A man named Bernardo LaPallo is over 110 years old, although most would think he is younger. Like many living to be his age, LaPallo credits his long life with eating a lot of organic fruit and vegetables, while avoiding other foods like the plague. He especially recognizes the 5 foods, a secret passed down to him by his father which he believes is the key to his longevity. Bernardo puts it simply, “You are what you eat!” One of the top foods, Bernardo recognized as the most valuable longevity drivers is honey.
What is Honey?
Honey is a natural product that has been widely used for its therapeutic effects. It is composed primarily of fructose and glucose, but also contains fructo-oligosaccharides, and many amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. The composition of honey varies depending on the plants on which the bee feeds. However, almost all natural honey contains flavonoides (such as apigenin, pinocembrin, kaempferol, quercetin, galangin, chrysin and hesperetin), phenolic acids (such as ellagic, caffeic, p-coumaric and ferulic acids), ascorbic acid, tocopherols, catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), reduced glutathione (GSH), Millard reaction products and peptides. Most of those compound works together to provide a synergistic antioxidant effect.
Honey has had a valued place in traditional medicine for centuries. However, it has a limited use in modern medicine due to lack of scientific support. For a long time, it has been observed that honey can be used to overcome liver, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems. Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans employed honey for wounds and diseases of the intestine. Since a few decades ago, honey was subjected to laboratory and clinical investigations by several research groups. The most remarkable discovery was antibacterial activity of honey validated in numerous studies. Natural honey exhibits bactericidal activity against many organisms including Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia coli, Helicobacter pylori, etc. In an inflammatory model of colitis, honey was as effective as prednisolone treatment. Research has also indicated that honey may possess anti-inflammatory activity and stimulate immune responses within a wound. Honey has been shown to prevent reactive oxygen species (ROS)-induced low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation in some in vitro studies, thus exhibiting beneficial cardiovascular protection. Honey also had antineoplastic activity in an experimental bladder cancer.
Honey in Indian system of a yurveda
Ayurveda is a compound word i.e., âyus meaning ‘life’ or ‘life principle’, and the word veda, which refers to ‘a system of knowledge’. Hence ‘Ayurveda’ roughly translates as the ‘knowledge of life’. The ancient vedic civilization considered honey one of nature's most remarkable gifts to mankind. Traditionally, according to the texts of Ayurveda, honey is a boon to those with weak digestion. In addition, it has been emphasized that the use of honey is highly beneficial in the treatment of irritating cough. Honey is regarded by Ayurvedic experts, as valuable in keeping the teeth and gums healthy. It has been used for centuries for the treatment of insomnia because it has hypnotic action. Additionally, traditional Ayurvedic experts recommend honey for skin disorders (such as wounds and burns), cardiac pain and palpitation, all imbalances of the lungs and anemia. Honey has a long history of Ayurvedic use for various eye ailments. Applied daily to the eyes, it improves the eyesight. Moreover, honey is regarded as useful in the prevention of cataract.
Honey in ancient Egypt
Honey was the most popular Egyptian drug being mentioned 500 times in 900 remedies. Its prescription for a standard wound salve discovered in the Smith papyrus (an Egyptian text dating from between 2600 and 2200 B.C.) calls for a mixture of mrht (grease), byt (honey) and ftt (lint/fibre) as transliterated from hieroglyphic symbols. Almost all Egyptian medicines contained honey together with wine and milk. The ancient Egyptians offered honey to their deities as a sacrifice. They also used honey for embalming the dead. Honey was utilized for its antibacterial properties that helped heal infected wounds. Moreover, honey was used as a topical ointment.
Honey in ancient Greece
Oenomel is an ancient Greek beverage consisting of honey and unfermented grape juice. It is sometimes used as a folk remedy for gout and certain nervous disorders. Hippocrates, the great Greek scientist, prescribed a simple diet, favoring honey given as oxymel (vinegar and honey) for pain, hydromel (water and honey) for thirst, and a mixture of honey, water and various medicinal substances for acute fevers. Also, he utilized honey for baldness, contraception, wound healing, laxative action, cough and sore throat, eye diseases, topical antisepsis, prevention and treatment of scars.
Honey in Islamic medicine
In Islamic medical system, honey is considered a healthy drink. The holy Qur'an vividly illustrates the potential therapeutic value of honey: "And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations; Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a sign for those who give thought". Moreover, the Muslim prophet Mohammad recommended the use of honey for the treatment of diarrhea. Avicenna, the great Iranian scientist and physician, almost 1000 years ago, had recommended honey as one of best remedies in the treatment of tuberculosis.
Antimicrobial properties of honey
In addition to important role of natural honey in the traditional medicine, during the past few decades, it was subjected to laboratory and clinical investigations. Antibacterial activity of honey is one of the most important findings, bringing it to one of the top remedies for natural healing. Honey has been reported to have an inhibitory effect to around 60 species of bacteria including aerobes and anaerobes, gram-positives and gram-negatives.
