Thursday, January 31, 2008

Honey and Cancer, Dental Health, Gastric Disorders, Wound Healing

Literature Review of Honey and Health Benefits
Susan Lutz, PhD; Shirzad Chunara, MHSc RD; Rae Kennedy, BSc
Alberta Beekeepers (ABA), August 2007

[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles containing excerpts from the Canadian report ”Literature Review of Honey and Health Benefits” published in August of last year.]


Human trials based on approximately 125 subjects in two well designed studies and two clinical trials using varied dosages of honey demonstrated positive effects on antioxidant potential for the prevention of cancer and as a beneficial aid in the treatment of cancer. Only one animal study was found using in vitro and in vivo as the experimental design. It looked at the anti-tumour effects of honey against bladder cancer in mice. There were no cell culture studies reported for honey and cancer.

Dental Health

Dental health human studies consisted of one very well designed and one well designed trial for the use of honey. The reports used 112 subjects for the treatment of gingivitis and periodontal disease, as well as minimizing post-surgical pain and edema from impacted molars using honey either orally or topically. There was only one clinical study conducted on dental health where honey did not have an effect on the cariogenicity in irradiated patients due to the lack of adequate control subjects. There were no animal studies conducted on honey and dental health.

One review article studied the potential of honey to promote oral wellness. It focussed on the large majority of the literature, which indicated that honey has potential for therapeutic use in various areas of dentistry, however further trials are needed before its usefulness is known.

Gastric Disorders

There were only two human studies regarding gastric disorders and honey that involved approximately 190 subjects in total. However, the two had different findings. The well-designed clinical trial concluded that the oral administration of 50mL of honey significantly reduced gastroenteritis symptoms in infants, but the other demonstrated laxative effects in healthy adults who were given either 50 mL or 100 mL of honey. This could be considered a positive effect, for those wanting to use honey to relieve constipation, but more research would be required to support this result.

Three animal studies were conducted using rats as the subject species in each case. Honey was given either under the skin or orally to animals with induced gastric damage. Honey was found to decrease post-operative abdominal cavity damage, decrease gastric lesions caused by necrotising agents and reduce gastric ulcerative damage.

One cell culture study discussed the antibacterial effect of honey on the prevention of diarrhea caused by enteropathogens.


There were two well designed and two clinical human trials with positive outcomes regarding the effect of honey on hematological indices, blood pressure and blood ethanol elimination. Approximately 150 subjects of both healthy nature and those with conditions such as type-2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension and hyperlipidemia were used. Hematological parameters improved upon the ingestion of various dosages of honey in the majority of subjects.

Three animal studies on honey and hematology each used approximately 52 healthy sheep, 30 alcohol tolerant mice and 30 rats respectively. Results indicated significant biochemical improvements in liver and renal function tests as well as in blood lipid and blood sugar profiles in sheep when treated by intravenous/intrapulmonary administration of honey solution or oral administration. Oral administration of honey inhibited blood cell diameter increase that is often due to excessive alcohol consumption and ameliorated biochemical and haematological changes during blood loss in both rat and mice studies. There were no cell culture studies reported on honey and hematology.


There was one clinical trial for the treatment of recurrent herpes lesions with topical honey and a one very well designed clinical trial that demonstrated no significant difference for honey as a treatment in the relief of hay fever symptoms.

The three studies on the use of topical honey for skin conditions all had positive outcomes for the management of dermatitis; psoriasis and other varying skin disorders.

Two animal studies using two different species proved to have positive outcomes on antibody production in primary and secondary immune responses in mice and increased plasma and urinary nitric oxide metabolites in sheep.

One In vitro study concluded honey to have a positive effect on inhibiting upper respiratory tract bacterial pathogens.

Wound Healing

Literature regarding honey for wound healing far outweighed all the other studies. Approximately 1170 human subjects participated in honey and wound management studies in total. All the clinical trials have shown that honey can be a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent and is relatively safe. There were no known adverse effects on wound tissue noted in any of the studies reviewed. However, 25 of the studies were of poor scientific quality and therefore may be disregarded by most regulatory reviewers. There were also four trials, which included approximately 188 subjects, which concluded that there was not enough substantial evidence for honey to be used for wound healing.

There were four different species used in the animal studies: rats, mice, rabbits, and a stumptail macaque, totalling approximately 150 animals. The results concluded that when honey was used in combination with wound dressings, it provided rapid healing, and promoted healthy cell and tissue growth and other healing parameters.

The fourteen articles on cell studies discussed honey as an efficient antimicrobial agent and inhibitor of infection.

The majority of the 15 review articles concluded that although ancient civilizations have used honey as a wound healing agent and many of the studies have shown honey to be beneficial when used for different health conditions, there is a lack of high quality, randomized controlled trials which can support the use of honey in wound care. In addition, further research is required to understand how the properties of honey work to heal the different types of wounds (i.e. burns, ulcers, pressure wounds)…

Copies of this report are available by contacting:

Alberta Beekeepers
#102, 11434 – 168th Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5M 3T9
Phone: (780) 489-6949
Fax: (780) 467-8640

1 comment:

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