The Religious Recommendation of Honey & Its Therapeutic Benefits

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: “Take you habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they erect. “Then, eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of your Lord made easy (for you).” There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colour wherein is healing for men. Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think. [Sûrah An-Nahl 16: 68-69]

Imâm as-Sa’dî said: “This is in reference to the creation of the small bee. Allâh blessed it with a strange type of knowledge. He made it easy for it to eat from different flowers and return to its hive, which is built with guidance from Allâh. From their stomachs they create a delicious honey that varies in colour according to the difference of land and the food they take. In it there is a cure for the people from various diseases. This is a proof of Allâh’s blessings and His unlimited kindness toward His servants. It requires that one should love Him alone and should not call other gods beside him.” (Tafsir as-Sa’dî 2/16:68-69)

Imâm Ibn Kathîr said: “What is meant by inspiration here is guidance. The bee is guided to make its home in the mountains, in trees and in structures erected by man. The bee’s home is a solid structure, with its hexagonal shapes and interlocking forms there is no looseness in its combs. Then Allâh decrees that the bee will have permission to eat from all fruits and to follow the ways which Allâh has made easy for it, wherever it wants to go in the vast spaces of the wilderness, valleys and high mountains. Then each bee comes back to its hive without swerving to the right or left, it comes straight back to its home where its offspring and honey are. It makes wax from its wings, and regurgitates honey from its mouth, and lays eggs from its rear, then the next morning it goes out to the fields again.” (Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr 16:68)


What is honey?

Honey is a natural product formed from nectar of flowers by honeybees (Apis mellifera; Family: Apidae) [1].

As of present, over 300 types of honey have been identified – depending on the different types of nectar collected by the honeybees.


The recommendation of honey in Islâm

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ قَالَتْ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُحِبُّ الْحَلْوَاءَ وَالْعَسَلَ

° Narrated by ‘Âishah: Allâh’s Messenger (ﷺ) used to love sweet edible things and honey. (Sahîh Bukhârî 5431)

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ ‏ “‏ الشِّفَاءُ فِي ثَلاَثَةٍ شَرْبَةِ عَسَلٍ، وَشَرْطَةِ مِحْجَمٍ، وَكَيَّةِ نَارٍ، وَأَنْهَى أُمَّتِي عَنِ الْكَىِّ ‏”

° Narrated by Ibn ‘Abbâs: (The Prophet (ﷺ) said), “Healing is in three things: A gulp of honey, cupping, and branding with fire (cauterizing).” But I forbid my followers to use (cauterization) branding with fire.” (Sahîh Bukhârî 5680)

عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ، أَنَّ رَجُلاً، أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ أَخِي يَشْتَكِي بَطْنَهُ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ اسْقِهِ عَسَلاً ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ أَتَى الثَّانِيَةَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ اسْقِهِ عَسَلاً ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ أَتَاهُ فَقَالَ فَعَلْتُ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ صَدَقَ اللَّهُ، وَكَذَبَ بَطْنُ أَخِيكَ، اسْقِهِ عَسَلاً ‏”‏‏.‏ فَسَقَاهُ فَبَرَأَ

° Narrated by Abû Sa’îd: A man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said, “My brother has some Abdominal trouble [i.e diarrhoea – Sahîh Bukhârî 5716].” The Prophet (ﷺ) said to him “Let him drink honey.” The man came for the second time and the Prophet (ﷺ) said to him, ‘Let him drink honey.” He came for the third time and the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Let him drink honey.” He returned again and said, “I have done that ‘ The Prophet (ﷺ) then said, “Allâh has said the truth, but your brother’s Abdomen has told a lie. Let him drink honey.” So he made him drink honey and he was cured. (Sahîh Bukhârî 5684)


The therapeutic benefits of honey

Gastrointestinal diseases (acute inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that may be caused by a variety of microbes) :

  • Honey has shown to prevent gastrointestinal infections by blocking the attachment of pathogenic bacteria (i.e Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella) to the mucosal epithelium [2] [3].
  • Honey has been shown to speed recovery for diarrhoea and vomiting in infants [4], children [5] and adults [6].
  • Honey improves the gut microflora & inhibits the harmful and genotoxic effects of mycotoxins [7].
  • Honey reduces acid reflux by stimulating the tissues on the sphincter to assist in their regrowth [8].
  • Honey helps repair the intestinal mucosa and works as an anti-inflammatory agent [9].
  • Honey helps heal gastric ulcers (open sores which develop on the stomach lining) [10].

Cardiovascular diseases :

  • Honey has shown to decrease the risk of coronary heart disease due to the flavonoids it contains, by (a) improving coronary vasodilatation, (b) decreasing the ability of platelets in the blood to clot, and (c) preventing low-density lipoproteins from oxidising [11]. 
  • Honey has shown to modulate hypertension (high blood pressure) [12].
  • Honey has shown to restore cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) back to normal [12].
  • Honey reduces cardiovascular disease risk factors (i.e cholesterol,  low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triacylglycerole, C-reactive protein) [13].

Upper respiratory tract infections:

  • Honey (a teaspoon) given to children (older than 1) before bedtime has shown to relieve cough symptoms by severity and duration, as well as improving sleep [14].

Asthma

  • Honey has shown to reduce symptom severity in asthma [15].

Neurological diseases :

  • Honey has shown to preserve brain functions and cognitive ability due to its antioxidant properties [16].
  • Tualang honey has shown to improve learning and memory of the brain [17].

