Allergy is called an extreme body reaction of a person to any allergen substance. People prone to allergies are referred to as ‘atopic’. Atopy is not a disease, it is an overreaction of the body to certain things and may be inherited. It is more common in light-skinned people and people living near the sea or in humid environments. Allergic reactions can turn into annoying situations. So, can honey help with allergies?
Yes, honey can help with allergies. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and other beneficial properties, honey help relieve inflammation caused by allergies. Inflammation is a reaction that occurs in everyone and is formed by the immune system to protect the body against various diseases or injuries. Inflammation is the basis of many healing processes in the body. The anti-inflammatory properties of honey reduce swelling and pain caused by inflammation.
Anti-Allergic, Anti-Inflammatory, and Other Biological Activities of Honey
- Anti-inflammatory activity
Chronic inflammation can damage tissues and inhibit healing. According to the available literature, honey reduces the inflammatory response in animal models, cell cultures, and clinical studies. The phenolic content in honey is responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect. These phenolics and flavonoids cause suppression of the pro-inflammatory activities of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and/or inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS).
Honey and its components have been shown to be involved in the regulation of proteins, including iNOS, ornithine decarboxylase, tyrosine kinase, and COX-2. Different types of honey have been discovered to induce the production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), and IL-6. Honey increases T and B lymphocytes, antibodies, eosinophils, neutrophils, monocytes. It has been noted that slow absorption leads to the production of short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) fermentation agents.
One possible mechanism is that ingestion of honey can cause SCFA production. The immunomodulatory effects of SCFA have been confirmed. Therefore, honey can induce an immune response through these fermentable sugars. A sugar, nigerooligosaccharides, has been observed to have immuno-effects present in honey. Non-sugar substances in honey are also responsible for immunomodulation.
- Antioxidant activity
Oxidants are agents such as oxygen in foods and play a role in damage prevention as an antioxidant detected in the human body. Natural antioxidants are poorly understood. However, research depicts a function in the natural effects of aging, and in most of the processes, honey is produced during metabolism, where oxygen is removed from free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS).
These components interact with lipids and protein components in cell membranes, enzymes as well as DNA. These harmful reactions can lead to various diseases. Fortunately, antioxidants slash free radicals before they can cause damage. Both enzymatic and non-enzymatic substances apply to the protective antioxidant. The ability of honey for antioxidant properties is related to the color of honey; therefore, dark honey has a higher antioxidant value.
It has been shown that phenolic compounds are the most important factor responsible for the antioxidant activity of honey because the phenolic level is related to the radical absorbance activity values of honey. Honey has the ability to act as a dietary antioxidant. According to the scientific literature, honey applied alone or in combination with conventional therapy may be a new antioxidant in the control of commonly associated oxidative stress. Indeed, from most of this data from experimental research, there is a great need to examine this antioxidant effect of honey in different human ailments.
- Antimicrobial activity
The main factors for the antimicrobial activity of honey are the enzymatic glucose oxidation reaction and some of its physical aspects. However, other factors that can show the antimicrobial activity of honey include high osmotic pressure / low humidity, low pH / acidic environment. Due to the properties of honey such as low protein content, high carbon/nitrogen ratio, low redox potential due to high reducing sugar level, a viscosity limiting dissolved oxygen and other chemical agents/phytochemicals, low moisture and water acidity, glucose oxidase, and hydrogen peroxide, honey does not help the growth of bacteria and yeast.
Not all peroxidase is the source of the antibacterial honey level, but many products have been discovered in honey, including terpenes, pinocembrin, benzyl alcohol, 3,5-dimethoxy-4-hydroxybenzoic acid (syringic acid), methyl-3. Some of these are 5-dimethoxy-4-hydroxybenzoate (methyl syringe), 2-hydroxy-3-phenyl propionic acid, 2-hydroxybenzoic acid, 3,4,5-trimethoxybenzoic acid, and 1,4-dihydroxybenzene.
