STUDENT HEALTH-Honey: A Timeless Remedy

By Hamza Siddiqui

I have a confession. Like most people I have an opinion about well—everything.  Regardless of the extent of my knowledge, formulating an opinion is something intrinsic to human beings and one usually rushes to make one. But rarely do we come across something that, once we get to know it, our previous sentiments grossly underestimate that which we are judging. It may seem like I am about to expound on something profound, with implications far and wide. Sorry to disappoint, but I am only talking about honey. Yes, honey, that golden, viscous liquid that sits on top of your fridge.

Common knowledge tells us that honey comes from honeybees. They buzz around all year long going from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollinating plants.

The nectar they collect mixes with enzymes in their mouth. Combined with the flutter of their wings, the moisture is reduced, which results in a thick gooey liquid called honey.

Honey was of prominent use even in the era of ancient Rome, when the Olympics were first held. Athletes used to eat honey to enhance their performance and give themselves pre-workout energy.

Aristotle referred to honey as the “nectar of gods.” The ancient Egyptians would bury their deceased Pharaohs with honey for their journey into the hereafter. There are biblical references abound about milk and honey. And finally, there are many references in the Qur’an about the benefits of honey:

And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in [men’s]          habitations…there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors,                wherein is healing for mankind. Verily in this is a Sign for those who give      thought (Translation of Qur’an 16:68-69).

In more areas of the Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have pointed to the liquid as a medicinal tool, not just a source of food, or merely an element of enhanced taste.

“Honey is a remedy for every illness and the Qur’an is a remedy for all illness of    the mind, therefore I recommend to you both remedies, the Qur’an and honey” (Bukhari).

But honey is no longer a remedy limited to folklore or ancient tradition.  Recent discoveries have shown the extensive medicinal benefits of honey and have demonstrated its superior qualities when compared to modern alternatives.

Honey has the ability to inhibit ulcers and prevent cancer. According to cholesterol health expert Dr. Maoshing Ni, author of Secrets of Longevity, researchers have concluded that honey is able to hinder the growth of H pylori, the bacteria responsible for gastric ulcers and it contains caffeic acid, which helps prevent colon cancer. And, as Ni points out, honey is a healthier sweetener than table sugar.

Furthermore, honey is a rich source of antioxidants. In February 2007, the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture published a study about honey’s chemical benefits by researcher Rosa Ana Perez, M.S., Ph.D., of the Department of Food and Agriculture Research, (Instituto Madrileno de Investigacion y Desarrollo Rural, Agrario y Alimentario) in Madrid, Spain.

She and other researchers found that honey’s antioxidants block chemicals known as free radicals, which are responsible for neurodegenerative disease, chronic inflammation disease, and cardiovascular disease and contribute to aging.

In 2004, American researchers found that eating honey four to ten times a day increases the level of antioxidants, which in turn help combat these illnesses.

Honey also helps counter constipation and is an effective antihistamine, according to Dr. Ni. Not only does honey have extensive medicinal benefits, but it is also a natural, healthier and much more nutritious alternative to conventional treatments.

RealAge, Inc., an online wellness center run by Dr. Michael Roize, has classified honey as a “functional food” because it contains vitamins and minerals such as protein and fiber, making it a healthier option than empty sugar calories. It has also been lab tested to reduce body fat, cholesterol and gallstones.

Its benefits are further extended to treating coughs and soar throat. In a study reported by RealAge researchers, when consuming buckwheat honey, between half a teaspoon and two teaspoons were enough to suppress coughs and lubricate soar throats.

Honey also has first aid capabilities.  Gauze that has been dipped into honey can be used to cover wounds, burns and can also be applied to insect bites to help sooth the injury and prevent infections, Dr. Ni reports.

In addition, The Cochrane Library reviewed nineteen trials, which consisted of more the twenty five hundred people and concluded that honey may expedite healing times for superficial and partial thickness burns compared to conventional dressings.

Researchers attribute this quality to the fact that honey is able to draw fluid from the underlying circulation, providing a moist environment and nutrition to encourage tissue growth. Honey may also help with the removal of dead tissue around the wound to make room for the healthy ones.

But by far the most impressive quality of honey is its antibacterial eminence.  In 2008, researchers at the University of Ottawa tested two different kinds of honey, the Manuka extracted from New Zealand and the Sidr, which originates from Yemen.

These two kinds of honey were effective in killing two strains of staph bacteria, MSSA (methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus) and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and one called PA (pseudomonas aeriginosa).

Even the bacteria growing in the biofilm, a region formed by bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics was susceptible to honey.  The researchers also found that the two types of honey were more potent than conventional antibacterial medication against MSSA and MRSA.

More astounding than the nature of the benefits of honey is the fact that much of this information is quite unknown to the general public. Not only are its uses vast, but its remedies remain timeless.

Reflecting on this, one can only wonder about the other natural wonders that are hiding in plain sight. It proves that the wisdom from the past, even from Islamic tradition, is not only beneficial, but still immensely relevant to our lives today.

So next time, when given the opportunity to pass judgment on something, take a closer look before decide where you stand.

HAMZA SIDDIQUI is a fourth year Political Science major at the University of California, Irvine.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

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