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Honey is a natural resource for sugar. It is prepared by honeybees from the nectar of various flowers with the help of the enzymes in its body. Honey, apart from being a high quality nutrient, serves as a functional food and has a wide range of medicinal properties attributed to it. Honey is the best catalyst and adjunct with medicine. It should not be heated or consumed with hot substances and drinks. However, it can be heated in conditions where it won't be digested but be thrown out of the body after consumption as in emesis. Honey should be consumed in less quantity as when consumed in excess, may cause indigestion which is difficult to treat.
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Abstract: Honey is a natural resource for sugar. It is
prepared by honeybees from the nectar of various
flowers with the help of the enzymes in its body.
Honey, apart from being a high quality nutrient,
serves as a functional food and has a wide range of
medicinal properties attributed to it. Honey is the
best catalyst and adjunct with medicine. It should
not be heated or consumed with hot substances and
drinks. However, it can be heated in conditions
where it won’t be digested but be thrown out of the
body after consumption as in emesis. Honey should
be consumed in less quantity as when consumed in
excess, may cause indigestion which is difficult to
treat.
Keywords: Honey, functional food, madhu,
fructose, wound healing, emesis, Ayurveda.
Introduction
“Honey”, a word we use in day-to-day
conversation, is a name used to call someone we
1
love or like very much ; a term signifying
something sweet, delightful or delicious. The actual
meaning is a sweet, viscid fluid made by bees from
the nectar collected from flowers, and stored in
2
their nests or hives as food. The Indo-European
word for honey might best be sought in the more
fully-attested root medhu,
normally assigned the value
of “mead”, a wine made
from fermented honey of
3
Indo-European culture.
In ancient Indian
language, Sanskrit, honey
means madhu, which also
means sweet, delightful,
charming, juice of nectar of
flowers and a sweet intoxicating
4
drink.
The term “functional food” indicates that
the food provides health benefits beyond those
5
supplied by the traditional nutrients it contains.
Though this seems to be a new concept for the food
industry and the field of nutrition, honey has,
especially in Ayurveda, been commonly known as
pathya, which means wholesome or beneficial. This
concept is in line with the tenet “Let food be thy
medicine and medicine be thy food,” espoused by
Hippocrates. A functional food is, essentially, a
natural food in which the component(s) are
67
naturally enhanced. Claire M. Hasler opines, in
particular, there has been an explosion of consumer
interest in the health-enhancing role of specific
foods or physiologically active food components,
so-called functional foods.
Composition
Honey has long been consumed as both a natural
sweetening agent and food. The main nutritional
andhealth relevant components are carbohydrates,
mainly fructose and glucose, with the addition of
about 25 different oligosaccharides. Although
M.B. Kavita
16 Light on Ayurveda Journal, Vol. IX, Issue 4, Summer 2011
Honey
An Ancient Functional Food
honey is a high carbohydrate food, its glycemic
index varies within a wide range from 32 to 85,
depending on the botanicalsource. It contains small
amounts of proteins, enzymes, amino acids,
minerals, trace elements, vitamins, aroma
8
compounds andpolyphenols.
Varieties of Honey
The nutritional and medicinal uses of honey are
explained in detail in most of the classics of
Ayurveda. There are eight varieties of honey of
which four have medicinal properties. The
commonly used varieties are mÀkÈika and kÈaudra,
which are prepared by two types of honeybees,
makÈikÀ and kÈudra. According to the description of
makÈikÀ, it is tawny or reddish brown in color and
bigger in size. The kÈudra is also tawny in color but
is smaller; both usually nest in the cavities of tree or
with camouflage if in the open. Based on this
description, they could perhaps be compared with
9
Apis dorsata and Apis florae respectively.
Properties
Honey is sweet with a last tinge of astringent
10-16
flavor. It has few of its basic properties like cool
on touch or on application; has capacity to dry up
10-16
the body fluid; mixes with the medicine to which
it is added and acts according to the quality of drug
10,12,13,16
leaving its own nature; it can enter the minute
10,15,16 15,16
channels of the body and is pellucid all of
which gives it the medicinal value.
