Licking Speeds Up Wound Healing….

April 15, 2009

Call it reflex but the moment something feels painful or see blood in our fingers or hands, we immediately bring that finger into our mouth to lick it!  We feel better and we think it stops the bleeding.

Now science tells us indeed we were right all along.  A recent study published online by FASEB showed that licking a wound can indeed speed up wound healing:


Wounds in the oral cavity heal much faster than skin lesions. Among other factors, saliva is generally assumed to be of relevance to this feature. Rodent saliva contains large amounts of growth factors such as epidermal growth factor (EGF) and nerve growth factor (NGF).

In humans, however, the identity of the involved compounds has remained elusive, especially since EGF and NGF concentrations are 100,000 times lower than those in rodent saliva.

Using an in vitro model for wound closure, we examined the properties of human saliva and the fractions that were obtained from saliva by high-performance liquid chromotography (HPLC) separation.

  • We identified histatin 1 (Hst1) and histatin 2 (Hst2) as major wound-closing factors in human saliva.
  • In contrast, the D-enantiomer of Hst2 did not induce wound closure, indicating stereospecific activation. Furthermore, histatins were actively internalized by epithelial cells and specifically used the extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 (ERK1/2) pathway, thereby enhancing epithelial migration.

This study demonstrates that members of the histatin family, which up to now were implicated in the antifungal weaponry of saliva, exert a novel function that likely is relevant for oral wound healing.


Now we know why nature tells us to lick our wounds…why dogs and cats do it too!!!!  This study also explains why mouth sores heal easily even if we dont do anything to them.

Hopefully in the future, this will help scientists develop new and better ways to help heal the wounds especially among those with diabetes or poor circulation that require the most aggressive way of treating the wounds to avoid complications like amputation.

For now…if you can lick it… go for it!!!!

One Response to “Licking Speeds Up Wound Healing….”

  1. maxim Says:

    This is clearly one learning medical science can learn from nature, in this case the behavior of animals.

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