Mechanisms of antimicrobial activity of honey are different from antibiotics, which destroy the bacteria’s cell wall or inhibit intracellular metabolic pathways. The antibacterial activity is related to four properties of honey. First, honey draws moisture out of the environment and thus dehydrates bacteria. The sugar content of honey is also high enough to hinder the growth of microbes, but the sugar content alone is not the sole reason for honey’s antibacterial properties. Second, the pH of honey is between 3.2 and 4.5, and this acidity is low enough to inhibit the growth of most microorganisms. Hydrogen peroxide produced by the glucose oxidase is the third and probably the most important antibacterial component, although some authors believe the nonperoxide activity to be more important. Lastly, several phytochemical factors for antibacterial activity have been identified in honey.
One of the most studied and most effective uses of honey is found in healing of wounds. The Russians used honey in World War I to prevent wound infection and to accelerate wound healing. The Germans combined cod liver oil and honey to treat ulcers, burns, fistulas and boils. Nearly all types of wounds like abrasion, abscess, amputation, bed sores /decubitus ulcers, burns, chill blains, burst abdominal wound, cracked nipples, fistulas, diabetic, malignant, leprosy, traumatic, cervical, varicose and sickle cell ulcers, septic wounds, surgical wound or wounds of abdominal wall and perineum are found to be responsive to honey therapy. Application of honey as wound dressing leads to stimulation of healing process and rapidly clears the infection. Honey has cleansing action on wounds, stimulates tissue regeneration and reduces inflammation. Honey impregnated pads act as non-adhesive tissue dressing.
“In the winter of 1933 I heated a boiler of about thirty-five gallons of water. When I opened the cover, it flew with great force against the ceiling. The vapor and hot water poured forth over my unprotected head, over my hands and feet. Some minutes afterward I had violent pains and I believe I would have gone mad if my wife and my daughter had not helped me immediately. They took large pieces of linen, daubed them thickly with honey and put them on my head, neck, hands and feet. Almost instantly the pain ceased. I slept well all night and did not lose a single hair on my head. When the physician came he shook his head and said: `How can such a thing be possible? (“Alpenlindische Bienenzeitung” (February, 1935)
Gastrointestinal tract diseases
Oral administration of honey to treat and protect against gastrointestinal infection such as gastritis, duodenitis and gastric ulceration caused by bacteria and rotavirus has been reported. Attachment of bacteria to mucosal epithelial cells is considered the initial event in the development of bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract. Blocking attachment of pathogenic microorganisms to the intestinal epithelium represents a potential strategy for disease prevention.
Honey has been reported to have inhibitory effects on fungi. Pure honey inhibits fungal growth and diluted honey appears capable of inhibiting toxin production. Some studies have also reported that topical application of honey was effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.
Antiviral effects of honey
In addition to antibacterial and antifungal effects, natural honey has showed antiviral effect. Al-Waili (2004) investigated the effect of the topical application of honey on recurrent attacks of herpes lesions and concluded that topical honey application was safe and effective in the management of the signs and symptoms of recurrent lesions from labial and genital herpes compared to acyclovir cream.
Ophthalmology and honey
Honey is used worldwide for the treatment of various ophthalmological conditions like blepharitis, keratitis, conjunctivitis, corneal injuries, chemical and thermal burns to eyes.
Honey as a carbohydrate source
Honey is a natural mixture of fructose-glucose along with some oligosaccharides, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Some studies demonstrated that honey is an effective carbohydrate source for athletes before and after resistance training and during endurance exercise.
Honey and diabetes
The use of honey in type I and type II diabetes was associated with significantly lower glycemic index than with glucose or sucrose in normal diabetes. Honey compared with dextrose caused a significantly lower rise in plasma glucose levels in diabetic subjects. It also caused reduction of blood lipids, homocysteine levels and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in normal and hyperlipidemic subjects.
Honey as food preservative and prebiotic
Hydrogen peroxide and non peroxide components such as antioxidants are found to inhibit growth of Shigella, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staph. aureus helping in food preservation. Clostridium botulinum however may be present in small amounts in honey. It has a good potential to be used as a natural source of antioxidants to reduce negative effects of polyphenol oxidase browning in fruit and vegetable processing.
Anti-inflammatory effects of honey
In a recent investigation, it was reported that honey reduces the activities of cyclooxygenase-1 and cyclooxygenase-2, thus showing anti-inflammatory effects. It has proven abilities to reduce inflammation and exudation, promotes healing, diminishes scar size and stimulates tissue regeneration.
Antioxidant activity of honey
Today, we know well that radicals cause molecular transformations and gene mutations in many types of organisms. Oxidative stress is well-known to cause many diseases, and scientists in many different disciplines became more interested in natural sources which could provide active components to prevent or reduce its impacts on cells.
Natural honey contains many flavonoids, phenolic acids, ascorbic acid, and other components, securing a synergistic antioxidant effect. Hence, it has been suggested that honey, as a natural antioxidant, may serve as an alternative to some preservatives such as sodium tripolyphosphate in food preservation to delay lipid oxidation.
A 2011 study from Iran looked at how honey affects renal cell carcinoma, which is a type of kidney cancer. Researchers found that honey was in fact effective in stopping cancer cells from multiplying, and concluded that honey definitely warrants further study as a cancer treatment.
Several studies propose that honey can improve both short- and long-term memory, especially in ageing men and women. In one study, postmenopausal women who were given honey treatments for several weeks saw as much improvement in their immediate memory as women given hormone therapy.
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