Actions in the Body
10,14-16
Honey increases appetite, increases
10,15-17
complexion, good for voice, brings
10,15,16 10,15
softness, has scraping out effect, is good for
10,14 10,15
the heart, seizes the urine and feces, good for
10,15,16 15-17
vision, soothing and tranquilizing, gives
10 15,16
strength, and enhances memory.
Indications
10,12-15
Honey is beneficial in diarrhea. A clinical study
was undertaken using honey in oral rehydration
solution in infants and children with
18,19
gastroenteritis. The results showed that honey
shortens the duration of bacterial diarrhea and may
safely be used as a substitute for glucose in a oral
18
rehydration solution containing electrolytes.
Antioxidants in honey have even been implicated
20
in reducing the damage done to the colon in colitis.
10,12-16
Honey is the best sweetener in diabetes. In a
clinical study, a high degree of tolerance to honey
was recorded in subjects with diabetes, indicating a
lower glycemic index of honey. Thus, it is evident
that honey may prove to be a valuable sugar
substitute for subjects with impaired glucose
21
tolerance or mild diabetes. Honey is slowly taken
up into the bloodstream thus reducing blood
glucose levels; it also has a high level of bioavailable
antioxidants making it less harmful when
22,23
compared to table sugar.
The topical application of honey on a wound
removes the pus, slough and promotes its
10,12-17
healing. A small number of clinical case studies
have shown that application of honey to severely
infected cutaneous wounds is capable of clearing
infection from the wound and improving tissue
healing. The physico-chemical properties such as
osmotic effects and the pH of honey, also aid in its
antibacterial actions. Research has also indicated
that honey may possess anti-inflammatory activity
and stimulate immune responses within a
24-27
wound. Hydrogen peroxide is formed in a slow-
release manner by the enzyme glucose oxidase
present in honey. When honey is used topically,
hydrogen peroxide is produced by dilution of the
honey with body fluids. As a result, hydrogen
peroxide is released slowly and acts as an
28
antiseptic. Honey has a very effective broad-
spectrum antibacterial agent with no adverse
29
effects on wound tissues. The potent anti-
inflammatory action of honey, by its antioxidants;
promotion of tissue regeneration through
stimulation of angiogenesis; the growth of
17
Light on Ayurveda Journal, Vol. IX, Issue 4, Summer 2011
fibroblasts and epithelial cells and its insulin-
mimetic effect; all stimulate the healing of diabetic
30
ulcers.
Honey has a cardio-protective action and hence
10,14,16
is beneficial in heart diseases. Animal
experiments showed that honey reduces blood
22,31
cholesterol level. Hence it can be administered in
14
cardiac diseases. Again animal experiments
exhibited consumption of honey significantly
22
lowers weight gains, meaning honey may also be
10,15,16
beneficial in treating overweight and obesity.
Honey can also be consumed when suffering from
15
constipation as it may have a laxative effect on
normal subjects because of incomplete fructose
32
absorption. The Ayurvedic classical texts mention
12,13,15,16
that it is highly useful in skin diseases,
10,12,13,15,16 10,12-15 14
worms, vomiting, rhinitis, respiratory
10,12-15 10,12-15 10,12-16 14
diseases, cough, hiccup, giddiness,
14 10,12-16 14
emaciation, thirst, pain in flanks, and
15,16
piles.
Heating of Honey
Honey should not be heated. The bees collect honey
from flowers with different qualities which may
contradict each other, or include some poisonous
flowers. Hence consuming heated honey acts as
10-14
poison. Honey should not be consumed
immediately after working in the hot sun or high
temperatures, or with substances like hot water or
hot foods; nor in temperate areas and in hot
summer. However, it can be consumed with food
and medicine that are hot in potency. Honey can be
heated only while administering emesis as it won’t
undergo digestion. Honey should not be given to
old people, even during emesis as there is a fear that
10-13 32
it may take the lower root. As per Ross Conrad,
heating of honey causes destruction of enzymes
diluting a lot of the medicinal value of honey.
Amount to Consume
Honey, if consumed in lesser quantity, can be
considered as good for health. However, if
consumed in excess, it causes Àma (a toxin-like
substance caused due to improper digestion of
food), leading to mÀdhvÀjÁrõa (indigestion due to
honey) — this is due to qualities like astringent
flavor, ability to dry body fluids and coolness
10,11
which may cause various severe diseases.
