J Apither ● 2017 ● Vol 2 ● Issue 1 9
Journal of Apitherapy
Honey is produced by honey bees, especially by the species
of Apis mellifera  as blossom honey by secreting nectars of
flowers and honeydew honey (forest honey) is a type of honey
made from honeydew secreted by plant-sucking insects such
as aphids . Bees first convert the flower nectar into honey
by a process of regurgitation and evaporation, then store it as a
primary food source in wax honeycombs inside the beehive with
the clear, golden amber color. Honey flavor will vary based on
the types of flower from which the nectar was harvested. Honey
can then be harvested from the hives for human consumption.
According to historical evidence, there is evidence of the
harvesting of wild honey, dating back 10,000 years. However, by
2400 BC, the art of beekeeping was well established in Egypt
at least, and used honey as a natural food source and is also as
ingredients in various food preparations [2-5]. Honey is accepted
as a food source and medicine by both modern and ancient
generations, traditions and civilizations [5-8]. According to the
Christian holy book, the Bible, King Solomon said “eat honey
my son, because it is good . Furthermore, in accordance
with the Bible, John the Baptist enjoyed a diet including wild
honey when he was in the desert area or while traveling in the
wilderness . The religion of Islam recommended the use of
honey, and a separate chapter was denoted in their holy book,
Holy Quran for honey . The Buddha considered honey to
be one of the five essential medicines and food . Other
popularities who were interested in honey as a medicine and
food include Jews, Hindus, and Vedas [5,8].
Honey is produced in large quantities worldwide. National Honey
Month is a celebratory and promotional event held annually during
the month of September in the United States. The purpose of this
event is to promote American beekeeping industry and honey as
a natural and beneficial sweetener . According to Food and
Agriculture Organization, among the honey producing countries,
Russia is in the top and followed by India, Mexico, Iran, Romania,
Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Poland, and Kenya . Honey
mainly consists of sugars and water [Table 1]. Among the sugars,
the highest amount was found to be fructose (~38%), followed
by glucose (~31%) and sucrose (~1%). In addition, honey also
contains several vitamins (mainly riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic
acid, pyridoxine, folate, and vitamin C), minerals, proteins, enzymes
(such as catalase, superoxide dismutase, reduced glutathione),
flavonoides (such as apigenin, pinocembrin, kaempferol, quercetin,
galangin, chrysin and hesperetin), and phenolic acids (such as
ellagic, caffeic, p-coumaric, and ferulic acids) [15-19].
TRADITIONAL USES OF HONEY
Over 4000 years ago, honey was used as a traditional Ayurveda
medicine, where it was thought to be effective to balance the
Health benets and traditional uses of
Liyanage D.A.M. Arawwawala1, Horadugoda G.S.P. Hewageegana2
Mawatha, Colombo 07,
Sri Lanka, 2Institute of
University of Colombo,
Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka
Author for correspondence:
Colombo 07, Sri Lanka.
Received: December 28, 2016
Accepted: January 16, 2017
Published: February 10, 2017
Honey is an organic natural substance that is produced from the nectar of flowers by
and is a
sweet, flavorful liquid. It contains sugars, small quantities of proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, trace
elements, vitamins, aroma compounds, and polyphones. It is widely accepted as food and medicine by all
generations, traditions and civilizations, both ancient and modern. Honey is heavily used by Asian countries
such as Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, and Pakistan in their traditional medicinal systems. It is used as a remedy for
burns, cataracts, ulcers, diabetes, wound healing, etc. Many researchers have scientifically validated most
of the traditional claims (e.g., usage for diabetes, diarrhea, inflammation, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular
diseases) for honey using scientifically controlled experiments. We conclude this review by exposing the
benefits and traditional usage of the honey, especially in Ayurveda medicinal system.
