Honey: The Antibiotic Of The Future! Part 1
By Nora Belfedal
In the Qur'an, Allah says that in paradise will be "rivers of honey pure."
"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"(16:69).
Although honey's healing benefits were known to Muslims more than a thousand years ago, scientists are just now beginning to research it's amazing powers. Indeed, Peter Molan, biochemist at the University of Waikato (New Zealand) has - for the past 17 years - researched into the healing properties of honey and has shown scientifically that all honeys have varying degrees of such properties (Molan, p.1). Honey contains many minerals and vitamins beneficial to man. However, one of the most important properties seems to be its antibiotic action.
Each drop of honey contains many minerals (potassium, sodium, phosphate, copper, iron, calcium, manganese), enzymes, trace elements, vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, C, D, K), as well as beta-carotene. Honey also contains glucose, fructose and saccharine (70%) and is very preservative just by itself (billybee.com). Of course honey from a supermarket, which has been heated and filtered, may not be as therapeutic as one taken directly from the comb (Ifas, p.4).
Molan's favorite story about honey makes reference to a 20-year-old wound in a British woman. Bacteria had been festering in an abscess in her armpit for years, resisting all the antibiotics she had taken. Nothing seemed to help her and she could barely use her arm. In August 1999, she heard about honey's healing effects and convinced her doctors to put some in her dressing. At that point they were willing to try anything and were not very hopeful that anything would work. However, they were quite surprised when one month later the wound finally healed and the woman could use her arm again.
Since then, honeys have been tested on the different species of bacteria responsible for wound infection (Molan, p.2). The State Medical Society of Wisconsin announced," It is only a matter of time before antibiotics lose their effectiveness because their overuse creates ever-stronger germs."
Thus, we may have to go back to the to the old fashioned remedy. However, "old fashioned", is not as bad as it sounds. Effectively, the potency of honey was found to be superior to all types of antibiotics. Two years ago, Australia approved honey as a medicine and began selling it in pharmacies (Whichman, p.1).
Honey is now known for its antibiotic, antioxidant and antiviral capabilities. In fact, honey contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide, which is believed to be the main reason for its anti-microbial activity. If one wants to use it as a dressing, the best way is to use sterilized honey. However, the only way to sterilize honey without destroying its antibacterial agents is through gamma-irradiations. Honey is also used for sore throats, colds, heartburn, fever blisters, cuts, acne, skin disorders, ulcers, stomach inflammations and cataracts… and its flavor excites the appetite (The National Honey Board).
The advantage of the honey used externally is that during the healing process the re-growth of the sick part of the body is enhanced by honey's moisturizing properties. Molan explains the mechanism of this process:
- The nectar, being made of glucose and fructose, is very attracted by water. When put on a wound, it absorbs water and body fluids, taking and destroying bacteria and inhibiting their growth too.
- Raw honey contains glucose oxidase, an enzyme that produces a mild antiseptic when mixed with a bit of water. This enzyme is destroyed by heat and pasteurization. That is why it cannot be found in commercial honeys (Molan, p.3)
While the healing properties of honey may be news to modern science, Prophet Mohammad (saws) commented on its value 1400 years ago. Indeed, once a man came to the Prophet and said, "My brother has got loose motions." The Prophet said to him, "Let him drink honey (Bukhari)." Furthermore, the work of Molan has provided substantial evidence that honey holds promise in the treatment of peptic ulcers and upper gastroenteritis disorders. Despite its high acid concentration, the nectar is very digestible and tones the kidneys.
The Prophet (saws) also said, "If there is any healing in your medicines, then it is in cupping, a gulp of honey or branding with fire (cauterization) that suits the ailment, but I don't like to be (cauterized) branded with fire." Indeed, honey also nourishes, regulates and purifies blood circulation. Its fructose is the only natural inert sugar and it goes straight into the blood, nourishing nerves and providing the brain with extra energy.
In case of first-degree burns, "the raw wild flower honey formed a flexible protective barrier which prevents infections, absorbs pus and reduced pain, irritation and odor" writes Leigh Broadhurst (Healthwellexchange.com). A Romanian doctor stated that he tried honey on cataract patients, and 2002 of his 2094 patients recovered completely (Islamweb.net).
Another function has been found for honey too: an Oklahoma allergist has said that raw honey is an excellent treatment for 90% of all allergies. A person who is suffering from an allergy to a certain plant should eat honey made from this plant (Reallyrawhoney.com).
Honey can also help heal Tinea, for it has anti-fungal activities; but not many species of fungi have been tested. Mycoses are quite difficult to treat, for they need both anti-fungal and antibacterial treatment. However, Manuka honey showed that its hydrogen peroxide factors inhibit the growth of fungi. Although, the concentration of honey needed to treat Mycoses is higher than that needed to treat bacteria (Molan, p.3).
However, paradoxical, sweet honey can also protect the teeth. Its anti-microbial activity has been tested on several species of dental plaque bacteria. A study shows that honey has been proven to sharply reduce acid production, thus killing the bacteria responsible for dental caries. Researchers believe that it also makes a difference in fighting inflammatory infections of the gums (Cbshealthwatch.com).
One Companion of the Prophet reported, "In our holy battles, we used to get honey (Bukhari)." According to what we now know, this was a logical choice for travelers and soldiers, as honey is a supersaturated sugar and is easy to digest because of the monosaccharides; it is also a superior antibiotic. The natural carbohydrates contained within honey, when combined with proteins, help maintain a good glycaemia - which is important for recovering after a hard-days efforts. By maintaining a good glucose level, honey also maintains a good insulin level and helps people to avoid hypoglycemia. Some studies showed that this nectar could thus boost endurance performance in athletes (Cbshealthwatch.com).
However, although honey is a very safe and natural remedy, it should not be given to infants under one year-old. Honey is a source of bacteria spores that product a toxin which can cause infant botulism, even though it is rare (a risk of botulism exists in the ingestion of any uncooked food!). Botulism is a rare disease that affects the nervous system and can lead to palsy. Nevertheless, it can still be use as a dressing for burns and cuts (Manukahoneyusa.com).
"And your Lord taught the honey bee…" (16:68). This verse explains the excessive production of the bees. They have been taught to produce not only for themselves but also for human beings! The excellent organization within the hive is also proof of this "teaching."
So, honey should be the first choice in cases of health problems as it is natural and has a high nutrient value; it does not have the side effects of drugs and is more affordable than most other kinds of therapy.
Molan, Peter, MD. "Honey Research."
Sahih Bukhari. "Book of Medicine."
Ifas. "APIS Newspaper." University of Florida. August 2000.
The National Honey Board.
Whichman, Julie. "Honey." Health Watch. Vol 21:12. March16 2000.
University of Waikato Honey Research Unit
MANUKA HONEY USA