7 evidence-based naturally healing household ingredients

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx
Published January 31, 2020

Key Takeaways

Skin wounds and associated comorbidities, such as infection, are a major cause of death and disability worldwide. In the United States alone, chronic wounds affect approximately 6.5 million patients and cost the US healthcare system about $25 billion annually, according to one study. Even minor injuries and skin wounds, including scrapes and burns, can be problematic. Left untreated, they can become inflamed, infected, and slow to heal—eventually progressing to chronic wound status. Luckily, there are plenty of treatment options available for minor wounds. Even better: Minor wounds need not only benefit from prescription treatment. Some common household items can do the trick. 

Here is an evidence-based list of seven natural, common household items that can help with wound healing: 

Coconut oil

Virgin coconut oil is widely used in South Asia, especially in culinary and medicinal preparations. In the Ayurvedic tradition, fermented virgin coconut oil (FVCO) is used for the treatment of various skin disorders, particularly wound healing, due to its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic properties.

In an article published in the American Journal of Translational Research, investigators examined the effects of FVCO on angiogenesis and wound healing in both in vitro and in vivo experiments.

“Our study confirms a high angiogenic and wound healing potency of FVCO that might be mediated by the regulation of VEGF signing pathway,” the authors concluded.


Cinnamon is a common spice used around the world. It’s cultivated from the inner bark of several tropical evergreen tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. Intriguingly, volatile oils taken from different parts of the cinnamon tree—such as the bark, leaves, trunk, and roots—vary in molecular composition and may thus have different pharmacologic effects.

This spice has been shown to offer a range of health benefits due to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antifungal activities, which have all been well documented in the literature. Indeed, cinnamon has long been used as an ancient herbal remedy for the common cold, gastrointestinal disorders, and diabetes. 

Researchers have also shown cinnamon may have clinical utility in wound healing. The analgesic and wound-healing effects of cinnamon have been largely demonstrated in animal models. In one study, researchers found that cinnamaldehyde—a key compound of cinnamon—improved wound healing in zebrafish. 

In another study that examined the wound-healing properties of cinnamon, researchers found that topical application of cinnamon essential oil on infected wounds accelerated “wound healing by upregulating the IGF‐1, FGF‐2, and VEGF expression and increasing cell proliferation, collagen synthesis, and reepithelialization ratio.”

Although human studies on this subject matter are lacking, the few that have examined the wound-healing effects of cinnamon have been promising. For instance, in one study on its effects on pain and wound healing following episiotomy, researchers found that cinnamon ointment significantly reduced perineal pain and improved the healing of episiotomy incision. 


Seems like garlic is good for more than warding off vampires. In addition to offering a host of other health benefits, garlic can help facilitate wound healing (in case one of the undead bites you).

The bioactive component of garlic is called allicin, and it has demonstrated antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Indeed, like every other household item on this list, garlic has been used throughout time and across humanity to treat wounds. Researchers of  animal studies have shown that garlic boosts wound healing and suppresses infection. 

For instance, in one preclinical study involving rat models with surgically induced wounds, scars treated with an ointment consisting of 30% garlic extract had increased numbers of fibroblasts compared with scars treated with Vaseline.


Although more than 1 million cups of chamomile tea are consumed each day, the chamomile herb represents so much more than a mere beverage. Chamomile preparations are made from its dried flowers, which are rich in bioactive terpenoids and flavonoids. Historically, chamomile has been used to treat ulcers, wounds, hay fever, inflammation, insomnia, muscle spasms, and more. Furthermore, essential oils of chamomile are often used in cosmetics and aromatherapy. The use of chamomile for medicinal and topical applications is likely due to its powerful anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties.

Researchers have shown that chamomile essential oil promotes skin healing via wound drying, improved epithelialization, decreased wound area, and improved wound contraction. In fact, some experts have suggested that chamomile may outperform corticosteroids with respect to wound healing.

Aloe vera

Although Aloe vera is available in commercial preparations, few things offer more relief than cracking open a fresh A. vera frond and rubbing its cool gel all over your sunburned skin.

The genus Aloe  has more than 400 species, which belong to the Asphodelaceae or Liliaceae families. Contained in the leaf are a range of bioactive compounds that promote several therapeutic effects, such as increased wound healing and antifungal, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and gastroprotective activities. 

The use of A. vera is steeped in many cultures. It has been used for rejuvenation and wound healing for eons. Yet, few studies have examined its physiological effects.

In one preclinical study, investigators examined cell proliferation and migration of human skin fibroblasts and keratinocytes in growth media after exposure to an A. vera solution plus preservatives at different titrations. (Of note, keratinocytes are the main type of cell in skin epithelium, and is responsible for reepithelialization, or resurfacing of the skin. Fibroblasts produce collagen and mediate granulation.) Growth media with preservatives served as the control.

The researchers found that A. vera stimulated cell proliferation and migration of fibroblasts and keratinocytes, thus promoting wound healing. Moreover, A. vera protected keratinocytes against death from preservatives contained in the media. Keratinocytes in the growth media with A. vera lived longer compared with those bathed in preservatives alone.

“The results suggest A. vera accelerates wound healing by promoting the proliferation and migration of fibroblasts and keratinocytes and by protecting keratinocytes from preservative-induced death,” the authors wrote.


Like A. vera, honey has been used as a wound dressing for eons. Unlike A. vera, plenty of research has been done on honey’s physiological effects, especially during the past few decades. It turns out that honey has numerous bioactive compounds that give it wound-healing properties.

First, the acidity of honey results in the release of oxygen from hemoglobin, thus rendering the wound environment less amenable to destructive proteases.

Second, the high osmolarity of honey draws fluid from the wound bed to boost the outflow and clearance of lymph, thus creating negative-pressure wound therapy—nature’s own wound vacuum!

Third, honey has antibacterial activity due to its hydrogen peroxide content. With most honeys, this compound is inactivated by catalase found in blood, serum, and tissue. With manuka honey, however, antibacterial properties are conferred by methylglyoxal, which remains intact in the body. 

Fourth, honey probably triggers the immune response, which results in tissue growth necessary for wound repair. This immune response may mitigate inflammation and yield autolytic debridement.  

Tea tree oil

Perhaps you’ve gone to a salon and felt the pleasant tingle of tea tree oil (TTO) shampoo. But, “feeling the burn” is merely the tip of the iceberg with respect to TTO’s effects.

TTO is distilled from the Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia. Terpinen-4 is a chief bioactive component in this essential oil that harbors considerable antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, TTO has strong antioxidant properties along with demonstrated antimicrobial activity against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, which can all plague the skin. 

“Several studies have suggested the uses of TTO for the treatment of acne vulgaris, seborrheic dermatitis, and chronic gingivitis,” wrote authors of a review article published in the International Journal of Dermatology. “It also accelerates the wound healing process and exhibits anti-skin cancer activity.”

When wounds are serious, you know to go to the ED. But for less serious problems, when you’re in a pinch, check your medicine cabinet or pantry for some of these handy household healing agents. 

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