KEY WORDS: Ayurveda, benefits, honey, medicine
Arawwawala and Hewageegana: Honey and uses
10 J Apither ● 2017 ● Vol 2 ● Issue 1
three humors of the body. The ancients of Vedic civilization
considered honey as one of nature’s most remarkable gifts
to mankind. In pre-Ancient Egyptian times, honey was used
topically to treat wounds . Honey is known as Madhu
or Kshaudra in Ayurveda scriptures and is one of the most
important medicines used in Ayurveda. Synonyms of bee’s honey
in Sanskrit are Madhu, Madvika, Kshaudra, Saradha, Makshika,
Vantha, Varati, Bhrungavantha, and Pushparasodbhava. It is
called Meepeni in Sinhala and Thein paani in Tamil . The
ancient Greeks believed that consumption of honey could help
one to live longer. Modern research indicates this substance
does possess unique nutritional and medicinal properties. Bees
honey is categorized into different types in Ayurveda medicinal
system. According to Susruta Samhita of Ayurveda, there are
eight different types of honey . Sushruta Samhita is an
ancient Sanskrit text on Ayurveda medicine and surgery. It
describes ancient theories on human body, etiology, symptoms,
and therapeutics for a wide range of diseases.
a. Pauttika: It has dry, hot and potency properties. Pauttika
honey is formed from poisonous flowers and leads to
vitiation of Vata, Pitta and Rakta (blood)
b. Bhramara: This type of honey is described as heavy, which
means not easily to digest. It contains slimy and excessively
c. Kshaudra: This type is known as light, which means easily
to digest. It has cold and anti-obesive properties
d. Makshika: It is the best honey and especially used for the
management of cough and asthma
e. Chatra: It has a sweet taste after digestion. Chatra honey
also heavy, which means not easily to digest. It has cold
and slimy properties. It is given as a remedy for bleeding
disorders, leukoderma, urethritic discharges, and worm
f. Ardhya: It has a pungent taste after digestion. Ardhya honey
is good for eyes, eliminates vitiated Kapha and Pitta Dosha
g. Auddalaka: It has bestowed taste and beneficial for voice.
It also used as remedy for skin diseases. As Ardhya honey, it
has a pungent taste after digestion
h. Dala: It is dry and controls vomiting and diabetes mellitus.
According to Dash and Charaka Samhita  which is an
ancient Sanskrit text on Ayurveda medicine and surgery, there
are four different types of honey such as Makshika, Bhramara,
Kshaudra and Paittaka. Makshika is the best type of honey and
color is similar to sesame oil. It is produced by reddish variety
of honey bees. Bhramara honey is produced by the Bhramara
type of bees. It is heavy and white in color. Kshaudra honey
is brown in color and produced by a small type of honey bee.
Paittaka honey is produced by a large type of bees, and the color
is similar to ghee .
There are two types of honey according to the Ayurveda
properties which are named as Navina madhu (fresh honey) and
purana madhu (old honey). Navina madhu: Honey that is fresh
or recently collected is Navina madhu. It gives nourishment.
Honey which is newly collected from bee hive increases body
weight and act as a mild laxative. Purana madhu: When honey
becomes old (approximately after 1 year of honey collection)
is called purana madhu. It is drier than navina madu, act as a
good adsorbent and reduces fat.
In Ayurvedic system of medicine, the properties of honey are
Madhura (sweet) and Kashaya (astringent) in Rasa (Madhura
is predominant Rasa and Kashaya is less predominant Rasa),
Ruksha in Guna (property), and Sheetha in Veerya (potency).
Immature honey leads to aggravations of Tridosha (this is the
central concept of Ayurvedic medicine, the theory that health
exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily
substances called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The functional aspect
of the body is governed by these three biological humors. Every
individual has a unique combination of these three. Vata can
correlate with Air or Nerve System Humor, pitta can correlate
with the Fire Humor and kapha with Water Humor) and mature
honey restore this three dosha in its equilibrium state. Newly
formed honey increases the body weight and old honey decreases
the body fat and thus body weight .
Kapha dosha (humor) is the Ayurveda category for body
constitutions, those with kapha dosha are of larger proportions
with robust frame. According to Sushruta samhita, actions of
new and old bees honey have different properties. New honey
has Vrumhana guna (nourishing properties) and it does not
alleviate vitiated Kapha dosha and is a laxative. Old honey
is Grahi (Water absorbents and bowel binders), reduces fat
and obesity (Vaidya). It should also be kept in mind that fresh
honey helps to increase body mass while old honey produces
constipation and decreases body mass. Therefore, old honey is
better to treat obese patients. According to Sushruta, mature
honey eliminates vitiated Tridosha while immature honey
vitiates Tridosha and is sour in taste. Honey should not be
heated or consumed warm as it causes toxic effect but in Unani
medicine, they use heated honey for some preparations. Cold
honey should always be preferred.
