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Honey, a natural product of very high nutritive value is made when the nectar (floral) and sweet deposits from plants (non floral) are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycombs by honeybees of the genera Apis and Meliponini. Its composition and quality vary greatly with the botanical source of nectar as well as environmental and climatic conditions. Depending on its quality, honey can contribute to the health and nutritional status of humans. These beneficial actions have been ascribed to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant potential. Interestingly, honey is gradually receiving attention as a complementary and or an alternative source of treatment in modern medicines. It is active against antibiotic-sensitive and antibiotic-resistant strains of micro-organisms and has the potential not to select for further resistant strains.
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African Journal of Microbiology Research Vol. 5(8) pp. 844-852, 18 April, 2011
Available online http://www.academicjournals.org/ajmr
DOI: 10.5897/AJMR10.008
ISSN 1996-0808 ©2011 Academic Journals
Review
An overview of honey: Therapeutic properties and
contribution in nutrition and human health
Christy E. Manyi-Loh1, Anna M. Clarke1 and Roland N. Ndip1,2*
1Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Fort Hare, Microbial
Pathogenicity and Molecular Epidemiology Research Group, P/Bag X1314, Alice 5700, South Africa.
2Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Faculty of Science, University of Buea, Box 63, Buea, Cameroon.
Accepted 16 December, 2010
Honey, a natural product of very high nutritive value is made when the nectar (floral) and sweet
deposits from plants (non floral) are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycombs by honeybees of
the genera Apis and Meliponini. Its composition and quality vary greatly with the botanical source of
nectar as well as environmental and climatic conditions. Depending on its quality, honey can contribute
to the health and nutritional status of humans. These beneficial actions have been ascribed to its
antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant potential. Interestingly, honey is gradually receiving
attention as a complementary and or an alternative source of treatment in modern medicines. It is active
against antibiotic-sensitive and antibiotic-resistant strains of micro-organisms and has the potential not
to select for further resistant strains.
Key words: Honey, natural product, drug, food.
INTRODUCTION
Natural medicinal products have been used for millennia
in the treatment of multiple ailments. Although many have
been superseded by conventional pharmaceutical
approaches, there is currently, resurgence in interest in
the use of honey and honey products by the general
public. This alternative branch of medicine is called
apitherapy (Gosh and Playford, 2003). Honey is a natural
substance produced, when the nectar and sweet deposits
from plants are gathered, modified and stored in the
honeycombs by honeybees of the genera Apis and
Meliponini (Namias, 2003; Al-jabri, 2005).
They can be classified based on the source of nectar.
These include floral and non floral honeys. Honeys can
either be unifloral or multifloral, depending whether the
honey collected is from the nectar of the same flower or
from nectar of flowers of various types. Non floral honey
(honey dew) is made by bees that extract sugars from the
living tissues of plants or fruits, and/or scavenge the
excretions of insects (aphids) that tap the veins of higher
plants (Subrahmanyam, 2007).
*Corresponding author. E-mail: rndip@ufh.ac.za or
ndip3@yahoo.com. Tel: +27 782696191. Fax: +27 86624759.
There are basically two main types of honey, apiary and
forest honeys. Honeys produced by the honeybees, Apis
cerana indica and Apis mellifera, in apiaries and collected
by the modern extraction method are called apiary honey.
They are transparent and free from foreign materials. In
contrast, those produced by rock bee, Apis dorsata, or
from wild nests of A. cerana indica in forests and
collected by the crude method of squeezing the comb are
known as forest honeys. They are turbid owing to the
abundance of pollen, wax, brood (bee larvae), parts of
bees, and plant materials. It is therefore necessary to
filter the honey to separate the suspended particles
(Subrahmanyam, 2007). Apparently, with the increasing
interest in the use of alternative therapies coupled with
the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, honey
may finally receive its due recognition. In this review, we
highlight on the components present in honey, its
therapeutic properties beneficial to human health as well
as its nutritional value.
