Islamic Medicine: Honey

HONEY (العسل)



Description

Honey is a sweet and sticky fluid produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers and plants. Its colour, flavour, thickness and aroma vary depending on the flower or plant from which the bees gather the nectar. Bees ingest the nectar they collect into their ‘honey stomach’, the nectar is regurgitated and dehydrated repeatedly until it reaches the desired quality at which stage it is placed by the honey bee into a honeycomb cell where it gradually converts into honey.


Evidence from the Qur’aan and Sunna

In the Qur’aan, Allah informs us about the honey of honey bees, that their honey varies in colour and that it is a healing for mankind. He the Most High said: “There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colour wherein is healing for men. Verily, in yhis is indeed a sign for people who think. [16:69]
He, the Most High, also mentions honey in the Qur’aan as one of the foods of paradise: “The description of Paradise which the Muttaqûn (pious) have been promised is that In it are rivers of water the taste and smell of which are not changed; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine delicious to those who drink; and rivers of clarified honey (clear and pure)…” [47:15]
Honey has also been mentioned in the authentic Sunna. It is reported that the Prophet (upon be salah and salah) said: “Cure is in three (things): a drink of honey, a slash of the knife used in Hijaamah and branding (cauterizing) by fire.  And I prohibit my nation from cauterizing.” [Bukhaaree (5356)]
In another hadeeth, it states: “Upon you is the two cures: the honey and the Qur’aan” [Ibn Maajah (3452), Shaykh al-Albani graded this hadeeth weak and said that it is authentic as a statement of Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood]
Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree narrated, “A man came to the Messenger (upon be salah and salam) and said, ‘My brother has pain in his stomach’, so the Messenger (upon be salah and salam) said, ‘give him honey to drink.’ The man came back and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah! It only increased his illness!’ So the Messenger (upon be salah and salam) said, ‘Give him honey to drink.’ The man came back and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah! It only increased his illness!’ The Messenger of Allaah (upon him be salah and salam) said ‘Allaah spoke the truth and your brother’s belly has lied. Go and give him honey to drink.’ He went and gave him honey and was cured.” [Bukhaaree (5684), Muslim (2217)].
Ibnul Qayyim commented that the prescribed medicine should be in sufficient doses otherwise the ailment will not be fully cured and dosage larger than the required amount will weaken the body and cause side effects. Hence the reason why the man wasn’t cured straight after taking the honey was due to excessive amounts of harmful properties in his stomach, the prophet r knew that the dose was not enough and that the man needed more honey to be cured. [Zaad al-Ma’aad -4/35].


Constituents

Honey is composed of 95% sugars; fructose, glucose, sucrose and maltose. It contains the minerals potassium, sulphur, calcium, chlorine, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, manganese and silicon. It also contains  the vitamins; Riboflavine (B2), pyridoxine (B6), ascorbic acid (C), thiamine (B1), niacin (B complex), pantothenic acid (B complex).
Honey contains natural acidity, the main one being gluconic acid and the others being acetic, malic, lactic, maleic, citric, formic, butyric, pyroglutamic, succinic and oxalic acid. It contains small amounts of proteins which depend upon the amount of pollen that is present. Amazingly honey also contains the carbohydrates dextrose, pollen, glycine, calvenlase, mucilage, levcine and tyrosine.
So out of the five main nutritional elements that the body needs honey contains, vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates, (the fifth element which it doesn’t contain is fat). So it is no surprise that honey is considered a food.


Medical uses

Honey has been used throughout centuries by many nations. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Assyrians and Romans used it in healing and as food.  It is a natural antiseptic which prevents infection and is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. Its properties make it far superior than most of the antibiotics prescribed today. Ibn Al Qayyim mentioned that honey is a food, a drink, a sweet, a remedy a type of refreshment and an ointment and that there is no substance that is more beneficial.  Since the medical uses of honey are many for the purpose of brevity we will only mention some of the maladies it is most commonly used for.

