Honey, Powerful Antiviral Remedy? No way!

Honey is a natural food with very interesting properties, some researchers mention it may helps treat infections and soothe symptoms, one of the most common are sore throats, heal burns and scars.

Bee's Honey has been considered for ages as a nutritional treasure. Honey stands out from other foods for being a great natural source of antioxidants, and has the characteristic of having a powerful antibiotic action, becoming a great ally against microbes.

Honey has been used for centuries as a remedy for affections in the respiratory tracts. The nutritional content of Honey is a great ally to increase the production of white blood cells, strengthen the immune system and improve physical and mental performance.


Scientific Study of Public Access Revised by Academics

"Health Benefits of Honey"

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.88211

Authors: Bruna Costa Ferreira da Cruz, Ludimilla Ronqui, Priscila Scharnoski, Patrícia Scharnoski, Marina Peruzzolo, Pedro da Rosa Santos, André Halak, Priscila Wielewski, Juliana Mosconi Magro and Katlin Fernanda de Araujo

Entered: January 23, 2019

Reviewed by Academics: June 25 2019

Published: July 23 2019

"In addition to being used as food, honey has been used as an alternative medicine for thousands of years. Honey has a great potential to be used as a medicine because it is not suitable for microorganisms, it is very acidic and has a very high sugar content, which causes an osmotic effect that prevents the growth of some microorganisms. In some honeys, there is hydrogen peroxide, which has a strong antibacterial effect. However, the properties and appearance of honey vary greatly depending on the floral source in which the bee collects the nectar, so some honeys also have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Recently, there are several studies, mainly in vitro, that prove the effectiveness of honey for various medical purposes due to its components and its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antifungal and anti-cancer properties.

Honey is a compound that has been widely used as a source of medicine and food for thousands of years. Several natural products that have been used as medicine have been replaced by modern pharmaceuticals, but have recently returned to the world stage due to growing public interest. In ancient Egypt, beekeeping has been practiced for more than 4000 years, and honey has been used as medicine in the treatment of wounds, ulcers, burns, abscesses, gastrointestinal diseases, inflammations, stiff joints and even as a method of contraception. In Asia, honey has been recognized for its medicinal value since 2000 BC. There are also references to different uses of honey in the Bible and the Koran. The ancient Greek Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, used honey to cleanse wounds, gastrointestinal diseases and ulcers. In ancient Rome, honey was also prescribed alone or in combinations, often used to treat throat problems, pneumonia, and even snake bites.

The main components of honey are sugars, among which fructose and glucose predominate. However, there are other compounds in smaller quantities and very variable according to the type of each honey, from the floral source where the bee collects the nectar, such as water and free amino acids. Among them, the most found is proline. Some specific enzymes are also found, the main enzymes in honey are invertase, amylase and glucose oxidase, but other enzymes such as catalase and phosphatase. Honey is also composed of organic acids which contribute to its characteristic taste and are responsible for the excellent stability of honey against microorganisms, e.g. formic, acetic, butyric, oxalic, lactic, succinic, folic, malic, citric and glycolic. Gluconic acid is considered one of the most important organic acids in honey; it is the product of the catalytic oxidation of glucose oxidase, in this oxidation hydrogen peroxide is also formed, which has a strong antibacterial effect.

Honey can still have some mineral substances, such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, cobalt and copper; Studies show that honey can contain several types of minerals, but potassium is the most abundant in several types of honey. You can still find carotenoids, flavones and anthocyanins, which contribute to the antioxidant action of honey. About 80 aromatic compounds have been detected in honey, including carboxylic acids, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, hydrocarbons and phenols. These compounds also contribute to the organoleptic properties of honey. The appearance of honey varies from almost colourless to dark brown; it can be liquid, viscous or solid. Its taste, aroma and composition vary greatly, depending on the floral source from which the bee collects the nectar. However, some environmental factors can strongly influence the composition of honey, such as temperature and humidity.