Honey incorporates into the Madhura Ghana (sweet in taste)
according to Ashtangahridaya samhita, one of the ancient
Sanskrit texts on Ayurveda medicine. Although, it is in sweet
taste it does not increase the kapha dosha. Therefore, it has
Table 1: Average composition of honey
Component Average (%)
Free acid as gluconic
Lactone as gluconolactone
Total acid as gluconic
Data adopted from [5,17,18]. Data adopted from [5,17,18]. *Other
sugars include disaccharides such as maltose, sucrose, isomaltose
turanose, nigerose, melibiose, panose, maltotriose, melezitose.
A few oligosaccharides are also present. Honey contains 4‑5%
Arawwawala and Hewageegana: Honey and uses
J Apither ● 2017 ● Vol 2 ● Issue 1 11
kapha reducing property. It is the best Yogavahi substance,
which means without changing its own properties; honey carries
the effects of the drugs that are added to it. Therefore, honey
enhances the properties and actions of the substances with
which it combines .
Honey is very good for eyes and eye sight (vision), breaks up
hard masses; it quenches thirst, balances kapha. It is useful to
reduce toxicity, stops hiccups, for bleeding disorders, in urinary
tract disorders and diabetes, skin diseases, worm infestations,
bronchial asthma, cough, diarrhea and nausea, vomiting,
cleanse the wounds, it heals wounds, helps in quick healing of
deep wounds . Honey which is newly collected from bee
hive increases body weight and is a mild laxative, honey which
is stored and is old helps in metabolism of fat and scrapes
Kapha. The ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks
and Romans all used honey in combination with other herbs
and on its own, to treat wounds and diseases of the gut .
According to the Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine honey has
balanced, sweet, non-toxic effects. It enters the lung, spleen and
the large intestine meridian channels. Supplements the center
and moistens the lung. Relieves pain and resolves toxins. Treats
cough due to lung dryness; constipation due to dryness of the
intestines; stomach pain; deep source nasal congestion, mouth
sores, scalds and burns” properties .
In Ayurveda, honey was used for nutritional and therapeutic
purposes since many centuries both internally and externally.
Honey is used as Anupana (is a fluid vehicle taken with or
after medicine or eating and which aids or assists the action
of main ingredient) with principal drug in Ayurveda clinical
practice. It is externally used for the treatment of eye diseases,
cutting and burning wounds. Internally used with other herbal
preparations specially for respiratory disorders such as cough,
asthma and phlegm with or without fever, as a treatment for
thirst, vomiting and hiccup, for diabetes, decoctions prescribed
with adding bee honey, for obesity specially use old honey, for
diarrhea, bee honey added to fresh herbal juice or decoctions
specially in traditional medicine. It is also used as a natural
preservative and sweetener in many Ayurveda or in traditional
medicines such as Navaratna kalka . It is also used as a
vehicle along with some medicines to improve its efficacy or
to mitigate the side effects of the other medicines it is mixed
with. This is very common in traditional medicines in Sri Lanka
specially used with pastes called Chandra Kalka in neurological
disorders  and decoctions for diabetes mellitus . It is
very clear that bee honey is helpful to alleviate the vitiated
dosha in the body.
Number of compound drugs such as Vishnukranthi kalka (a
paste which is recommended in Ayurveda for the treatment
of peptic ulcers and the kalka is made by mixing the dry
powder of the whole plant of Evolvulus alsinoides L. with cow
ghee, bee honey and common sugar in a ratio of 1:2:2:1 w/w)
mentioned in Vidyasagar et al.  for Annadrava shula and
Parinama shula (which were correlate with gastric ulcers and
peptic ulcers in Allopathic medicine) contain honey and they
conferred good results. Ayurveda preparations with bees honey
possess significant gastroprotective activity and it helps to
promote healing of gastric or duodenal ulcers . Further
honey may be helpful in preventing gastroesophageal reflux
Use of honey in medications for diabetes is mentioned in
Ayurveda since ancient times. Honey is normally added to
the prepared decoctions. Bee’s honey is beneficial for diabetic
patients in two ways. One is; honey being sweeter than sugar, one
may need a much smaller quantity of honey as a sweetener and
honey contain lesser calories than sugar. Further, by providing
vitamins B2, B4, B5, B6, B11 and vitamin C, and minerals such
as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium,
selenium, chromium, and manganese. The nutritional values
of honey could be altered by feeding the bees with selective
Bee wax [Figure 1] secreted by bees in constructing their
honeycomb. It appears as solid, yellowish, nonglycerine
substance consist of fats and oils. It is used as a natural base
when preparing crams and balms. Honey is used in most of the
preparations in Ayurveda and traditional medicinal treatments
and is used as a vehicle/preservative for rapid absorption of the
drug [Table 2]. Sometimes, some Rasa medicines and other
herbal preparations are taken with bees honey [Table 3].
