Honey as a Healer
By Prof. Dr. Kamaruddin Mohd Yusoff
The Qur’an is the word of Allah. It is brought to us by the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). The Qur’an contains the absolute truth about this world and after. Our weaknesses and incompetencies are impeding us from understanding the truth of the Qur’an. Nevertheless, with a systematic thinking and help of research, Qur’anic truth becomes more accessible and understandable for people who contemplate.
God Almighty states in the surah an-Nahl (16:68-69):
وَأَوْحَى رَبُّكَ إِلَى النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِي مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعْرِشُونَ ثُمَّ كُلِي مِنْ كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ فَاسْلُكِي سُبُلَ رَبِّكِ ذُلُلًا يَخْرُجُ مِنْ بُطُونِهَا شَرَابٌ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ فِيهِ شِفَاءٌ لِلنَّاسِ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“And your Lord inspired the bee, “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct. Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you].” There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed, that is a sign for a people who give thought.
This verse brings our attention to honey in a mesmerizing way with these words “There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people.” It means a lot to me as a biochemist. Allah almighty is telling us that the healing nature of honey comes from its make up. The differences in the makeup of honey causes formation of color difference. Different make up points to variety in healing nature. At this point, I started investigating biochemical and pharmacologic characteristics of honey. My ultimate goal is to unwrap the message in the ayah and emphasize the healing qualities of honey.
It is common knowledge that honey comes in different colors. It ranges from almost translucent (locust flower honey) to dark brown (chestnut honey). In Malesia, pineapple and star fruit honey are golden yellow. Another scientific fact is that there are many factors determining the color of honey. Honey is a complex syrup made by matchless bee biotechnology from the nectar of flowering plants. It consists of hundreds of biochemicals. Some of these are sugars such as fructose, glucose, maltose, sucrose; proteins such as invertase, sucrose glucose oxidase, diastase, phosphatase and organic compounds such as lipids vitamin minerals, glucosits, polyphenols, flavonoids, phenolic acids. The composition of these different biochemical molecules cause the variety of the honey colors. Our research shows that honey with a higher amount of phenolic compounds are darker in color compared to the ones with less amounts.
The most challenging part of our research was to prove the healing and curing properties of honey. Cure to what illness? And how to use honey in treatment of this illness? 25 years of study and research showed that honey is the best ointment for curing wounds. Honey has superiority over all man made ointments in history. Matchless physical biochemical properties are making it the best treatment for wounds. Even chronic and highly infected wounds that are impossible to cure with known methods were healing with astonishing pace when treated with honey. The following properties of honey make an important contribution to its healing feature.
According to results of our biochemical studies, honey has a unique antibacterial property given by the grace of Allah. This effect of honey is not a result of one factor but a result of very fine interactions of many factors. If honey is in an uncontaminated viscous form, it acts as an antibacterial factor with its 76% high sugar content. Bacteria exposed to this type of medium loses its water because of osmosis and dries. High acidity of honey when it is diluted (3.6-4.5 pH) prevents bacterial reproduction.
Bacterial reproduction is prevented with another factor as well. When honey is diluted with water, glucose oxidase enzyme found in pure honey reacts with glucose and produces it to gluconic acid (highest ratio acid in honey) and hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂). Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful antibacterial. The effect of hydrogen peroxide is boosted with vitamin C found in honey. Another antibacterial property of honey is caused by organic materials found in it. These are flavonoids, polyphenols and glucosites. The proportion of these compounds differ by the amount of nectar in honey. Generally, there are more organic antibacterial compounds in the darker color honey. Also, high potassium presence helps increase antibacterial effects.
Antioxidant Capacity: Our studies show that honey also has antioxidant properties. This property is related to the amount of polyphenolic compounds in it. Because of this, polyphenolic materials also determine the honey types. Recent studies show that antioxidants contribute to healthier life. If our blood is rich in antioxidants, diseases caused by free radicals (cancer etc.) are easily prevented.
Anti Inflammatory Effect: Our experiments on animals confirmed that honey has anti inflammatory effects. It is proposed that this property is coming from its organic content. We identified some of the organic anti inflammatory materials in our studies. Anti-inflammatory effect of honey is important for the healing property of honey.
Pain relieving Effect: Because of the polyphenols and flavonoids, honey has a pain relieving effect. This effect of honey is shown in our experiments on animals. Anti inflammatory and pain relieving effects are closely related. Some commonly used anti inflammatory medicines show pain relieving effects as well.
