have general wound-healing properties, as well as help to prevent or treat keloid scars (a particular type of scar that is enlarged and bulging).1,2,3

A small double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and threonine applied as a combination cream could help the healing of leg ulcers.4 A variety of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E, and zinc,5 taken both orally and topically, have also been tried as a treatment for minor wounds, and creams containing A and E are common staples in the hospital. A number of topical herbs have been tried as well, including calendula,6cartilage,7chamomile, chitosan,8goldenseal, royal jelly,9 and St. John's wort, but there is no real evidence as yet that any of these approaches provide any benefits.

Numerous herbs (and their essential oils) have antibacterial properties, and for this reason might theoretically be helpful for preventing wound infection. However, this has not been proven. In addition, if a wound is serious enough that infection is a real risk, physician supervision is essential.

The gel of the aloe vera plant has a long folk history in the treatment of skin conditions. There is some evidence from human and animal studies that aloe might be helpful for wound healing,10,11 but one study found that aloe gel actually slowed the healing of surgical wounds.12 Also, a review of 7 trials involving 347 people did not find evidence that aloe can improve wound healing.32

In a well-designed trial, two concentrations of comfrey creams were evaluated for the treatment of fresh abrasions among 278 patients.29 A 10% comfrey formulation was compared to a 1% comfrey formulation, which was considered the reference or placebo cream. The topical application of 10% comfrey led to significantly faster wound healing than the reference cream after 2 to 3 days of application. Although the researchers reported no adverse effects in either group, the use of comfrey has been associated with severe, even life-threatening toxic effects when used orally, and its use over open wounds must be undertaken with extreme caution. Refer to the article on Comfrey ( Symphytum officinale) for more information on its safety.

Animal studies suggest that the honeybee product propolis applied topically may be of benefit in healing wounds.13,14 Similarly weak evidence hints at benefits with the herb picrorhiza.28