What Is Honey and Why Is It Useful against Cancer?

What Is Honey and Why Is It Useful against Cancer?

You may think it a strange topic for our cosmetics blog, but it has always been our aim to make our blog to cover a diverse range of topics on not only how to look good but also how to take care of ourselves in the most natural ways possible.

I guess the reason for this blog is that I have a daughter in the middle of cancer treatment, and it completely brings home to me our vulnerabilities and makes me aware of our lifestyle.


But why did I research the relevance of honey?

Back in the 50’s through to the 70’s I had a great Aunt who was a pioneer of treating cancer with diet and natural remedies. You can read about her here.

I remember Aunt E being a dynamic lady, zipping around in her VW Beetle and treating people all over the world.

But the thing that sticks in my mind is her belief that Honey is the one of the best natural foods and cures in the world. It is pre-digested she said, and is as good as you can get.

This was well before the days of the knowledge of what we now know as “Active” or Manuka Honey.

I remember in the 80’s meeting a lady who was a thalidomide victim and had no arms, just hands on her shoulders. She was late middle aged and was not in good health. Being unable to do simple tasks like wash her body she had to rely on carers who visited her weekly.She developed terrible ulcers on her legs which did not get better over a period of time. I had just become aware of active honey and suggested she could have it applied to her ulcers. In a short period of time her ulcers were cured. It was truly amazing to me and many others.

So I did some research and came across the following study which I have copied in full below.

I know it is plagiarism but I am not knowledgeable enough to start messing with wording of such an important article.

I hope you will continue to read. I have left the references in place.



Erase Cosmetics


The inverse relationship of honey and cancer.

Honey is known for centuries for its medicinal and health-promoting properties. It contains various kinds of phytochemicals with high phenolic and flavonoid content which contribute to its high antioxidant activity [5860]. Agent that has strong antioxidant property may have the potential to prevent the development of cancer as free radicals and oxidative stress play a significant role in inducing the formation of cancers [61]. Phytochemicals available in honey could be narrowed down into phenolic acids and polyphenols. Variants of polyphenols in honey were reported to have antiproliferative property against several types of cancer [62].

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  1. Honey As a Natural Immune Booster

Honey stimulates inflammatory cytokine production from monocytes [63]. Manuka, pasture, and jelly bush honey were found to significantly increase TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6 release from MM6 cells (and human monocytes) when compared with untreated and artificial honey-treated cells (P < 0.001) [63]. A 5.8 kDa component of manuka honey was found to stimulate cytokine production from immune cells via TLR4 [64]. Honey stimulates antibody production during primary and secondary immune responses against thymus-dependent and thymus-independent antigens in mice injected with sheep red blood cells and E. coli antigen [65]. Consumption of 80 g daily of natural honey for 21 days showed that prostaglandin levels compared with normal subjects were elevated in patient with AIDS [66]. Natural honey has been shown to decrease prostaglandin level, elevated NO production in patients with a long history of AIDS [66]. It was reported that oral intake of honey augments antibody productions in primary and secondary immune responses against thymus-dependent and thymus-independent antigens [67].

These studies suggest that daily consumption of honey improves one’s immune system.

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  1. Honey As Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agent

In routine everyday life, our cells may be injured by irritants from outside or within our bodies (by microbes or nonmicrobes). Cellular/molecular injuries result in inflammatory response, the body defense mechanisms in trying to rid of the irritants. In general inflammatory responses are beneficial and protective to us, but at times, inflammatory responses are detrimental to health. Honey is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Infants suffering from diaper dermatitis improved significantly after topical application of a mixture containing honey, olive oil, and beeswax after 7 days [68]. Honey provides significant symptom relief of cough in children with an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) [69]. It has been shown to be effective in management of dermatitis and Psoriasis vulgaris [70]. Eight out of 10 patients with dermatitis and five of eight patients with psoriasis showed significant improvement after 2 weeks on honey-based ointment [70]. Honey at dilutions of up to 1 : 8 reduced bacterial adherence from 25.6  ±  6.5 (control) to 6.7  ±  3.3 bacteria per epithelial cell (P < 0.001) in vitro [71]. Volunteers who chewed “honey leather” showed that there were statistically highly significant reductions in mean plaque scores (0.99 reduced to 0.65; P = 0.001) in the manuka honey group compared to the control group suggesting a potential therapeutic role for honey for gingivitis, periodontal disease [72], mouth ulcers, and other problems of oral health [73].