Many studies have shown that the antibacterial activity of honey is the minimum inhibitory concentration; Therefore, honey has at least one concentration necessary for completely inhibitory growth. Among the many types of honey, manuka honey has the highest level of non-peroxide activity. Researches show that Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria of honey can be significantly inhibited. The antibacterial activity of honey has been shown to be effective on many bacterial pathogens and fungi.
- Apoptotic activity
Cancer cells are characterized by insufficient apoptotic turnover and uncontrolled cellular proliferation. Chemicals applied for cancer treatment are apoptosis inducers. Honey induces apoptosis in many cancer cells through depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane. Honey increases caspase 3 activation and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage in human colon cancer cell lines associated with its high phenolic component.
Honey induces the expression of p53, caspase 3, and the proapoptotic protein Bax, and also down-regulates the expression of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl2. Honey pro-active ROS leading to the activation of p53 and p53, and anti-apoptotic proteins such as Bcl-2 and Bax. Oral administration of honey increases the expression of the pro-apoptotic protein Bax and also decreases the expression of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 in tumor tissue of Wistar rats.
Intravenous injection of Manuka honey exerts its apoptotic effect on cancer cell lines through the incorporation of caspase 9, which in turn activates the executive protein, caspase-3. Apoptosis was induced by manuka honey, including activation of PARP, DNA fragmentation, and loss of Bcl-2 expression. The apoptotic properties of honey make it a possible natural substance as an anti-cancer agent as there are many chemotherapeutics used today.
Allergy-Beneficial Components in Honey
To date, approximately 300 types of honey have been described. This variety is related to the different types of nectar collected by honey bees. The main composition of honey is carbohydrates, which contribute 95-97% of its dry weight. Also, honey contains main compounds such as proteins, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and organic acids. Pure honey also consists of flavonoids, polyphenols, reducing compounds, alkaloids, glycosides, cardiac glycosides, anthraquinone, and volatile compounds. Monosaccharides (fructose and glucose) are the most important sugars. It can contribute to many of the nutritional and physical effects of honey.
In addition to monosaccharides, honey contains lesser amounts of disaccharides (sucrose, galactose, alpha, beta-trehalose, gentiobiose, and laminaribiose), trisaccharides (melezitose), and oligosaccharides (maltotriose, 1-ketose, panose, isomaltose glucose, isomaltotriose, isopanose, and maltopentaose). Most of these sugars are formed during the maturation and maturation periods of honey. Gluconic acid, a product of glucose oxidation, is the main organic acid found in honey; also small amounts of acetic, formic, and citric were found.
These organic acids are responsible for the acidic (pH between 3.2 and 4.5) properties of honey. Honey also consists of some important amino acids, for example, the nine essential amino acids and all non-essential amino acids except asparagine and glutamine. Proline has been reported as the primary amino acid in honey followed by other amino acid types. Enzymes (diastase, invertases, glucose oxidase, catalase, and acid phosphatase) form the main protein components of honey. The level of vitamins in honey is low and not close to the recommended daily intake. All water-soluble vitamins are found in honey, with vitamin C being the most common.
About 31 variable minerals have been found in honey, including all major minerals such as phosphorus, sodium, calcium, potassium, sulfur, magnesium, and chlorine. Many essential trace components are detected in honey, such as silicon (Si), rubidium (RB), vanadium (V), zirconium (Zr), lithium (Li), and strontium (Sr). However, some heavy metals such as lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and arsenic (As) are present as pollutants. Previous studies have identified approximately 600 volatile compounds in honey that contribute to its potential biomedical effects. Volatile compounds in honey are generally low.
But included aldehydes, alcohols, hydrocarbons, ketones, acid esters, benzene, and its derivatives, pyran, terpene, and its derivatives, as well as sulfur, furan, and cyclic compounds. Flavonoids and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, are the two main bioactive molecules found in honey. Recent evidence has shown that there are about thirty types of polyphenols in honey. The presence and levels of these polyphenols in honey may vary depending on the flower source, climatic and geographical conditions.
