Cobwebs and superglue


I remember, many years ago, watching the vet treat a cow which was tied in a stall in the building next to the milking parlour. Because it was easy to separate a cow from her mates there, after she’d been milked, this was the stall we used for cows the vet needed to see. It was light and easily pressure-hosed off so was always clean.

The vet looked up at the ceiling. To be fair we’d been wary of pressure hosing that, if only because the roof was a fair age and we didn’t fancy taking the risk of loosening the slates. The vet surveyed the thick cobwebs with some enthusiasm. “Always handy to have some of them about if you have a bad cut to treat.”
It’s actually a very old technique. Wash the wound with honey and vinegar, than gently pat it dry with a clean cloth, put a thick pad of cobweb over it, and then put a bandage round to hold the pad in place. Apparently, not only is there the physical effect of the fine mesh of spider silk, but also cobwebs contain vitamin K which helps clotting.

Obviously mindless bureaucracy has to impinge on these things and the advent of the dairy inspectorate with clipboards and boxes to tick meant that eventually the cobwebs disappeared.

But I suppose we’ve moved on. Step forward and take a bow, Superglue or ethyl-cyanoacrylate. Apparently in the US, midwives had been using it to “suture” perineal tears after birth. In their experience it was better and less invasive than stitches. Apparently for larger wounds it’s not flexible enough and science stepped forward with Butyl-cyanoacrylate which was used in Vietnam by battlefield medics who didn’t have time or the facilities to stitch wounds in the field. Vets and others who work in similar conditions use it. Indeed it is often used in A&E departments where patients have cuts, especially in ‘non-fleshy’ places, like eyebrows or foreheads.

But now if you have an animal with a bit of a cut you can sent a photo of it on your phone to the vet who’ll look at it and decide whether it’s one that needs stitching, or whether you can just treat it with a little superglue.

Certainly it has to be admitted that it’s a lot easier to apply superglue than to stitch a wound. Especially on dairy cows who’re used to being handled, I saw a cow with a cut in the side of her nose just stand there when superglue was used to seal the cut. She just stood there and let it happen without so much as shaking her head. If we’d tried to stitch her, even using local anaesthetic there’d have been two of us trying to hold her head still enough to give the vet a chance to work.

Given that Poundland sold eight tubes for a pound, that’s £0.12p. Not only that but the vet can cast an eye over the before and after without leaving his fireside by casting an eye over the pictures on his phone.

I must admit I’ve never used the cobwebs, but I’d vouch for the efficacy of honey smeared on a cut. Not only that but it doesn’t have to be the highly expensive Manuka. Supermarket ‘produce of more than one continent’ works perfectly adequately for me.


There again, what do I know? Ask the expert.

As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”


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29 thoughts on “Cobwebs and superglue

  1. Sue Vincent February 15, 2020 at 8:41 pm Reply

    Honey is good for healing minor burns too.

    • jwebster2 February 15, 2020 at 8:46 pm Reply

      yes that I can well believe

  2. Doug Jacquier February 15, 2020 at 8:59 pm Reply

    Delightfully instructive. I recall a John Steinbeck short story called ‘Flight’ in which a young Mexican boy used spiderweb and his own urine to staunch a bad wound. I think I’d prefer honey 😉

    • jwebster2 February 16, 2020 at 6:51 am Reply

      might be worth keeping one of those ‘one-person’ breakfast tubs of honey you see in some hotels, tucked in your first aid kit 🙂

  3. acflory February 15, 2020 at 9:02 pm Reply

    Thanks for this! I’ve known about the honey and vinegar for a long time, but didn’t know about the cobwebs.

    In case anyone’s interested, honey is/contains a mild, natural anti-biotic. When I was a kid, Mum would treat sore throats with spoonfuls of honey – lick it slowly and the honey works far better than the Strepsils we have these days. My family still use it for sore throats.

    As for the vinegar, it’s been used as an antiseptic/cleaner for a very long time. I believe some hospitals still use it to clean floors when there’s a stubborn bacterial problem. My Gran also taught me that vinegar soothes the itch of mosquito bites better than calamine lotion. Again, we still use these ‘old wives’ remedies in place of the chemical ones coz they really do work. 🙂

    • jwebster2 February 16, 2020 at 6:50 am Reply

      Every morning I start the day with cider vinegar and honey (two tea spoonfuls of each in a mug of hot water)
      I was recommended it for arthritis/rheumatism and have been doing it for nearly forty years and in spite of my job, outdoors in most weathers, have neither. 🙂
      It’s also a brilliant drink when you’re rotten with cold 🙂

      • acflory February 16, 2020 at 11:30 pm

        Hmm…now that’s interesting. So the cider vinegar must act like a kind of anti-inflammatory? I have a bowl of Morello cherries each day and they act as anti-inflammatories, but they only help with symptoms. Don’t think they work as a preventive.
        Do you have to have the cider/honey drink on an empty stomach? Or could I sneak in a coffee first?