A case report of a patient who had chronic dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (EB) for 20 years healed with honey impregnated dressing in 15 weeks [74] after conventional dressings and creams failed. This illustrates the usefulness of honey as an anti-inflammatory agent. Chronic inflammatory process has risk of cancer development.

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  1. Honey As Natural Antimicrobials

Everyday we are exposed to all kinds of microbial insults from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. Honey is a potent natural antimicrobial. The most common infections humans get are from staphylococcal infection. Antibacterial effect of honey is extensively studied. The bactericidal mechanism is through disturbance in cell division machinery [75]. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) for Staphylococcus aureus by A. mellifera honey ranged from 126.23 to 185.70 mgml−1 [76]. Honey is also effective against coagulase-negative staphylococci [77]. Local application of raw honey on infected wounds reduced signs of acute inflammation [78], thus alleviating symptoms. Antimicrobial activity of honey is stronger in acidic media than in neutral or alkaline media [78]. The potency of honey is comparable to some local antibiotics. Honey application into infective conjunctivitis reduced redness, swelling, pus discharge, and time for eradication of bacterial infections [78]. When honey is used together with antibiotics, gentamycin, it enhances anti-Staphylococcus aureus activity, by 22% [79]. When honey is added to bacterial culture medium, the appearance of microbial growth on the culture plates is delayed [80]. Mycobacteria did not grow in culture media containing 10% and 20% honey while it grew in culture media containing 5%, 2.5%, and 1% honey, suggesting that honey could be an ideal antimycobacterial agent [81] at certain concentrations.

Honey is also effective in killing hardy bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) and could lead to a new approach in treating refractory chronic rhinosinusitis [82]. Daily consumption of honey reduces risk of chronic infections by microorganisms. Chronic infections have risk for cancer development.

There are three main mechanisms by which infections can cause cancer. They appear to involve initiation as well as promotion of carcinogenesis [52]. Persistent infection within host induces chronic inflammation accompanied by formation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS and RNOS) [52]. ROS and RNOS have the potential to damage DNA, proteins, and cell membranes. Chronic inflammation often results in repeated cycles of cell damage leading to abnormal cell proliferation [53]. DNA damage promotes the growth of malignant cells. Secondly, infectious agents may directly transform cells, by inserting active oncogenes into the host genome, inhibiting tumour suppressors [52]. Thirdly, infectious agents, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), may induce immunosuppression [52].

The effectiveness of honey is best when used at room temperature. Heating honey to 80 degrees for 1 hour decreased antimicrobial activity of both new and stored honey. Storage of honey for 5 years decreased its antimicrobial activity, while ultraviolet light exposure increased its activity against some of microorganisms [78].

Honey also has been shown to have antiviral properties. In a comparative study topical application of honey was found to be better than acyclovir treatment on patients with recurrent herpetic lesions [83]. Two cases of labial herpes and one case of genital herpes remitted completely with the use of honey while none with acyclovir treatment [83].

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  1. Honey As Possible Agent for Controlling Obesity

Obese individuals are at risk to develop cancer. There is a close link among obesity, a state of chronic low-level inflammation, and oxidative stress [84]. Obese subjects have an approximately 1.5–3.5-fold increased risk of developing cancers compared with normal-weight subjects [2426] particularly endometrium [2728], breasts [2930], and colorectal cancers [31]. Adipocytes have the ability to enhance the proliferation of colon cancer cells in vitro [32]. The greatest risk is for obese persons who are also diabetic, particularly those whose body mass index is above 35 kg/m2. The increase in risk is by 93-fold in women and by 42-fold in men [37]. One of the most common cancers noted in community that has high diabetics and obesity is colorectal cancer [4245].

In a clinical study on 55 overweight or obese patients, the control group (17 subjects) received 70 g of sucrose daily for a maximum of 30 days and patients in the experimental group (38 subjects) received 70 g of natural honey for the same period. Results showed that honey caused a mild reduction in body weight (1.3%) and body fat (1.1%) [85]. Beneficial effect of honey on obesity is not well established thus far.