Some bioactive compounds, such as quercetin, kaempferol, luteolin, and isorhamnetin, are found in all types of honey, while naringenin and hesperetin are found only in certain varieties. In general, the most phenolic and flavonoid compounds in honey include gallic acid, syringic acid, ellagic acid, benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isorhamnetin, ferulic acids, myricetin, chrysin, coumaric acid, apigenin, quercetin. It has been reported that honey ingredients have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anticancer, and antimetastatic effects.
Flavonoids refer to the group of active natural compounds with a 15-carbon structure containing two benzene rings joined by a heterocyclic pyran ring. They are generally classified as flavonols (quercetin, kaempferol and pinobanksin), flavones (luteolin, apigenin). and chrysin), flavanones (naringenin, pinocembrin, and hesperetin), isoflavones (genistein), and anthocyanidins. Some flavonoids, including genistein, chrysin, luteolin, and naringenin, show estrogenic activity, and generally, phytoestrogens indicate the chemical structures of the major flavonoids and phenolic acids found in honey.
A Brief Medicinal History of Honey
Honey is a natural product consisting of the flower nectar of honey bees (Apis mellifera; Family: Apidae). Honey has been used by humans since about 5500 years ago. Most ancient societies, including the Greeks, Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, Mayans, and Babylonians consumed honey for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Honey is only an insect-derived natural product and has nutritional, cosmetic, therapeutic, and industrial value. Honey is reviewed as a balanced diet and is equally valuable for men and women of all ages.
Honey does not need to be cooled, it never spoils and can be stored unopened in a dry place at room temperature. Honey has a water activity (WA) of 0.56 to 0.62 and a pH of about 3.9. Honey has been used as a natural sweetener since ancient times because of its high fructose level (honey is 25% sweeter than table sugar).
Also, the use of honey in drinks is becoming more and more popular. Today, there is information about the use of honey for the treatment of many human diseases. Scientific evidence shows various beneficial and protective effects of honey, including the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antidiabetic, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous system effects.
Evidence from Stone Age paintings shows the treatment of diseases with bee products, such as honey, that originated 8,000 years ago. Ancient scrolls, tablets, and books – Sumerian clay tablets (6200 BC), Egyptian papyrus (1900-1250 BC), Veda (Hindu scripture), Quran, Bible, and Hippocrates (460-357 BC) – all mention honey as a common medicine. Honey has been used in various disease conditions such as eye diseases, asthma, throat infections, tuberculosis, thirst, hiccups, fatigue, dizziness, hepatitis, constipation, worm infestation, eczema, ulcer healing, and wounds in traditional medicine.
Oak Honey Is the Best Honey Type for Allergies
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit or prevent the free radical-mediated oxidation of various organic compounds at low concentrations. Oak honey is produced from oak aphids or the sugary substance released from oak leaves under certain stress conditions. Therefore, although both oak and pine honey are secretory honey, oak honey has quite a different composition and biologically active properties.
Hyaluronidases are a class of enzymes that predominantly catalyze the degradation of hyaluronic acid (HA) and are common in humans, bacteria, and invertebrates. Hyaluronidases are involved in many pathological diseases and their inhibitors serve as potential regulators as anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-tumoral, anti-aging, anti-rheumatoid, anti-toxin, and antimicrobial agents. In the research, the highest anti-hyaluronidase activity among honey collected from various regions of the world was exhibited as oak honey, followed by chestnut and buckwheat.
Researchers compared Oak, Chestnut, and Polyfloral honey types in their scientific study and stated that Oak honey exhibited the highest urease inhibition, followed by chestnut and poly floral honey, and the inhibitory value of oak honey was approximately 3 times greater than that of poly floral honey. The researchers stated that oak honey is very rich in phenolic structure molecules, phenolic structure molecules, phenolic acids, flavanols, pro-anthocyanins, and tannins, and added that these secondary metabolites do not only have anti-oxidant activities but also have anti-microbial, anti-tumoral, and anti-inflammatory functions.