COMPOSITION OF HONEY
Because honey inherits plants properties, its color,
aroma, flavor, density, and physical and chemical
properties depend on the flowers used by bees, although
weather conditions as well as processing also influences
its composition and properties (Ramirez and Montenegro,
2004). As a result, the nutritional values and profiles vary
accordingly and can thus influence the value of a specific
honey for health promoting purposes (Bansal et al.,
2005). Honey is essentially concentrated aqueous
solution of inverted sugars, but it also contains a very
complex mixture of other saccharides, proteins, enzymes,
amino acids, organic acids, polyphenols, and carotenoid-
like substances, maillard reaction products, vitamins and
minerals (Gheldof et al., 2002). Carbohydrates constitute
about 95 to 97% of the dry weight of honey (Alvarez-
Saurez et al., 2009). Fructose and glucose are the most
predominant sugars present and are responsible for most
of the physical and nutritional characteristics of honey
(Sato and Miyata, 2000). Smaller quantities of other
sugars are also present such as disaccharides,
trisaccharides and oligosaccharides that are formed
during the ripening and storage effects of bee enzymes
and the acids of honey (Ball, 2007).
Water is quantitatively the second most important
component of honey. Its content depends on a number of
environmental factors during production such as weather
and humidity inside the hive, but also on nectar
conditions and treatment of honey during extraction and
storage (Molan, 2002). Only honeys with less than 18%
water can be stored with little or no risk of fermentation.
The protein content of honey is roughly 0.5% of which are
mainly enzymes and free amino acids. Glucose oxidase
produces hydrogen peroxide alongside gluconic acid
from glucose in the presence of water (Bogdanov et al.,
2008).
Glucose + H2O +O2-----------------gluconic acid +H2O2
Likewise, invertase converts sucrose to fructose and
glucose. Dextrin and maltose are produced from long
starch chains or glycogen by the activity of the enzyme
amylase (Bansal et al., 2005). However, catalase found in
small amounts in honey produces oxygen and water from
hydrogen peroxide. The inverse relationship between
catalase activity and hydrogen peroxide content has been
used to determine the hydrogen peroxide level of honey
called the “inhibine number”. It is therefore, clear, that the
absolute level of hydrogen peroxide in any honey is
determined by the respective levels of glucose oxidase
and catalase (Weston, 2000).
Approximately 18 essential and non-essential amino
acids are present in honey. Proline is the primary amino
acid, and lysine being the second most prevalent
(Iglesias et al., 2004). Nevertheless, there are other
amino acids whose relative proportions depend on the
honey’s origin. In other words, the amino acid profile of a
honey could be a characteristic of its botanical origin.
Vitamins, minerals and trace compounds in honey
depend on its botanical and geographical origin (National
Manyi-Loh et al. 845
Honey Board, 2003). These compounds include thiamin,
riboflavin, niacin etc (vitamins), Cr, Ba, Ni etc (trace) and
P, S, Ca etc (mineral) elements. On the basis of the
multitude of known and unknown biological functions,
trace elements play a key role in the biomedical activities
associated with this food (Conti, 2000).
The main volatile compounds in honey have their
origins, in general terms, in different chemical families,
such as: alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, acids, esters,
terpenes (Zhou et al., 2002; Bastos and Alves, 2003).
Organic acids have been found as volatile compounds in
different type of honeys. However, the predominant acid
found in honey is gluconic acid (2, 3, 4, 5, 6-
pentahydroxyhexanoic acid) making it to be a
characteristically acidic medium with pH range of 3.4 to
6.1(average 3.9) (Iurlina and Fritz, 2005). Its presence in
all honeys originates largely from the enzymatic action of
glucose oxidase on glucose in the presence of water
(French et al., 2005) and to a lesser extent may be
produced by bacteria of the genus Gluconobacter which
are occasionally isolated from ripening nectar (Davis,
2005).
Specific volatile compounds can be considered as
aroma fingerprints because they provide information
about the botanic origin of the honey (Escriche et al.,
2009). Aroma is one of the most important features, since
it also allows detection of adulteration of the product
(Barra et al., 2010). Polyphenols are another group of
compounds, in terms of the appearance and functional
properties of honey. They are potential biochemical
markers for authenticating the geographical and anti-
oxidant properties. These compounds include phenolic
acids (benzoic and cinnamic acids) and flavonoids
(flavanones, flavanols) and they contribute significantly to
the anti-oxidant capacity of honey (Gheldof et al., 2002).
