I know several friends who are senior citizens who subscribe to this practice and they are very much alive. I doubt the AMA will support their position but......
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A gorilla licking a wound
Wound licking is an instinctive response in humans and many other animals to lick an injury. Dogs, cats, rodents and primates all lick wounds. The enzyme lysozyme is found in many tissues and is known to attack the cell walls of many gram-positive bacteria, aiding in defense against infection. Tears are also beneficial to wounds due to the lysozyme enzyme. However, there are also infection risks due to bacteria in the human mouth.
Oral mucosa heals faster than skin, suggesting that saliva may have properties that aid wound healing. Saliva contains many compounds that are antibacterial or promote healing. The enzymes lysozyme and peroxidase, defensins, cystatins and an antibody, IgA, are all antibacterial. Thrombospondin and some other components are antiviral. A protease inhibitor, secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor, is present in saliva and is both antibacterial and antiviral, and a promoter of wound healing. Nitrates that are naturally found in saliva break down into nitric oxide on contact with skin, which will inhibit bacterial growth. Saliva contains growth factors such as epidermal growth factor, VEGF, TGF-β1, leptin, IGF-I, lysophosphatidic acid, hyaluronan and NGF, which all promote healing, although levels of EGF and NGF in humans are much lower than those in rats. In humans, histatins may play a larger role. As well as being growth factors, IGF-I and TGF-α induce antimicrobial peptides. Saliva also contains an analgesic, opiorphin. Licking will also tend to debride the wound and remove gross contamination from the affected area.
In non-human animals
Lick granuloma from excessive licking
It has been long observed that the licking of their wounds by dogs might be beneficial. Indeed, a dog's saliva is bactericidal against the bacteria Escherichia coli and Streptococcus canis, although not against coagulase positive Staphylococcus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Wound licking is also important in other animals. Removal of the salivary glands of mice and rats slows wound healing, and communal licking of wounds among rodents accelerates wound healing. Communal licking is common in several primate species. In macaques, hair surrounding a wound and any dirt is removed, and the wound is licked, healing without infection.
Too much licking of wounds can be harmful. An Elizabethan collar is sometimes worn by pet animals to prevent biting or excessive wound licking, which can cause a lick granuloma. These lesions are often infected by pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus intermedius. Infection is another risk. Horses that lick wounds may become infected by a stomach parasite, Habronema, a type of nematode worm. The rabies virus may be transmitted between kudu antelopes by wound licking.
Somewhere on a beach in Belize