  • Colitis – Polyphenols contained in honey act as an antioxidant, these antioxidants can help reduce the damage done to the colon in colitis.
  • Burns, cuts and wounds – the antiseptic and antibacterial properties in honey are good in treating burns, skin ulcers, and other wounds. It prevents the growth of bacteria and is soothing to the skin. It speeds up the healing process and by regulating the collagen production it minimises scars.
  • Enuresis (Bed-wetting) – Due to its water-holding and sedative properties honey is able to absorb large amounts of water and retain it for long periods of time. Hence making it an excellent remedy for in-voluntary bed wetting especially for children since it has no sideeffects.
  • Skin care – Honey is an essential ingredient in skincare products. It can be mixed with other ingredients to treat acne, abscesses, and other skin conditions. It can also be mixed with other ingredients to make facial masks, facial toners, facial creams and moisturizers. It is known to delay the appearance of wrinkles when utilised daily in one of the above mentioned forms.
  • Diarrhoea and stomach ulcers – The prophet r prescribed honey for the man who was having stomach problems as mentioned in the hadeeth detailed in the beginning of this article. Studies indicate that honey shortens the duration of diarrhoea.
  • General health – studies suggest that honey may increase the populations of probiotic bacteria in the gut which can help strengthen the immune system, lower cholesterol, prevent colon cancer and improve digestion.
  • Gastroenteritis – a clinical study where patients were given a bland diet and 30ml of honey three times a day proved to be an effective remedy for 66% of the patients, it relieved a further 17% and corrected anaemia in 50%!
  • Gastric Ulcers – Studies prove that honey reduces the secretion of gastric acids. Furthermore honey as a dietary supplement has treated gastric ulcers with an 80% recovery rate on tests carried out on 600 gastric ulcer patients in 1987. Additionally, radiological examination indicated that the ulcers had disappeared in 59% of the patients.
  • Diabetes – Studies carried out in 1985 and 1988 suggest that honey can be used as a sweetener in type 2 diabetes since honey has no acute hyperglycaemic effect.
  • Oral Health – due to its antibacterial properties honey can aid in treating mouth ulcers, gum disease and other areas of oral health. The Honey Research Unit in the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand has written about the potential of honey for therapeutic usage in dentistry.

Application/Treatments using Honey

The most effective way to take honey is by oral consumption; however it is applied topically depending on the malady that it is used for. We will mention a few of the ways honey can be applied.

  • General health – Take one teaspoons 2-3 times a day.
  • Burns, cuts, wounds, bruises and lacerations – apply topically (i.e. directly on the place effected)
  • To bring lustre to the face – mix equal parts of olive oil, honey and almond oil (this can be stored in a jar), apply the mixture to the face and leave for 15 to 20 minutes before washing off.
  • To prevent Bed Wetting – The child (or patient) should empty their bladder and then take one teaspoon of honey before going to sleep.
  • To rejuvenate hair – mix ½ cup of honey and ¼ of a cup of olive oil, massage into the scalp. This will get the nutrients into the roots of the hair. Leave for 30 minutes to an hour and then wash off.
  • Cough – 4 table spoons of honey, one table spoon dry ginger powder, and one table spoon lemon juice are uniformly mixed and use one table spoon of this mixture for 2- 4 times a day. For small coughs use one tea spoon of equivalent mixture of honey and onion extracts 3-4 times a day.
  • Asthama – Boil 1 ltr of water with 100g honey and finely chopped small red onion (shallot) in low flame for about 3 mins. Store it in fridge in a dry container. Heat the mixture before consuming every time. One table spoon of mixture should be only administered to children while adults can use 2 tablespoons. Treatment will only be effective if the medicine is consumed for 3 times a day for 3 days to 3 weeks. Chronic asthama will take more time to cure.
  • Constipation – Consume a spoon of honey with a cup of cold milk at night. Medication can be continued if constipation persists. Strengthening of heart:Boil 2 spoons honey and one spoon of pomegranate bark paste in half cup of water and consume 3 times a day after cooling it down. Care should be taken not to consume anything which may weaken the heart nerves or cholesterol increasing oils and not to smoke.
  • Urinary bladder diseases – Boil 2 table spoon of kalonji oil in one cup of water till it is reduced to half cup. Add this mixture to half glass boiled water and half cup honey and consume it two times a day for 2 weeks. If problem persists, continue use.
  • Premature Ejaculation – Add one spoon of ginger powder in half cup of honey and consume about quarter of cup of this mixture 2 hrs before sleep. Effective when used continuously for 4 weeks or more
  • Nervous disorder – Add 3 teaspoons of apple surkha (made from apple juice) to one cup of honey and consume 2 table spoon of the mixture before sleep. If the subject doesn’t sleep in one hour consume the mixture at same quantity again. Natural sleep can be attained after some days of medication.
  • Fever – Mix powdered Spanish cherry (elengi, Mimusops elengi) bark to half cup honey and consume one spoon of mixture with boiled water for 4 -5 times a day.
  • Diabetes – Consume one tea spoon of honey empty stomach and at night before sleep daily. Care should be taken not to eat sweets and rice foods. Note the sugar level before taking honey and after 3days of medication, if the sugar level reduces, then only continue the medication till sugar level drops to normal.
  • Fire burns – Apply a paste of honey mixed with white of a chicken egg. In case of higher degrees of burns dip the affected part in the paste or keep pouring continuously.
  • Sleeplessness – Consume two spoons of honey with cold milk one hour before sleep and bath in cold water in morning. Sleeplessness will cure in one or two weeks.
  • Obesity – Drink one glass of black tea after consuming one table spoon of honey in empty stomac

Cautions

Sometimes honey can be contaminated with the spores of bacteria that can cause Infant Botulism (a very rare but fatal infection where the spores produce toxins in the intestines, after the age of one, children develop a defence against the spores). For this reason as a warning and to reduce the risk, it is advised that children under the age of 12 months should not be given honey.  Other than this, honey has no known side effects.


 

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