So, last Saturday marks the first day in months that I got back into the kitchen to bake. I’ve been so busy juggling a few jobs, my new internship, several weddings in the family across the country, and general life madness that I had difficulty devoting time to cooking much of anything, let alone anything superfluous, like the cookies I was planning to bring to work.
I wanted to make my Brown Butter Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies. The first step was to brown the butter. Check. And that was as far along in the recipe as I managed to get before taking a casual trip to the hospital. I transferred my hot brown butter from the saucepan into a glass cup to cool it off. As I was walking the cup of butter over to the fridge, I heard a horrible warning sign coming from the object in my hand: a crack. Then, just seconds later, the glass shattered and the boiling butter splattered everywhere. My face, my neck, my chest, my shoulder and armpit, and my leg. And to add insult to injury, I slipped on the butter-slicked floor and fell into a puddle of the hot oily liquid.
When I went to the closest emergency room, they prescribed me a topical cream called Silver Sulfadiazine, or Silvadene, for the second degree burns I had incurred. I had been using the Silvadene creme and dressing the burns for a few days. The cream is really expensive, and all the extra first aid supplies I need to cover the injuries are putting me out of cash that I’d really love to be saving instead. So when I recently learned from my personal doctor that I can eliminate the Silvadene from my burn-treatment regimen, I was intrigued.
But with what could I substitute this prescription antimicrobial, pain-relieving cream? Honey, he said.
My doctor told me honey is the go-to treatment for all his family’s burns, cuts, bites, and scrapes, and he claimed that he trusts the healing properties of honey, among other natural remedies, far more than he does the lab-created chemical mixtures they dish out like candy in hospitals. My doctor also informed me that the Silvadene cream is fairly new to the market and has very little testing under its belt, so who knows what sorts of long-term side effects and problems it could cause.
For some reason, hearing this information was a little disconcerting. I didn’t really know how take it, and I definitely didn’t expect to hear it from a doctor of Western medicine. When he told me about using honey as a treatment for my burns, questions whizzed through my head, disturbing my already established schemas of first aid and health care in general.
But…it’s so sticky? Won’t that attract bugs or something? Won’t all that sugar hurt my already raw, painful wound? Wouldn’t it put my burn at greater risk of infection? Shouldn’t I trust a prescription medication more than some sweet goop I stir in my tea?
My doctor’s response to these questions: “You’ve been brain-washed, my dear.” Huh… I guess he has a point.
A brunt of the critique faced by Western medicine is the tendency to cover up or eliminate symptoms of health problems we face instead of determining the root cause and adjusting our lifestyles to avoid those issues in the future. When we have a headache, we take some painkillers. When we have a fever, we take some ibuprofen. When we can’t sleep because we’re drinking too much alcohol and smoking too many cigarettes and binging on 12 cups of coffee a day to stay focused at work, we take sleeping meds. And when we feel overwhelmed with stress and anxiety and fear and depression, we take a cocktail of drugs that string us out and numb us to any sort of feeling at all.
And soon we learn that we ought to fear the natural. It’s dirty out there. Pain and illness and stress are symptoms of our natural state. Nature isn’t safe. We seek white coats and rubber gloves and tools wrapped in plastic and lots and lots of sterile, lab-created medicine. We trust chemicals and prescriptions and procedures and science. We have no idea how to pronounce the ingredients in the pills we take and no clue where those ingredients came from. We don’t know how they work or affect our bodies, and there’s a good chance we’ll have some sort of negative side effect too. But no need to worry; there are drugs for those, too, and we want them. We don’t want herbs and diets and tinctures and voodoo! No more of that phoney-baloney-nature-hippie-shit. It’s all mumbo- jumbo.
Western medicine is full of miraculous, life-saving treatments and knowledge; there’s no doubt about that. We can transplant organs and replace deteriorating bones with titanium and fight cancer. We can cure polio and smallpox and yellow fever and tuberculosis! We have vaccines that prevent us from ever contracting diseases that used to kill people en masse. The understanding and vast knowledge of Western medicine is truly awe-inspiring.
However, humans have been using natural plant and mineral resources as treatments and remedies for all sorts of ailments throughout history. In fact, much of the world still does rely on natural medicine. But growing up in the Western World, it seems that we’re conditioned to believe in sterile, scientific medicine as the be-all and end-all.
Honey dressing improves wound healing, makes the wound sterile in lesser time, has a better outcome in terms of prevention of hypertrophic scarring and post-burn contractures, and decreases the need of debridement irrespective of time of admission, when compared to silver sulfadiazine dressing.
If such is the case, why on earth would anyone push for the production and use of Silver Sulfadiazine in the first place? What could be the purpose of creating a chemical treatment that is know to work less effectively–and not to mention, cost more–than the natural equivalent? This is a very important question to consider because its relevance and impact touch on far greater topics than just honey and burn cream. Rather, it brings into question the integrity of the entire health care industry, food industry, and government agencies and politics.