Stimulation of Connective Tissue: Our cell culture studies showed that honey stimulates connective tissues depending on the make up, dose or duration of treatment. Fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) play an important role in healing wounds.
Angiogenesis (formation of blood vessels) Stimulation Effect: In another experiment on animals we observed that honey stimulates angiogenesis. It supports formation of new tissue with its nutritious property. This effect is closely related with curing wounds.
Our research group has clinical microbiologists, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractic and expert nurses and researches the effects of honey on curing wounds by clinical observations. These studies were done in five year at Malatya University’s medical center. With the will of Allah, 102 patients with not healing wounds recovered in a short period of time with honey treatment. These patients had chronic, not healing wounds caused by different reasons, for between two months to two years and they were suffering from pain. They were previously treated with conventional medicine, rinsing with salt water, povidone iodine ointment, oral and injection antibiotic treatment. Some patients were even treated with most modern methods. Most of these patients had high inflammation and they were recommended amputation (surgical removal of a limb).
We started our honey treatment with the consent of the patients. We also got the assigned doctor’s consent in cases where no other treatment worked. We applied honey as an ointment to wounds early in the morning. In some cases small surgical operations are needed before applying honey. Honey is applied in a way to cover the wound completely. We prevented spill of honey by covering the wound with gauze bandage and cotton. More honey is added at noon and evening depending on the size of the wound.
One of the astounding results was how easy we were able to remove the bandages the next day. Gauze bandages and cottons were not sticking to the wounds. This was very important for treatment because it was preventing damage to newly formed cells. In addition, patients were not experiencing pain during removal of bandages. All these procedures were conducted by expert nurses. Results were stunning. This was the first honey treatment at this facility and the first 100% successful honey treatment. Following are the results of our studies.
Honey quickly sterilized the wound from germs. In three weeks, wounds were completely cleaned from bacteria (even Staphylococcus aureus which is resistant to methicillin and bacteria known as MRSA that is resistant to all penicilines).
- Honey was effective in removing dead cells from wounds.
- Honey removed the bad odor from wounds.
- Honey is effective as an anti-inflammatory.
- Honey treatment prevents losing limbs due to amputation.
- Honey causes fast tissue reformation.
- Honey prevents severe infections.
- Honey provided the moisture needed for wound treatment, if open, helps protection of bones.
After the completion of the experiment on animals, we applied to the medical center for randomized clinical experiments. After the approval of the Medical Ethics Committee, we asked them if they would be part of this study.
We completed randomized clinical experiments of honey’s effect on chronic wounds at the end of two years at Malatya University’s Medical Center. 40 patients participated in the study to be treated. 21 patients with various chronic wounds were treated with honey and 19 patients were treated only with povidone iodine ointment. These randomly selected patients were treated daily with honey or povidone iodine ointment or honey.
The results confirmed our previous findings. Honey treatment is the fastest, most effective and least painful method. Honey treatment is also much more affordable compared to modern ointment methods. This concludes our study on honey treatment.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) says:
“The one who consumes honey three days in every month won’t get hit by any calamity (disease).”Ibn Majah, Tıb 7; Bayhaqi, Shuabu’l-Iman 5/97.
Thus, we decided to study the effect of honey on the immune system. It is believed that honey boosts the immune system, yet we need scientific facts. This is the subject of our current study.
Our studies showed that honey is effective in treating wounds. We believe this is only one of many benefits of honey. We intend to spread the findings of our research and hope to make honey a preferred wound treatment at hospitals. Honey can be an alternative to povidone iodine or other modern chemical treatments but in application it is a complementary treatment. Because hospitals are better environments for honey treatment. In addition to this, honey treatment can be applied independently if away from hospitals. The most important factor is that honey should be pure and natural. People with no medical training can apply honey to wounds with little training from doctors or nurses. Muslims around the world should do more studies on honey and reveal other marvelous application of honey. Chronic inflammations cause cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and arthritis. Therefore honey is a potential cure in prevention of these diseases. Because honey contains anti inflammatory biochemical materials. Only scientific studies can show us how to use honey for these mentioned diseases’ treatment or prevention.
The Qur’an is in our hands. We need to spend more time on trying to understand its messages. The secret to our success is hidden here. Happiness in this world and happiness in the Hereafter are in Qur’an’s script. We are in need of understanding the meaning of the Qur’an.