Honey is a food containing high-energy carbohydrates, as 95-99% of total solids are composed of sugars, which are easily digestible, as they are similar to many fruits. The proteins and enzymes in honey often have no significant nutritional value, as they are generally not present in sufficient quantities. Several of the essential vitamins are present in honey, such as vitamin K, B1, B2, B6, and C, but usually at negligible levels. The mineral content of honey is variable; generally, darker honeys have significant amounts of minerals, but honey can be considered a nutritious sweetener, mainly due to its high fructose content. In addition to its nutritional value, honey has great potential in medicine; it has been used for thousands of years and is now widely studied as an alternative medicine. Honey is not a suitable medium for bacteria, as it is very acidic and has a very high sugar content. This causes an osmotic effect that prevents the growth of bacteria, this effect literally works by drying out the bacteria. Another type of antibacterial property of honey was called inhibition in 1940 by Dold. And in 1963, Jonathan White proposed that this inhibitory effect described in 1940 was due to the hydrogen peroxide produced and accumulated in diluted honey, which we know today, is a byproduct of the formation of gluconic acid by the enzyme glucose oxidase.

Historically, honey has been used for various medical purposes; and recent research has confirmed its effectiveness in treating various diseases due to its components and its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral and other properties that will be discussed in this chapter.

Of all human infectious diseases, the most frequent and difficult to treat are those caused by viruses, because viruses generally remain infectious in dry mucus for a long time. In addition, viruses need a host cell for replication to occur; so killing the virus means killing the host cell as well. Therefore, vaccination is the most efficient way to prevent these diseases. Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and is a very common childhood disease that usually does not cause many problems; but when it affects the elderly, it can easily be fatal. Varicella-zoster is highly contagious and is transmitted by infectious droplets, resulting in a systemic skin rash. Since honey can be conveniently applied to the skin, is easy to find and relatively inexpensive, it can be considered an excellent remedy for Zoster rash, especially in developing countries or countries where antiviral drugs are relatively expensive and difficult to access. Therefore, a study determined the in vitro antiviral effect of honey against varicella-zoster virus; two types of honey were used, Manuka honey and clover honey, and both types showed antiviral activity against varicella-zoster virus, which shows that honey has significant antiviral activity against varicella-zoster. A study on the relationship of honey with another virus, analyzed in vivo, showed that the use of topical honey is safe and effective in the treatment of recurrent herpes and genital herpes lesions.

Respiratory syncytial virus is the most common cause of viral respiratory infections in infants and young children. It also severely affects adults, the elderly and immunocompromised, causing deaths mainly in the elderly. The antiviral activity of honey was tested for its action against respiratory syncytial virus. A variety of tests were developed using cell culture to evaluate the susceptibility of respiratory syncytial virus to honey. The results confirmed that treatment with honey promoted the inhibition of viral replication. Attempts to isolate the antiviral component in honey showed that sugar was not responsible for inhibition of respiratory syncytial virus, but could be methylglioxal; this component of honey may play a role in increasing the potency of Manuka honey against respiratory syncytial virus. Therefore, honey can be an effective alternative antiviral treatment for the therapy of respiratory viral infections, such as respiratory syncytial virus; however, other measures, such as an effective vaccine, are still necessary for the control of this disease.

Influenza is a highly infectious respiratory disease of viral origin that causes even more deaths than respiratory syncytial virus at all ages, except in children under one year of age. Influenza viruses are transmitted from person to person through the air, especially from droplets expelled when coughing and sneezing, and are a serious threat to human health, and there is an urgent need to develop new medicines against these viruses. Therefore, the activity of the honey anti-influenza virus from various sources was studied. The results showed that honey, in general, has potent inhibitory activity against the influenza virus, demonstrating possible medicinal value. In addition to honey, propolis has also been studied against the influenza virus and seems to decrease the activity of the influenza virus. Honey especially has strong antiviral properties. Studies show that honey has action against varicella-zoster virus, the respiratory syncytial virus, and also has anti-influenza activity. Further studies on this property of honey are needed, mainly with other types of honey.

Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of honey as an alternative medicine; some have even shown that honey is as good a medicine as conventional medicine. The use of different types of honeys showed an anti-inflammatory effect very similar to the conventional medicine and that it can be used as an alternative medicine in the treatment of diseases or inflammations. Honey can also be used as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-cancer and anti-oxidant agent. However, there is still a need to increase research on honey, especially on its potential as a medicine and also a dissemination of this knowledge to the population and the medical community, so an increase in the use of this powerful compound will be possible".

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