Honey is a by-product of flower nectar and the upper aero-digestive tract of the honey bee, which is concentrated through a dehydration process inside the bee hive. Honey has a very complex chemical composition that varies depending on the botanical source. It has been used both as food and medicine since ancient times. Human use of honey is traced to some 8000 years ago as depicted by Stone Age paintings. In addition to important role of natural honey in the traditional medicine, during the past few decades, it was subjected to laboratory and clinical investigations by several research groups and it has found a place in modern medicine.
Honey has been reported to have an inhibitory effect on around 60 species of bacteria, some species of fungi and viruses. Antioxidant capacity of honey is important in many disease conditions and is due to a wide range of compounds including phenolics, peptides, organic acids, enzymes, and Maillard reaction products. Honey has also been used in some gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, inflammatory and neoplastic states.
This review covers the composition, physico-chemical properties and the most important uses of natural honey in human diseases.