However; the anti-oxidant capacity varies greatly
depending on the floral source, possibly due to the
differences in the content of plant secondary metabolites
and enzyme activity (Gheldof et al., 2003).
THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES OF HONEY
Meda et al. (2004) reported that honey is becoming
acceptable as a reputable and effective therapeutic agent
by practitioners of conventional medicine and by the
general public. Its beneficial role has been endorsed to its
antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activities
as well as boosting of the immune system (Table 1).
Antimicrobial activity
The antimicrobial activity is very important
therapeutically, especially in situation where the body’s
immune response is insufficient to clear infection. In other
words, it has shown powerful antimicrobial effects against
846 Afr. J. Microbiol. Res.
Table 1. Summary of honey’s therapeutic properties and their beneficial effects.
Properties Attributed factors Actions References
Antimicrobial
(antibacterial, antiviral,
antifungal, antiparasitic)
high osmolarity, acidity,
hydrogen peroxide and non-
peroxide components
(phytochemicals)
Inhibitory and/or killing Bansal et al. (2005)
Faheyand Stephenson
(2002) Irish et al. (2006)
Manyi-Loh et al. (2010b)
Ndip et al. (2007)
Anti-inflammatory Leucocytes
Reduces inflammation, soothes
and minimize scarring in wounds. Dunford et al. (2000)
Antioxidant Phenolic acids
Flavonoids
Prevents formation of free
radicals.
Scavenge peroxyl and free
radicals
Gheldof et al. (2002)
Baltrušaityt et al. (2007)
Immunological Leucocytes
macrophages
Cytokine production
Provides substrate for glycolysis
Tonks et al. (2007)
pathogenic and non- pathogenic micro-organisms (yeasts
and fungi) even against those that developed resistance
to many antibiotics (Zaghloul et al., 2001). The
antimicrobial effects could be bacteriostatic or
bactericidal depending on the concentration that is used.
However, such activity has been attributed to certain
factors like high osmolarity (low water activity), acidity
(low pH), and hydrogen peroxide and non-peroxide
components (Taormina et al., 2001; Tanih et al., 2009).
Furthermore, honey is a supersaturated sugar solution;
these sugars have high affinity for water molecules
leaving little or no water to support the growth of micro-
organisms (bacteria and yeast). Consequently, the micro-
organisms become dehydrated and eventually die
(Malika et al., 2004). In addition, the natural acidity of
honey will inhibit many pathogens. The usual pH range of
most of the pathogens is around 4.0- 4.5. However, the
major antimicrobial activity has been found to be due to
hydrogen peroxide (Temaru et al., 2007), produced by
the oxidation of glucose by the enzyme glucose-oxidase,
when honey is diluted (Iurlina and Fritz, 2005). As
hydrogen peroxide decomposes, it generates highly
reactive free radicals that react and kill the bacteria. In
most cases, the peroxide activity in honey can be
destroyed easily by heat or the presence of catalase.
Notwithstanding, some honeys have antibacterial
action separate to the peroxide effect, resulting in a much
more persistent and stable antibacterial action (non-
peroxide activity) (Alvarez-Saurez et al., 2009). They are
however called “non-peroxide honeys. Manuka honey
(Leptospermum scoparium) from New Zealand and jelly
bush (Leptospermum polygalifolium) from Australia are
non-peroxide honeys which are postulated to possess
unidentified active components in addition to the
production of hydrogen peroxide. They retain their
antimicrobial activity even in the presence of catalase
(Snow and Harris, 2004).
Weston (2000) suggested that the main part of this
activity might be of honeybee origin, while part may be of
plant origin. The compounds exhibiting this activity can
be extracted with organic solvents (e.g. n-hexane, diethyl
ether, chloroform, ethyl acetate) (Taormina et al., 2001)
by liquid-liquid (Zaghloul et al., 2001; Manyi-Loh et al.,
2010b) or solid phase extraction methods (Aljabri and
Yusoff, 2003). The extracted compounds have been
reported to include flavonoids, phenolic acids, ascorbic
acid, carotenoid-like substances, organic acids, neutral
lipids, Maillard reaction products, amino acids and
proteins (Vela et al., 2007).