      • jwebster2 February 17, 2020 at 6:47 am

        I just have my cider vinegar then because it fits into my routine. If I’ve a cold I’ll have it last thing at night (or whenever I’m feeling particularly miserable) as well
        Nobody seems to have any idea of what it really does or how it does it 🙂

      • acflory February 17, 2020 at 11:47 am

        Oh okay, so there’s no optimum time for it. That’s a big help. Thanks, Jim. 🙂

  4. acflory February 15, 2020 at 9:07 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Meeka's Mind and commented:
    Fascinating post about the use of cobwebs as part of a natural healing treatment. I’ve known about some of the medicinal uses of honey since I was a kid [great for sore throats], and vinegar as a mild antiseptic, especially for cleaning, but I didn’t realise that cobwebs had a bonafide use as well!

    As writers, these are gems of information we should all keep and pass on to others. 🙂

  5. Stevie Turner February 16, 2020 at 1:57 pm Reply

    I’ve also heard of this technique. Also in the hospital ward where I once worked, maggots were used (and still are) to clean necrotic skin. They arrive in a packet and are fixed in place over the wound and left for a day or so. Voila…clean wound!

    • jwebster2 February 16, 2020 at 3:31 pm Reply

      Yes they do work well, although having had to deal with blowfly infestation in sheep, I confess to being rather unenthusiastic about maggots 🙂

  6. OIKOS™-Publishing February 16, 2020 at 2:13 pm Reply

    Never heared before about midwives using superglue to “suture” perineal tears after birth. How fearless had they been? Isnt cyano acrylate not cancerocene too? Michael.

    • jwebster2 February 16, 2020 at 3:30 pm Reply

      I think it’s potentially toxic rather than carcinogenic. To quote the wiki (the source of all truth 🙂 ) “The fumes from cyanoacrylate are a vaporized form of the cyanoacrylate monomer that irritate the sensitive mucous membranes of the respiratory tract (i.e., eyes, nose, throat, and lungs). They are immediately polymerized by the moisture in the membranes and become inert. These risks can be minimized by using cyanoacrylate in well-ventilated areas. About 5% of the population can become sensitized to cyanoacrylate fumes after repeated exposure, resulting in flu-like symptoms.[29] Cyanoacrylate may also be a skin irritant, causing an allergic skin reaction. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) assign a threshold limit value exposure limit of 200 parts per billion. On rare occasions, inhalation may trigger asthma. There is no singular measurement of toxicity for all cyanoacrylate adhesives because of the large number of adhesives that contain various cyanoacrylate formulations.

      The United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive and the United States National Toxicology Program have concluded that the use of ethyl cyanoacrylate is safe and that additional study is unnecessary.[30] The compound 2-octyl cyanoacrylate degrades much more slowly due to its longer organic backbone (series of covalently bonded carbon molecules) and the adhesive does not reach the threshold of tissue toxicity. Due to the toxicity issues of ethyl cyanoacrylate, the use of 2-octyl cyanoacrylate for sutures is preferred.”

      • OIKOS™-Publishing February 16, 2020 at 7:18 pm

        Thank you for this very useful information, John.

      • jwebster2 February 16, 2020 at 7:22 pm

        no worries.
        Apparently one reason for using Butyl-cyanoacrylate medically is that there are less potentially toxic effects

      • OIKOS™-Publishing February 16, 2020 at 9:04 pm

        Good to know. Thank you!!

  7. annabellefranklinauthor February 16, 2020 at 3:39 pm Reply

    if more more vets subscribed to this sort of approach, their bills would be a lot lower – and we could certainly do with that!

    • jwebster2 February 16, 2020 at 3:56 pm Reply

      A lot of large animal vets do, they have to because they have to travel to their patient, in many cases their patient cannot travel to them

  8. jenanita01 February 16, 2020 at 6:30 pm Reply

    A veritable mine of interesting information…

    • jwebster2 February 16, 2020 at 7:23 pm Reply

      See what I got to learn by not working at school. If I’d done that I’d have ended up with an honest job 🙂

      • jenanita01 February 17, 2020 at 9:29 am

        and you wouldn’t be as happy?

      • jwebster2 February 17, 2020 at 9:58 am

        Almost certainly not, but the sad thing would be that I wouldn’t realise

  9. jenanita01 February 16, 2020 at 6:30 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

  10. […] Continue reading at Jim Webster […]

  11. joylennick February 17, 2020 at 10:27 pm Reply

    Very informative, Jim, thank you. My husband (nearly 92) has taken cider vinegar in boiled water for many years too,(Recommended by my old Yoga teacher). Apart from a little arthritis in his neck, he hasn’t any in other parts of his body. I didn’t know about the cobweb treatment, but honey goes way back. We took it for sore throats and applied to small wounds when young, and I know of a few people who have resorted to honey on areas that were stubborn to heal, with good results,.Vinegar is also effective for insect bites. Cheers! x

    • jwebster2 February 18, 2020 at 6:35 am Reply

      The advantage of the honey is that it makes cider vinegar palatable as well 🙂

  12. Mary Smith February 17, 2020 at 10:53 pm Reply

    I always use honey for a sore throat – or a salt water gargle. Many of the old ways were/are very effective. Does the vet charge for looking at the before and after photos?

    • jwebster2 February 18, 2020 at 6:34 am Reply

      In most cases I suspect the vet isn’t going to book his time out to the farmer. After all he could be standing in the yard of another farmer when he looks at his phone. A lot of professions never charge for brief advice given over the phone, or at least they didn’t used to

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