Antioxidants are molecules that react with free radicals that cause aging, cancer, and some other diseases and neutralize them. In a study conducted in Greece, the antioxidant properties of different plant-derived honey were compared. As a result of the research, oak honey showed the highest antioxidant property.
The researchers analyzed the polyphenolic components of oak honey by the HPLC method. Nineteen phenolic standards were used to prepare calibration charts. Seven phenolic acids (gallic acid, protocatechuic acid, p-OH benzoic acid, caffeic acid, syringic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid) and twelve flavonoids (catechin, epicatechin, rutin, myricetin, resveratrol, daidzein, luteolin, t-cinnamic acid, hesperetin, chrysin, pinocembrin, caffeic acid phenyl ester (CAPE)) were used.
All polyphenols except epicatechin, rutin, luteolin, and hesperetin were detected in varying amounts. Protocatechuic acid, ferulic acid, myricetin, and chrysin were the most abundant phenolic compounds. The total phenolic content of honey has been calculated as 54 to 88 mg GAE/100g. In summary, oak honey has a high apitherapeutic value with its rich variety of polyphenols.
Other Medicinal Properties of Honey
- Honey and scars
Honey is the oldest wound-healing agent known to mankind when some modern chemicals have failed in this regard. Experimental research has shown more and more documentation supporting its use in wound healing due to its bioactivities such as antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. Also, honey activates the immune response to infection. Stimulation of other features of the immune response with honey has also been reported (proliferation of B- and T-lymphocytes and phagocyte activity).
Honey induces antibody formation. Much evidence suggests the use of honey in the control and treatment of acute wounds and mild to moderate superficial and partial thickness burns. Although some studies have shown the efficacy of honey in wound healing and leg ulcers, more studies are needed to strengthen the existing evidence.
- Honey and diabetes
There is strong evidence showing the beneficial effects of honey in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. These results demonstrate the therapeutic prospects of using honey or other potent antioxidants as an adjunct to standard antidiabetic drugs in the control of diabetes mellitus. Regarding the limitations on the use of antioxidants, other interventions aimed at reducing ROS production can also be used in addition to conventional diabetes treatment.
In one of the clinical studies of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus, the application of honey was associated with type 1 diabetes and a much lower glycemic index than normally sucrose or glucose. Type 2 diabetes has similar values for honey, glucose, and sucrose. In diabetic patients, honey can cause a significant reduction in plasma glucose levels compared to dextran. It also reduces blood lipids, homocysteine , and C-reactive protein content in normal and hyperlipidemic patients.
However, several questions remain, particularly regarding the hope of controlling diabetes mellitus with interventions targeting both oxidative stress and hyperglycemia. Moreover, the therapeutic effects of honey in the treatment of diabetes may not only be limited to the control of glycemia but also extended to ameliorate the associated metabolic complication diseases.
- Honey and cancer
Current studies indicate that honey may exert anticancer effects through a variety of mechanisms. Studies have shown that honey has anticancer properties through its interaction with multiple cell signaling pathways, including induction of apoptosis, antimutagenic, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory pathways. Honey modifies immune responses. Honey has been shown to inhibit cell proliferation, induce apoptosis, alter cell cycle progression, and cause mitochondrial membrane depolarization in various types of cancer, such as skin cancer cells (melanoma), adenocarcinoma epithelium.
Cervical cancer cells, endometrial cancer cells, liver cancer cells, colorectal cancer cells, prostate cancer cells, renal cell carcinoma, bladder cancer cells, human non-small cell lung cancer, bone cancer cells (osteosarcoma), and leukemia and oral cancer cells (oral squamous cell carcinoma) is also included in this condition. In addition, honey can inhibit various tumor forms in animal modeling, including breast cancer, carcinoma, melanoma, colon carcinoma, hepatic cancer, and bladder cancer. However, more work is needed to improve our understanding of honey and its positive impact on cancer.