Weston (2000) stated that flavonoids, benzoic and
cinnamic acids contribute to the antibacterial activity of
honey but that the contribution of these components in
reality is small compared to the contribution from
hydrogen peroxide. Nonetheless, Weston (2000) further
mentioned that the reaction of hydrogen peroxide with
benzoic acids can create peroxyacids which are more
stable and more powerful antimicrobial agent than
hydrogen peroxide. Consequently, these acids will
escape destruction when catalase is added to a solution
of honey prior to an antibacterial assay.
Several studies have investigated the antimicrobial
activity of honey against various micro-organisms
(Baltrušaityt et al., 2007; Ndip et al., 2007; Manyi-Loh et
al., 2010b). This was done by agar well diffusion
technique as described by the method of Dastouri et al.
(2008) or disc diffusion as per the method of Ndip et al.
(2007). In both techniques various concentrations of
volume/volume or mass/volume of honey were employed
and the diameter of zone of inhibition was a measure of
the antibacterial activity. By implication, the greater/larger
the zone of inhibition, the more active that honey
concentration was considered to be.
Most studies now report antibacterial activity as
minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) which can be
determined by agar dilution method (Mulu et al., 2004) or
broth dilution method (Manyi-Loh et al., 2010b). The latter
method can be carried out by tube dilution (Aljabri and
Yusoff, 2003; Ndip et al., 2007) or micro dilution in
microtitre plates as per the method of Tan et al. (2009).
However, MIC is considered as the lowest concentration
of honey that inhibited bacterial growth (no visible growth
or turbidity). Other important effects of honey have been
linked to its oligosaccharides. They have prebiotic effects,
similar to that of fructo oligosaccharides (Sanz et al.,
2005). The oligosaccharides have been reported to
cause an increase in population of bifidobacteria and
lactobacilli, which are responsible for maintaining a
healthy intestinal microflora in humans. As a matter of
fact, Lactobacillus spp. protect the body against
infections like salmonellosis; and Bifidobacterium spp
restrict the over-growth of the gut walls by yeasts or
bacterial pathogens and, perhaps reduce the risk of colon
cancer by out-competing putrefactive bacteria capable of
liberating carcinogens (Kleerebezem and Vaughan,
2009).
Anti-inflammatory activity
Although inflammation is a vital part of the normal
response to infection or injury, when it is excessive or
prolonged it can prevent healing or even cause further
damage (Al-jabri, 2005). The most serious consequence
of excessive inflammation is the production of free
radicals in the tissue. These free radicals are initiated by
certain leucocytes that are stimulated as part of the
inflammatory process (Van den Berg et al., 2008), as
inflammation is what triggers the cascade of cellular
events that give rise to the production of growth factors
which control angiogenesis and proliferation of fibroblasts
and epithelial cells (Simon et al., 2009). They can be
extremely damaging and break down lipid, proteins and
nucleic acids that are the essential components of the
functioning of all cells (Dhalla et al., 2001). However, the
anti-inflammatory properties of honey have been well
established in a clinical setting (Subrahmanyam et al.,
2003) and its action is free from adverse side effects.
Anti-oxidant activity
Antioxidant capacity is the ability of honey to reduce
oxidative reactions within the human body. It has been
found to have a significant antioxidant content measured
as its capacity to scavenge free radicals (Gheldof et al.,
2002). This anti-oxidant activity may be at least part of
what is responsible for its anti-inflammatory action
Manyi-Loh et al. 847
because oxygen free radicals are involved in various
aspects of inflammation (Henriques et al., 2006). Even
when the antioxidants in honey do not directly suppress
the inflammatory process, they can be expected to
scavenge free radicals in order to reduce the amount of
damage that would otherwise have resulted. Honey
exerts its anti-oxidant action by inhibiting the formation of
free radicals, catalyzed by metal ions such as iron and
copper. Flavonoids and other polyphenols, common
constituents of honey have the potential to impound
these metal ions in complexes, preventing the formation
of free radicals in the first place (Makawi et al., 2009).
Boosting of the immune system
As well as having a direct antibacterial action, honey may
clear infection through stimulating the body’s immune
system to fight infections. It has been reported that honey
stimulates B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes in cell
culture to multiply, and activate neutrophils (Tonks et al.,
2003). Furthermore; Jones et al. (2000) in their study
reported the stimulation of monocytes in cell cultures to
release the cytokines TNF-alpha, IL-1 and IL-6, the cell
“messengers” that activate the many facets of the
immune response to infection. Recently, Tonks et al.
