Raw Honey as Medicine

Dateline: 1000 BC

Topic: Raw honey: From the Finnish Creation Myth The Kalavala, Rune 15 Lemminkainen at Tuonela River:

A mother seeks the dead body of her son named Lemminkainen (Finland’s equivalent to Thor) in the river Tuonela where he has perished. She appeals to the God of Blacksmiths to create a huge iron rake for dredging the depths of this mighty river. Using this rake she collects the dismembered pieces of her drowned and waterlogged son. Does she then call for a druid or a doctor? No. She calls for the honeybee instructing:

“Go forth and fetch me honey, go forth to seek for honey,

back from Metsola’s fair meadows, from the cup of many a flower,

and the plumes of grasses many,

as an ointment for the patient, and to quite restore the sick one”.

“Then did Lemminkainen’s mother raise it to her mouth and taste it.

With her tongue the ointment tasted, with the greatest care she proved it.

“Tis the ointment that I needed, and the salve of the Almighty,

used when Jumula the Highest, The Creator heals all suffering”.

Bee Well thanks Bea Birch from England who called this “news” to our attention!

Dateline 1990:

Topic: Raw Honey

Newsweek (5/7/90) and Time (12/3/90) reported the use of honey to dress bum wounds (see BeeWell Voll, No #2).  The news from the Gulf war was that a “sugar ointment” was used to treat battle injuries on the front. (This was also done in WW-II when Germans packed wounds with white sugar).  Finally, on my most recent trip to France, I learned that the top neurologists in Paris at L’Hopital Salpetrier use raw honey to pack the Stasis ulcers of their bed-ridden patients. Thus the ancient wisdom of Finland’s Kalavala is very much at home in some of the world’s most modern hospital wards. Today, 3000 years later and civilizations removed, the “news” that honey is a powerful topical ointment remains “fit to print”.

COLUMN: The Science behind Apitherapy

TOPIC:      Raw Honey


Title:  Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose.

Author:  Al-Waili NS     Journal:  J. Med Food. 2004 Spring;7(1):100-7.

This study included the following experiments:

(1)   effects of dextrose solution (250 mL of water containing 75 g of dextrose) or honey solution (250 mL of water containing 75 g of natural honey) on plasma glucose level (PGL), plasma insulin, and plasma C-peptide (eight subjects);

(2)   effects of dextrose, honey, or artificial honey (250 mL of water containing 35 g of dextrose and 40 g of fructose) on cholesterol and triglycerides (TG) (nine subjects);

(3)   effects of honey solution, administered for 15 days, on PGL, blood lipids, C-reactive protein (CRP), and homocysteine (eight subjects);

(4)   effects of honey or artificial honey on cholesterol and TG in six patients with hypercholesterolemia and five patients with hypertriglyceridemia;

(5)   effects of honey for 15 days on blood lipid and CRP in five patients with elevated cholesterol and CRP;

(6)    effects of 70 g of dextrose or 90 g of honey on PGL in seven patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus; and

(7)   effects of 30 g of sucrose or 30 g of honey on PGL, plasma insulin, and plasma C-peptide in five diabetic patients.

  • In healthy subjects, dextrose elevated PGL at 1 (53%) and 2 (3%) hours, and decreased PGL after 3 hours (20%).
  • Honey elevated PGL after 1 hour (14%) and decreased it after 3 hours (10%).
  • Elevation of insulin and C-peptide was significantly higher after dextrose than after honey.
  • Dextrose slightly reduced cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) after 1 hour and significantly after 2 hours, and increased TG after 1, 2, and 3 hours. Artificial honey slightly decreased cholesterol and LDL-C and elevated TG. Honey reduced cholesterol, LDL-C, and TG and slightly elevated high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C).
  • Honey consumed for 15 days decreased cholesterol (7%), LDL-C (1%), TG (2%), CRP (7%), homocysteine (6%), and PGL (6%), and increased HDL-C (2%).
  • In patients with hyper-triglyceridemia, artificial honey increased TG, while honey decreased TG. In patients with hyperlipidemia, artificial honey increased LDL-C, while honey decreased LDL-C.
  • Honey decreased cholesterol (8%), LDL-C (11%), and CRP (75%) after 15 days. In diabetic patients, honey compared with dextrose caused a significantly lower rise of PGL.
  • Elevation of PGL was greater after honey than after sucrose at 30 minutes, and was lower after honey than it was after sucrose at 60, 120, and 180 minutes.
  • Honey caused greater elevation of insulin than sucrose did after 30, 120, and 180 minutes.
  • Honey reduces blood lipids, homocysteine, and CRP in normal and hyperlipidemic subjects.
  • Honey compared with dextrose and sucrose caused lower elevation of PGL in diabetics.

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:

Here we have a well-designed study which delights us in its counter-intuitive conclusion: honey really does helps treat diabetes! Not surprisingly, other sweeteners did not show any health benefits. For example, dextrose in water, artificial “honey” (dextrose and fructose) and sucrose (white sugar)  caused harm. But raw honey, the good stuff, lowered blood sugar as well as lower risk factors for heart disease (total cholesterol,  “bad” LDL cholesterol, homocysteine and the inflammatory marker  C-reactive protein).  Honey also raised the “good” cholesterol, HDL so sweeten with raw honey and stop all that artificial stuff that increases so many health risks.

 Now years ago, Charlie Mraz knew that diabetics could eat raw honey and have no problems. He explained that raw honey, a  peptide rich living food, was a complex carbohydrate which needed enzymatic processing in the liver (an invertase enzyme) in order to metabolize the honey into bio-available simple sugars of sucrose and fructose.

This is a “slow-burning” sugar, a stick-to-your-ribs food which does not strain the pancreas (does no harm) while at the same time delivering nutrients and amino acids all  within an enzyme rich food.

BONUS:  Aside from eating this wonderful gift of the bees, other uses of raw honey at the Weeks Clinic include topical application for acceleration of wound repair (suture, bed sores, burns, ulcers); topical application for anti-biotic use (pink eye, infected wounds) topical application for acne and youthful glowing skin (honey is both an alpha- and beta-hydroxyl acid for mild peeling and detergent effects) and most impressively, per-nasal application of raw honey down the nostrils to unclog sinuses and to create the wave of death for sore throats. Once the wave of raw honey runs down the nostrils and becomes a sweet post-nasal drip, the nasal pharyngeal  tissue has been disinfected and rejuvenated. Yes, IT STINGS (to the degree that your tissue is inflamed), but in my 20 years of practice, I have never seen anything help sore throats like raw honey with its glucose oxidase which converts 20 parts per million hydrogen peroxide. As my teenagers say….    “Sweeeeeeeet!!!! “

Accepted for publication  Journal AAS  Feb 2005


Bradford S. Weeks, M.D. science editor, past-President and founding member of the American Apitherapy Society has an ongoing passion to bring the benefits of apitherapy out of the hive and into the home so as to remind people of the safe and effective qualities of these ancient folk-remedies.  He offers a regular column describing the scientific rationale for various aspects of apitherapy. For more information see www.weeksmd.com  and direct questions to md@weeksmd.com.  Bee Well!

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