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  1. Honey as “Fixer” for Chronic Ulcers and Wounds

Increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has made simple wounds become chronic and non-healing and as such honey provides alternative treatment options [86]. Honey absorbs exudates released in wounds and devitalized tissue [87]. Honey is effective in recalcitrant surgical wounds [88]. It increases the rate of healing by stimulation of angiogenesis, granulation, and epithelialization, making skin grafting unnecessary and giving excellent cosmetic results [89]. In a randomized control trial, Manuka honey improved wound healing in patients with sloughy venous leg ulcers [90]. Honey was shown to eradicate MRSA (Methylene resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection in 70% of chronic venous ulcers [91]. Honey is acidic and chronic non healing wounds have an elevated alkaline environment. Manuka honey dressings is associated with a statistically significant decrease in wound pH [92]. Available evidence in meta-analysis studies indicates markedly greater efficacy of honey compared with alternative dressings for superficial or partial thickness burns [93]. Honey is an inexpensive moist dressing with antibacterial and tissue-healing properties suitable for diabetic foot [94]. The average cost of treatment per patient using honey dressing is much cheaper with conventional dressing [95].

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  1. Honey As Natural Cancer “Vaccine”

Synthetic vaccines like BCG or polio vaccine work by preventing vaccinated subjects from contracting tuberculosis and poliomyelitis. Honey has the element of a “natural cancer vaccine” as it can reduce chronic inflammatory processes, improve immune status, reduce infections by hardy organisms and so forth. Some simple and polyphenols found in honey, namely, caffeic acid (CA), caffeic acid phenyl esters (CAPE), chrysin (CR), galangin (GA), quercetin (QU), kaempferol (KP), acacetin (AC), pinocembrin (PC), pinobanksin (PB), and apigenin (AP), have evolved as promising pharmacological agents in prevention and treatment of cancer [62]. The antioxidant activity of Trigona carbonaria honey from Australia is high at 233.96±50.95 microM Trolox equivalents [96]. The antioxidant activity of four honey samples from different floral sources showed high antioxidant properties tested by different essay methods [97]. Dark honey had higher phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity than clear honey [98]. The amino acid composition of honey is an indicator of the toxic radical scavenging capacity [99].

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  1. Honey as Potential Use in “Cancer Therapy”

Honey may provide the basis for the development of novel therapeutics for patients with cancer and cancer-related tumors. Jungle honey fragments were shown to have chemotactic induction for neutrophils and reactive oxygen species (ROS), proving its antitumor activity [67]. Recent studies on human breast [100], cervical [100], oral [101], and osteosarcoma [101] cancer cell lines using Malaysian jungle honey showed significant anticancer activity. Honey has been shown to have antineoplastic activity in an experimental bladder model in vivo and in vitro [102].

Honey is rich in flavonoids [62103]. Flavanoids have created a lot of interests among researchers because of its anticancer properties. The mechanisms suggested are rather diverse such as various signaling pathways [104], including stimulation of TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) release [105], inhibition of cell proliferation, induction of apoptosis [106], and cell cycle arrest [107] as well as inhibition of lipoprotein oxidation [108]. Honey is thought to mediate these beneficial effects due to its major components such as chrysin [104] and other flavonoids [109]. These differences are explainable as honeys are of various floral sources, and each floral source may exhibit different active compounds. Though honey has other substances of which the most predominant are a mixture of sugars (fructose, glucose, maltose, and sucrose) [110] which itself is carcinogenic [111], it is understandable that its beneficial effect on cancer raises skeptics. The mechanism on how honey has anti-cancer effect is an area of great interest recently. The effects of honeys on hormone-dependent cancers such as breast, endometrial, and prostate cancer and tumors remain largely unknown. There is a lot we can learn from nature [112]. For example, phytochemicals, such as genistein, lycopene, curcumin, epigallocatechin-gallate, and resveratrol have been studied to be used for treatment of prostate cancer [113]. Phytoestrogens constitute a group of plant-derived isoflavones and flavonoids, and honey belongs to plant phytoestrogen [112114].

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  1. Conclusion

There is now a sizeable evidence that honey is a natural immune booster, natural anti-inflammatory agent, natural antimicrobial agent, natural cancer “vaccine,” and natural promoter for healing chronic ulcers and wounds; some of the risk factors for cancer development. Bee farming is a lucrative business. Honey and cancer have sustainable inverse relationship in the setting of developing nations where resources for cancer prevention and treatment are limited.



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