(2007) discovered a 5.8 kDA component of manuka
honey which stimulates the production of TNF- in
macrophages via Toll-like receptor. In addition, honey
provides a supply of glucose, which is essential for the
“respiratory burst” in macrophages that produce
hydrogen peroxide, the dominant component of their
bacteria-destroying activity (Molan, 2001).
Moreover, it provides substrates for glycolysis, the
major mechanism for energy production in the
macrophages, and thus allows them to function in
damaged tissue and exudates where the oxygen supply
is often poor. The acidity of honey may also assist in the
bacteria-destroying action of macrophages, as an acid
pH inside the phagocytic vacuole is involved in killing
ingested bacteria (Molan, 2001).
HEALTH BENEFITS OF HONEY
Since ancient times, honey has been used for its
medicinal properties to treat a wide variety of ailments. It
may be used alone or in conjunction with other
substances and administered orally or topically for the
eradication of certain ailments. However, misuse of
antibiotics, the emergence of resistant bacteria, high cost
and unavailability of some conventional drugs and
increasing interest in therapeutic honey have provided an
opportunity for honey to be used as a broad-spectrum
antibacterial agent. The beneficial actions of honey have
been established in the following.
848 Afr. J. Microbiol. Res.
Honey in the treatment of wounds
A broad spectrum of wounds is being treated all over the
world with natural unprocessed honeys from different
sources (Al-Waili, 2003, 2004). At present Medihoney TM
(a blend of manuka and jelly bush honey) has been one
of the first medically certified honeys licensed as medical
product for professional wound care in Europe, America
and Australia (Molan and Betts, 2004; and Molan, 2006).
In addition, dressings impregnated with honey under
controlled conditions and sterilized by gamma irradiation
are available in Australia and New Zealand. Honey is
equally found as an active ingredient in products such as
ointments for the treatment of minor burns and cuts in
Nigeria (Williams et al., 2009).
Cross contamination
The viscous nature of honey is believed to provide a
moist wound environment that allows skin cells to re-grow
across the wound as well as it provides a protective
barrier that helps safeguard patients by preventing cross
contamination (Lusby et al., 2002). Bacterial colonization
or infection of wound may occur with micro-organisms
that originate from the patient’s endogenous skin,
gastrointestinal and respiratory flora through contact with
contaminated external environmental surfaces, water, air
and soiled hands of health care workers (Tan et al.,
2009).
Stimulation of tissue growth
The re-growth of tissue is very important in the wound
healing process. Honey stimulates the formation of new
blood capillaries (angiogenesis), the growth of fibroblasts
that replace connective tissue of the deeper layer of the
skin and produce the collagen fibers that give the
strength to the repair. In addition, it stimulates the re-
growth of epithelial cells that form the new skin cover
over a healed wound (Rozaini et al., 2004). Thus,
prevents scarring and keloid formation, and removes the
need for skin grafting even with quite large wounds
(Subrahmanyam et al., 2003).
Debridement action
It has been established that dressings that create the
type of moist wound environment that honey provides
facilitate the process of autolytic debridement. The high
osmotic pressure of honey draws lymph from the deeper
tissues and constantly bathes the wound bed. Proteases
contained in the lymph in effect contribute to the
debriding activity (Molan, 2002). Malodor occurs in
wounds colonized by anaerobes such as Bacteroides and
Clostridium species, and Gram-negative rods such as
Pseudomonas and Proteus species (Dunford et al.,
2000), because they metabolize proteins; so they
produce malodorous substances e.g. ammonia and
sulphur compounds as end products. Amazingly, honey
provides bacteria an alternative source of energy
(glucose), producing lactic acid when metabolized (Simon
et al., 2009).
