Honey – preserves health and cures disease
Honey is a sweet and thick nutritive product which bees extract from the nectar which they collect from flowers. Since honey is hydroscopic, bees cover it with vax in the honeycomb for protection from humidity in the air. Almost all of the ingredients in honey are also constituents of the human organism. Honey is mostly made of carbohydrates (sugars). The flower nectar is the principle source of sugars in honey. Honey usually consists of monosaccharides (fructose and glucose), disaccharides (maltose, sucrose, cellobiose, gentiobiose, isomaltose, isomaltulose, kojibiose, laminaribiose, leucrose, maltulose, melibiose, neo-trehalose, nigerose, palatinose, saccharose, turanose) and trisaccharides (kestose, erlose, isomaltotriose, isopanose, laminaritriose, glucopyranose, maltotriose, melezitose, panose, rafinose, teanderose). Honey contains water, but usually not more than 15-20%. All of the remaining, but also very important ingredients, usually make less than 1% of the total content of honey. These important ingredients are vitamins (B1, B2, B5, B6, C, D, E, K), proteins and amino acids (coming from the animal/bee or plant origin), minerals (silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, manganese, copper, chromium, nickel, zinc, cobalt, antimony, led and phosphorus) and organic acids (formic, acetic, butyric, lactic, oxalic, succinic, tartaric, maleic, pyruvic, pyroglutamic, aketoglutaric, glycollic, citric, malic, benzoic). Although they come in small amounts, these ingredients may be very important for the human organism, and their content in honey varies depending on the source of collection.
According to the source, honey can be of the floral or honeydew origin. According to its consistency, creamy and express honey can be distinguished. After packaging and processing, honey can be classified as raw, crystallized, pasteurized, strained, filtered, creamed, dried, comb, chunk, baker’s etc.
Extracted honey is collected from the honeycomb cells by centrifugal force. Thawed honey is collected by heating up the honeycomb cells, while strained honey has been passed through a mesh material to remove different particles from honey, without using heat.
Preclinical studies on cells, tissue cultures and laboratory animals have demonstrated health benefits of honey. Recently, more and more studies in humans are published showing potential benefits in treating various chronic diseases, or at least in diminishing the risk factors for development of such diseases.
Significant proofs of hypoglycemic effects of honey have been collected showing lower values for fasting glucose levels in blood, but also for postprandial glucose levels. Honey also seems to reduce insulin resistance in target cells and raise insulin levels in serum.
Honey reduces risks for development of cardiovascular diseases through the following mechanisms:
- improves lipoprotein profile in serum, since it lowers the total cholesterol level and low density lipoprotein (LDL) level and increases the level of high density lipoproteins,
- reduces the oxidative damage to LDL,
- improves functionality of endothelial cells in blood vessels,
- well studied positive influence on functionality and stability of the red blood cells’ membrane, thus reducing their disintegration, i.e. hemolysis.
Recent studies in vitro on cells and tissue cultures, but also in vivo on laboratory animals show anticancerogenic potential of honey. Theoretically, such effects could be largely attributed to polyphenols, particularly flavonoids, which may: influence nuclear or cytoplasmic hormone receptors, facilitate or inhibit the action of certain enzymes involved in oncogenesis, regulate the transmission of external adverse influences to DNA via steroid hormones (while activating cascading system of protein kinase), and finally, inhibit the glycolysis which is the principle route for creating ATP in tumor cells, especially in case of failure in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation.
The treatment with honey is called apitherapy and its antibacterial and antifungal properties have been scientifically proven. Honey has been used in the treatment of wounds since ancient times. Nowadays we are experiencing some sort of revival of the wound management with honey because it is easily administered, painless, shows no adverse effects on tissues, possesses antibacterial properties and shows epithelizing effect (epithelization-increasing the cell division in order to cover up the damaged skin or mucosa). The first record of antibacterial action of honey dates back to 1892. Honey contains various substances showing antibacterial action. One of them is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which disintegrates bacterial DNA acting together with phenolic substances in honey. H2O2 and phenolic substances enter into chemical bond which leads to phenolic auto-oxidation. Polyphenols in honey are important for oxidative effects of H2O2. There is also a non-peroxide related oxidative activity exerted by organic acids contained in honey. The level of activity is not related to the pH value of honey. Honey also shows antifungal effects. Some species of the Candida family respond well to the treatment with honey. Seborrhoic dermatitis also responds well to the treatment with honey.
Naturally, all sorts of honey do not exhibit same effects. Properties and beneficial effects on health depend on the source of flower nectar and its geographical location.
Honey should be kept in dark, dry and clean rooms. The temperatures should not be too cold in order to avoid excessive crystallization.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that even the ancient Egyptians collected honey. 3000 years old jars of honey were discovered in the Tutankamon’s tomb and they were still eatable upon discovery.