Cancer

  • Honey has shown to exert anticancer effects via different mechanisms in different cancer cells – cervical, colorectal, renal, liver, skin, lung, bladder [18].

Diabetes

  • Honey has shown to exert beneficial effects in the treatment of diabetes mellitus[19].

Wound healing

  • Honey has shown to promote wound healing of burns and leg ulcers via several mechanisms – i) activating a tissue repair cascade by inducing leukocytes to release cytokines. ii) activating the immune response. iii) inducing antibodies [20].

References

[1] Alvarez-Suarez, J. M., Gasparrini, M., Forbes-Hernández, T. Y., Mazzoni, L. and Giampieri, F. (2014) The Composition and Biological Activity of Honey: A Focus on Manuka Honey, Foods, 3(3), pp. 420–432.

[2] al Somal, N., Coley, K. E., Molan, P. C. and Hancock, B. M. (1994) Susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to the antibacterial activity of manuka honey, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 87(1), pp. 9–12.

[3] Alnaqdy, A., Al-Jabri, A., Al Mahrooqi, Z., Nzeako, B. and Nsanze, H. (2005) Inhibition effect of honey on the adherence of Salmonella to intestinal epithelial cells in vitro, International Journal of Food Microbiology, 103(3), pp. 347–351.

[4] Haffejee, I. E. and Moosa, A. (1985) Honey in the treatment of infantile gastroenteritis., British Medical Journal (Clinical research ed.), 290(6485), pp. 1866–1867.

[5] Abdulrhman, M. A., Mekawy, M. A., Awadalla, M. M. and Mohamed, A. H. (2010) Bee honey added to the oral rehydration solution in treatment of gastroenteritis in infants and children, Journal of Medicinal Food, 13(3), pp. 605–609.

[6] Bansal, V., Medhi, B. and Pandhi, P. (2005) Honey–a remedy rediscovered and its therapeutic utility, Kathmandu University medical journal (KUMJ), 3(3), pp. 305–309.

[7] Ezz El-Arab, A. M., Girgis, S. M., Hegazy, E. M. and Abd El-Khalek, A. B. (2006) Effect of dietary honey on intestinal microflora and toxicity of mycotoxins in mice, BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 6, p. 6.

[8] Abdellah F., Abderrahim L. A. Honey in Traditional and Modern Medicine. Boca raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press; 2013. 8 honey for gastrointestinal; p. 159

[9] Molan, P. (2001). Why honey is effective as a medicine. 2. The scientific explanation of its effects. Bee World, 82(1), 22-40.

[10] Fazalda, A., Quraisiah, A. and Nur Azlina, M. F. (2018) Antiulcer Effect of Honey in Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Induced Gastric Ulcer Model in Rats: A Systematic Review, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2018, [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6076929/ (Accessed 10 September 2020).

[11] Khalil, M. I. and Sulaiman, S. A. (2010) The Potential Role of Honey and its Polyphenols in Preventing Heart Diseases: A Review, African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines, 7(4), pp. 315–321.

[12] Rakha, M. K., Nabil, Z. I. and Hussein, A. A. (2008) Cardioactive and vasoactive effects of natural wild honey against cardiac malperformance induced by hyperadrenergic activity, Journal of Medicinal Food, 11(1), pp. 91–98.

[13] Yaghoobi, N., Al-Waili, N., Ghayour-Mobarhan, M., Parizadeh, S. M. R., Abasalti, Z., Yaghoobi, Z., Yaghoobi, F., Esmaeili, H., Kazemi-Bajestani, S. M. R., Aghasizadeh, R., Saloom, K. Y. and Ferns, G. a. A. (2008) Natural honey and cardiovascular risk factors; effects on blood glucose, cholesterol, triacylglycerole, CRP, and body weight compared with sucrose, TheScientificWorldJournal, 8, pp. 463–469.

[14] Ashkin, E. and Mounsey, A. (2013) A spoonful of honey helps a coughing child sleep, The Journal of Family Practice, 62(3), pp. 145–147.

[15] Shamshuddin, N. S. S. and Mohd Zohdi, R. (2016) Gelam honey attenuates ovalbumin-induced airway inflammation in a mice model of allergic asthma, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 8(1), pp. 39–45.

[16] Azman, K. F. and Zakaria, R. (2019) Honey as an antioxidant therapy to reduce cognitive ageing, Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, 22(12), pp. 1368–1377.

[17] Azman, K. F., Zakaria, R., AbdAziz, C., Othman, Z. and Al-Rahbi, B. (2015) Tualang honey improves memory performance and decreases depressive-like behavior in rats exposed to loud noise stress, Noise & Health, 17(75), pp. 83–89.

[18] Porcza, L. M., Simms, C. and Chopra, M. (2016) Honey and Cancer: Current Status and Future Directions, Diseases, 4(4), [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5456322/ (Accessed 10 September 2020).

[19] Porcza, L. M., Simms, C. and Chopra, M. (2016) Honey and Cancer: Current Status and Future Directions, Diseases, 4(4), [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5456322/ (Accessed 10 September 2020).

[20] Molan, P. and Rhodes, T. (2015) Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing, Wounds: A Compendium of Clinical Research and Practice, 27(6), pp. 141–151.

Published by أبو زكريا عيسى الألباني

BSc (Hons) Microbiology | Qur'ān | Sunnah |

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