Bioburden
Honey has shown considerable antibacterial activity
against a wide range of wound pathogens (Tan et al.,
2009; Oyeleke et al., 2010), as well as against biofilms
created by bacteria on wounds (Okhiria et al., 2004). A
biofilm may be described as a bacterial community living
within a self-produced extracellular polysaccharide (EPS)
matrix that protects them from antimicrobial and
phagocytic onslaught. Most interestingly, honey has been
used to heal recalcitrant wounds whereby it was found to
be effective in vitro against a wide range of multiresistant
organisms including methicillin resistant Staphylococcus
aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE)
and multiresistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Coopet et
al., 2002; George and Cutting, 2007).
Furthermore, Rendel et al. (2001) demonstrated that
acidification of wounds speeds healing; this being
attributed to low pH increasing the amount of oxygen off-
load from hemoglobin in the capillaries. Actually,
acidification prevents ammonia produced by bacteria
metabolism from harming body tissues (Williams et al.,
2009). Moreover, the other afore mentioned antibacterial
factors in honey such as hydrogen peroxide, lysozyme
and phenolic compounds also play a role at this instance.
Anti-inflammatory action
The anti-inflammatory activity of honey has been
documented in clinical studies of human burn wounds
and in in vitro studies (Subrahmanyam et al., 2003). The
potential consequences of effectively managing
inflammation include rapid reduction of pain, edema, and
exudates; additionally hypertrophic scarring is minimized
by avoiding protracted inflammation that may result in
fibrosis (Dunford et al., 2000). Subsequently, reducing
inflammation lessens exudates production and dressing
change frequently, which may conserve resources in
terms of dressings used, staff time, and unnecessary
disturbance of the patient and the wound bed (Williams et
al., 2009).
Gastroenteritis
Acute gastroenteritis is an acute inflammation of the
gastrointestinal tract that may be caused by a variety of
microbes (viruses, bacteria, and parasites). Pure honey
has demonstrated bactericidal activity against many
enteropathogenic organisms, including those of the
Salmonella and Shigella species, and enteropathogenic
Escherichia coli (Molan, 2001; Adebolu, 2005).
Alnaqdy et al. (2005) in an in vitro study demonstrated
that honey prevented the attachment of Salmonella
bacteria to mucosal epithelial cells; attachment is
however, considered the initial event in the development
of bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract.
Seemingly, Badaway et al. (2004) reported a remarkable
antibacterial activity of bee honey and its therapeutic
usefulness against E. coli 0157: H7 and Salmonella
typhimurium infections.
Most recently, Abdulrhman et al. (2010), in their study,
added honey to the oral rehydration solution (ORS)
recommended by the World Health Organization/UNICEF
(2002) to treat gastroenteritis in infants and children.
They reported that the frequency of both bacterial and
non bacterial diarrhea was reduced. Most probably,
adding honey to ORS is technically easier, less
expensive and of course made the solution a little bit
sweet and possibly more acceptable. Owing to the high
sugar content in honey, it could be used to promote
sodium and water absorption from the bowel. It also
helps to repair the damaged intestinal mucosa, stimulates
the growth of new tissues and work as an anti-
inflammatory agent (Bansal et al., 2005).
Gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers
Gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers are complications
resulting from infection with Helicobacter pylori.
Conventional treatment for the eradication of H. pylori is
far from satisfactory; thus there is search for alternative
treatment. Honey-derived remedies constitute a potential
source of new compounds that may be useful in the
management of H. pylori infections (Manyi-Loh et al.,
2010a). In vitro studies suggested that honey possesses
bactericidal activity against H. pylori and could be used in
combination with the antibiotics in the triple therapy in a
bid to help eradication. Even isolates that exhibited
resistance to other antimicrobial agents were susceptible
to honey (Nzeako and Al-Namaani, 2006).
Furthermore, Ndip et al. (2007) in their study to
evaluate the in vitro anti- H. pylori activity of selected
honeys at different concentrations (10, 20, 50 and 75%
v/v) reported that there was variation in the antibacterial
activity of honeys obtained from different countries and
regions. This is as a result of different climatic conditions
that influence the distribution of flowers and vegetative
species from which honeybees collect nectar and sweet
plant deposits to produce honey (Mulu et al., 2004;
Basson and Grobler, 2008). As a result of genetic
heterogeneity exhibited by H. pylori, in combination with
the regional variation in the antimicrobial components
Manyi-Loh et al. 849
present in honey, there is a difference in the
concentration of honey that would inhibit H. pylori in
specific locations (Manyi-Loh et al., 2010a). Specifically,
Manyi-Loh et al. (2010b) reported the sensitivity of H.
pylori isolates obtained from patients in the Eastern Cape
of South Africa to honey concentration of 10 % v/v.