PHARMACLOGICAL EFFECTS OF HONEY
Remedy for Stomach Disorders
Many research groups have validated the traditional claims
of honey using scientifically controlled experiments. Honey
is used to treat and protect against gastrointestinal infection
such as gastritis, duodenitis and gastric ulceration caused
by bacteria and rotavirus [29-33]. Attachment of bacteria to
mucosal epithelial cells is considered the initial event in the
development of bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal
tract. According to the literature, prevention of bacterial
adherence demonstrated by honey is categorized into different
mechanisms: (a) Non-specific mechanical inhibition perhaps
through the coating of the bacteria by the honey (b) may alter
Figure 1: Photograph of bees wax
Arawwawala and Hewageegana: Honey and uses
12 J Apither ● 2017 ● Vol 2 ● Issue 1
bacterial electrostatic charge or hydrophobicity which have
been reported to be important factors in the interaction of
bacteria with host cells [33-35] or (c) killing of the bacteria due
to the previously mentioned antibacterial factors in honey .
Helicobacter pylori is found to be sensitive to honey with a
median level of antibacterial activity due to the presence
of hydrogen peroxide at a 20% concentration [31,36,37].
According to the Nasutia et al. (2006) honey (2 g/kg),
prevented indomethacin-induced gastric lesions, microvascular
permeability, and myeloperoxidase activity of the stomachs
of the rats . In addition, for evaluation of gastric
cytoprotective properties of natural honey, perfusion of the
stomach with isotonic honey resulted in a marked reduction
of the area of the lesions caused by ethanol . Also, it has
been suggested that natural honey has curative properties for
healing of antral ulcers and may be used like sucralfate in the
management of peptic ulcer disease . Furthermore, honey
is used as a remedy for diarrhea and gastroenteritis [30,36,37]
at a concentration of 5% (v/v).
Honey reduces the activities of cyclooxygenase-1 and
cyclooxygenase-2, thus showing anti-inflammatory effects 
and demonstrates immunomodulatory activities .
Furthermore, ingestion of diluted natural honey showed
reduction effect on concentrations of prostaglandins such as
prostaglandin E2, prostaglandin F2α, and thromboxane B2
in plasma of normal individuals . Bilsel et al. (2002) have
proved that anti-inflammatory activity of honey was as effective
as prednisolone, reference drug . Further, honey has an anti-
inflammatory action free from adverse side effects  such as
suppression of immune response and tissue growth, formation
of ulcers in stomach, etc.
Honey has exhibited a strong antioxidant potential and
its activity is strongly correlated with the content of total
phenolics [46-51] and the color of honey. It was found that dark
honey has a higher total phenolic content, and consequently,
a higher antioxidant capacity [50,52]. Honey also inhibited
oxidative stress which may be partly responsible for its
neuroprotective activity . Hyperlipidemia and production of
free radicals are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases [54,55].