- Honey and asthma
Honey is widely used in folk medicine to treat inflammation, cough, and fever. The ability of honey to act as a preventative agent in reducing asthma-related symptoms or inhibiting asthma induction has been demonstrated. Chronic bronchitis and bronchial asthma were treated with oral honey consumption in animal modeling. Also, researchers showed that treatment with honey effectively inhibited ovalbumin-induced airway inflammation by reducing asthma-related histopathological changes in the airway, and also inhibited the induction of asthma.
It has also been discovered that inhaling honey effectively relieves mucus-secreting goblet cell hyperplasia. However, future studies are needed to explore these effects of honey to better understand the mechanisms by which honey reduces asthma symptoms.
- Honey and cardiovascular diseases
Antioxidants such as flavonoids, polyphenolics, vitamin C, and mono phenolics found in honey may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular failure. In coronary heart disease, antioxidant, antithrombotic, anti-ischemic, and protective effects of flavonoids such as vasorelaxant and flavonoids reduce the risk of coronary heart disease through three mechanisms: (a) improvement of coronary vasodilation, (b) blood-clotting platelets, and (c) prevention of oxidation of low-density lipoproteins.
Although there are many different types of antioxidants, different types of honey are dominated by caffeic acid, quercetin, phenyl ethyl ester, kaempferol, and acacetin. Some studies have shown that some honey polyphenols have a promising pharmacological function in reducing cardiovascular disorders. In vitro and in vivo research and clinical trials should be initiated to further validate these compounds in medical applications.
- Honey and neurological diseases
There is substantial scientific literature to demonstrate nutraceutical agents as new neuroprotective therapies, and honey is one of such promising nutraceutical antioxidants. Honey exerts anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, and antinociceptive effects and improves the oxidative content of the central nervous system. Various studies on honey suggest that honey polyphenols have nootropic and neuroprotective properties.
The polyphenol components of honey counteract the biological oxidative stress that leads to neurotoxicity, aging, and pathological accumulation of misfolded proteins, including amyloid-beta. The polyphenol components of honey counteract oxidative stress via excitotoxins, including quinolinic acid and kainic acid, and neurotoxins, including 5-S-cysteinyl-dopamine and 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine. Furthermore, they counteract apoptotic challenges directly via honey polyphenol components, amyloid-beta, methyl mercury-induced, and retinoid.
Raw honey and honey polyphenol reduce microglia-induced neuroinflammation induced by immunogenic neurotoxins or ischemia injury. Honey polyphenols counter neuroinflammation in the hippocampus, a brain structure involved in memory. Honey polyphenols prevent memory disorders and support memory development at the molecular level. Various studies suggest that changes in specific neural circuitry underlie the memory-improving and neuropharmacological effects of honey.
- Honey and gastrointestinal diseases
It has been suggested that honey is potentially beneficial for various conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, such as periodontal and other oral disorders, dyspepsia, and as part of oral rehydration therapy. In vitro studies suggest that honey exerts bactericidal activity against Helicobacter pylori, but a clinical trial of manuka honey therapy to induce Helicobacter eradication failed to demonstrate a beneficial treatment. Furthermore, honey may be effective as part of oral rehydration therapy, and as a clinical trial, honey shows therapeutic effects in the treatment of hospitalized infants and children with gastroenteritis, showing a marked duration of diarrhea in honey-treated patients.
A study conducted in Germany in 2017 showed that honey consumption reduces the level of triglycerides in the blood. Specifically, it has been shown in scientific studies that honey is effective in the treatment of a number of mouth ulcers with multiple pathologies and especially oral mucositis. Eye drops formulated with Manuka honey against dry eye disease have been reported to be effective in reducing the rate of tear film evaporation.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by abnormal acetyl and butyrylcholinesterase levels in the brain, among others. In the study, the highest potential for AChE inhibition was observed in the case of buckwheat honey (39.51% inhibition), while multi-flower honey showed the highest capacity (39.76%) for BChE inhibition. The study revealed that honey can be a rich source of cholinesterase inhibitors and therefore may play a role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.