Seemingly, in Muscat, Oman, Nzeako and Namaani
(2006) demonstrated that their isolates were sensitive to
honey dilutions as low as 1:2 but with prominent inhibition
at no dilution that is (100% concentration).
Other infections
Al-waili (2004) in a study reported the usefulness of
topical application of honey against Acyclovir for the
treatment of recurrent herpes simplex lesions. Also, Koc
et al. (2009) in their study demonstrated in vitro that
honeys from different floral sources in Turkey had
antifungal activity at high concentration of 80% v/v
against 40 yeast species (Candida albicans, Candida
krusei, Candida glabrata and Trichosoporon spp).
Cutaneous and superficial mycoses like ringworm and
athletes foot are found to be responsive to honey (Bansal
et al., 2005).
NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF HONEY
For a long time in human history, honey was an important
source of carbohydrates and the only widely available
sweetener (Ball, 2007). It is found to be a suitable
sweetener in fermented milk product without inhibiting the
growth of common bacteria like Streptococcus
thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus
delbruekii and Bifidobacterium bifidum which are
important for maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
Seemingly, in order to maximize the impact of probiotic
cultures following ingestion, honey has to be employed
as a dietary adjunct. In this respect, it acts as a prebiotic,
which is defined as a non-digestible food ingredient that
beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the
growth and/or activity of a limited number of bacteria
(bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) in the intestines (Sanz et
al., 2005)
On the account of the nutritional value (303 kcal/100 g
honey) and fast absorption of its carbohydrate, honey is a
food suitable for humans of every age (Blasa et al.,
2006). Simply, when orally consumed, its carbohydrates
are easily digested and quickly transported into the blood
and can be utilized for energy requirements by the
human body. It is for this reason that honey is particularly
recommended for children and sportsmen because it can
help to improve on the efficiency of the system of the
elderly and invalids (Alvarez-Saurez et al., 2009).
Furthermore, honey appears to present another option
for enhancing the safety and shelf life of foods. It has
850 Afr. J. Microbiol. Res.
been reported to be effective against enzymatic browning
of fruits and vegetables, oxidative degeneration of some
foods and in controlling the growth of or eliminating food
borne pathogens (Taormina et al., 2001) e.g. E. coli
0157:H7, S. typhimurium, S. sonnei, B. cereus, L.
monocytogenes and S. aureus; owing to its antioxidant
and antimicrobial properties.
INNOCUOUS ATTRIBUTES OF HONEY
The intrinsic properties of honey (low pH, high sugar
content) affect the growth and survival of many species of
micro-organisms. In consequence, honey can be
expected to contain a small number and limited variety of
micro-organisms (Iurlina and Fritz, 2005); and is relatively
free of adverse effects. Topical application of honey may
lead to transient stinging sensation. There can be allergic
reactions to proteins secreted by bees and from proteins
derived from plant pollen (Simon et al., 2009). In addition,
there is risk of infantile botulism in a situation where the
honey is contaminated with spores of Clostridium
botulinum. After ingestion, C. botulinum spores can
germinate, grow and produce toxin in the lower bowel of
some infants less than one year, since the intestinal flora
is not developed (Brown, 2000).
CONCLUSION
Honey, an age-old remedy has been rediscovered in
modern times. It is made up of a vast amount of different
compounds that can be of nutritional and health benefits.
Its therapeutic potential has been credited to its
antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant
properties as well as boosting of the immune system.
Moreover, the effectiveness of honey against antibiotic-
sensitive and resistant micro-organisms, the ease of
administration for the treatment of wounds, lack of side
effects in alleviating gastric pain and shortening the
duration of diarrhea and its low likelihood of selecting for
further resistant strains culminate to the fact that this
agent may represent a satisfactory alternative/
complementary means of chemoprophylaxis and or
chemotherapy.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The authors are grateful to the Govan Mbeki Research
and Development Centre, University of Fort Hare, South
Africa for financial assistance.
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