A wide range of phenolic compounds are present in honey
which has promising effect in the treatment of cardiovascular
Table 3: Traditional and ayurveda recipes with honey
Indigestion Ginger (Zingiber officinale) juice with honey, Lemon (Citrus limon) juice with honey with Navaratna kalka
Roasted cumin seeds powder with bee honey, Roasted cloves powder with bee honey
Peptic ulcers Paste prepared with Vishnukranti, honey, ghee and sugar
Diarrhea with vomiting Decoction prepared by Bark of Beli (Aegle marmelos) root and internal part of the mango seed with honey
Cough Adathoda (Adatoda vesica) svarasa with bee honey, Decoction of Adathoda, Elabatu (Solanum indicum) roots and
Rasakinda (Tinospora cordifolia) with honey, Powder of vibitaka (Terminalia bellirica) 10 g mixed with bee honey cure Asthma
and cough immediately
Asthma Most of the rasa preparations “Buddharaja kalka” ‑ prescribed with juice of Ambuldodam (Citrus aurantium), ginger, honey
and the drug “Svasakuthara rasa” is given with honey
Hiccup Curd with bee honey, Ash of peacock feathers with honey, Rasa preparation “Arogyavardhanavati” with honey
Anorexia Pomegranate juice and rock salt with honey
Data adopted from [16,22]. Navaratnakalka, Vishnukranti, Svasakuthara rasa, and Arogyavardhanavati are traditional and Ayurvedic preparations
Table 2: Traditional and ayurveda recipes where honey act as a preservative or vehicle
Type of preparations Mode of usage of honey
Krimirupukalka, Yashthikalka, Buddharajakalka, Candrakalka, Navaratnakalka
Honey use as a preservative
Asava and arishta
e.g.: Ushirasava, Aravindasava, Kanakasava, Kumaryasava, Drakshasava, Punarnavasava
Ashvagandharishta, Khadirarishta, Dashamularishta, Nimbarishta
Honey use as a preservative
Kanthakaryavaleha, Kutajavaleha, Kushmandavaleha, Cyavanaprasha, Vasavaleha
Honey use as a preservative
Netra bindu Honey use as a preservative
Ananda bahirava rasa, Karpura rasa, Lakshmivilasa rasa, Vasantakusumakara rasa,
Vasantamalati rasa, Sri jayamangala rasa
Honey use as a vehicle
Data adopted from [16,21,22]. Kalka and Avaleha are type of pastes, Asava and Arishta are type of liquids, Netra Bindu is an eye drop and Rasa
preparations are Mineral Drugs. When preparing pastes (kalka), ingredients are powdered and then they grind with bee honey until it becomes to paste,
e.g.: Navarathnakalka, Chandra Kalka, and Buddharajakalka. When preparing mineral preparations in Ayurveda system, ingredients convert into fine
powder form and then they grind with bee honey, e.g., Saptamrutalauha. When using as a Anupana (vehicle of a drug) for oral administration according
to traditional medicine, normally one teespoonful of bee honey is added to the rest of the herbal preparation. However, most of the time oral dosage of
bee honey is not mentioned in Ayurveda preparations, but practitioners are added one tea spoonful according to traditional medicine system normally.
Arawwawala and Hewageegana: Honey and uses
J Apither ● 2017 ● Vol 2 ● Issue 1 13
WOUND HEALING ACTIVITY
Honey has cleansing action on wounds, stimulates tissue
regeneration, reduces inflammation, and honey impregnated
pads act as non-adhesive tissue dressing [36,59,60]. Clinical
trials have revealed that honey dressing showed better
improvement (e.g., dressing in burns with amniotic membrane
dressing; silver sulfadiazine dressing, and boiled potato peel
dressing) and showed early healing with lesser degree of
contracture and scarring [36,61].
The use of honey in Type I and Type II diabetes was associated
with significantly lower glycemic index than with glucose or
sucrose in normal diabetes. Due to the low glycemic index
of the honey, it helps to reduce the absorption of digested
food . Honey compared with dextrose caused a significantly
lower rise in plasma glucose levels in diabetic subjects. It
also caused reduction of blood lipids, homocysteine levels
and C-reactive protein levels in normal and hyperlipidemic
subjects [36,63]. In earlier observations, it was found that
honey stimulates insulin secretion, decrease blood glucose
levels, elevates hemoglobin concentration , and improves
lipid profile .
Honey has been reported to have antibacterial activity
against various bacterial species including Bacillus
anthracis, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Haemophilus
influenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Listeria monocytogenes,
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Pasteurella multocida, Yersinia
enterocolitica, Proteus species, Pseudomonas aeruginosa,
Acinetobacter spp., Salmonella diarrhea, Salmonella typhi,
Serratia marcescens, Shigella dysentery, Staphylococcus
aureus, Streptococcus faecalis, Streptococcus mutans,
Strep. pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Vibrio
cholerae [36,66-68]. An antifungal action has been
reported for honey against Aspergillus, Penicillium, as well
as all the common dermatophytes [69,70] and Candida
albicans [36,71]. Honey has shown antiviral effect also.
The topical application of honey on recurrent attacks of
herpes lesions concluded that topical honey application
was safe and effective in the management of the signs and
symptoms of recurrent lesions from labial and genital herpes
compared to acyclovir cream . In addition, honey has
also been reported to have inhibitory effects on rubella virus
Due to the adverse effects of synthetic drugs researchers
pay more attention on plant based drugs. Apart from plant-
based drugs, honey, a natural substance has been used since
ancient time for medicinal purposes. Due to the validation of
ethnopharmacological claims, scientists also accept honey as a
new effective medicine for many diseases.
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