Conclusion
Honey is nature’s boon to human beings as a
natural food. Though a sugar, it does not have the
ill-effect of sugar and only the benefits of it. Along
with being a nutrient, it also has many medicinal
effects, thus, honey can be considered as an ancient
functional food.
Endnotes
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20 Light on Ayurveda Journal, Vol. IX, Issue 4, Summer 2011
Dr. M.B. Kavita is a lecturer in the Department
of Post-Graduation Studies in Swasthavritta at
Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara College
of Ayurveda and Hospital, Hassan, Karnataka,
India and has also worked in the Department of
Prasuti Tantra and Stree Roga. She is active in
adolescent reproductive health education for
school children and in women’s health. She has
delivered radio and TV talks on food and
lifestyle. She is involved in research titled “A
study on Hypolipidemic Action of Bhavita
Amalaki”, sponsored by Rajiv Gandhi
University of Health Sciences, Bengaluru,
India. She is currently pursuing her PhD on
research titled “A study on Effect of Amalaki as
Food Supplement in Dyslipidemia”. Dr. Kavita
graduated from S.D.M. College of Ayurveda
and Hospital, Udupi, Karnataka with a post-
graduation degree in Swasthavritta from
S.D.M. College of Ayurveda and Hospital,
Hassan. Contact at: apukavi@yahoo.com
... Table sugar and honey were added to provide sweet taste and flavour to the mixed drinks (Kaleem et al., 2017). Stingless honey was used to partially replace the usage of table sugar, as consumption of honey especially stingless honey is becoming a trend among consumers due to its benefits such as antimicrobial, antioxidant properties and has lower glycemic index compared to table sugar (Kavita, 2011). Arabic gum is often used in beverage systems as an emulsifier or stabiliser and stable in acidic conditions (Chung et al., 2016). ...
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Sugar (primarily sucrose) has been a part of the daily diet for literally hundreds of years, but research is now suggesting that sugar intake can be detrimental to our health. In particular, excessive consumption of simple sugars with high glycemic index (GI) values have been shown to cause overeating and weight gain. As well, elevated postprandial hyperglycemia can result after consuming sugars and this has been linked to disease formation and progression, the development of advanced glycation endproducts, inflammation and increased mortality rates. Honey has been recognised as having a number of beneficial health properties, including slower uptake into the bloodstream, a pharmacological action of reducing blood glucose levels and a high level of bioavailable antioxidants, all of which may mean that honey could be less harmful to health than sucrose in the diet. This study was therefore designed to investigate the health benefits of honey in the diet as a replacement for sucrose, using small animal studies. As well, because of the interest in using honey as a replacement for sucrose in sweetened dairy foods, a small number of in vitro investigations were carried out to determine whether honey could retain its bioactive properties when combined with milk/dairy products. Using the in vitro studies, it was shown that the combination of milk with honey had no effect on either the antibacterial or antioxidant capabilities of honey. During the animal feeding studies a number of significant findings were observed. In the earlier work it was shown that honey had a significant effect on protein metabolism when fed for 14 days at a level of 600 g/kg diet (comprising 480 g sugars and 120 g water) compared with animals fed an equivalent amount of sucrose. In this study, honey-fed rats exhibited significantly lower weight gains (p less than 0.001), food intake (p less than 0.05) and nitrogen intakes (p less than 0.05) and significantly higher faecal nitrogen outputs (p less than 0.05) compared with sucrose-fed rats. Animals fed a diet consisting of 480 g/kg of mixed sugars as in honey generally exhibited protein metabolism parameters that were comparable to those of the sucrose-fed rats, suggesting that the effects of honey on protein metabolism were not due solely to its distinctive sugar composition. Furthermore, in another study that specifically investigated the effects of honey on weight regulation, honey (100 g/kg diet) resulted in significantly reduced weight gain after 6 weeks (p less than 0.01) compared with animals fed the same amount of sugars as sucrose, although food intake was not reduced in this study. Percentage weight gains were shown to be comparable between honey-fed rats and those fed a sugar-free diet, suggesting that differences in glycemic control may be partly responsible for the results seen. Fasting lipid profiles and blood glucose levels were also measured in this study, but no significant differences were observed between diet groups. During long-term (12 months) feeding weight gain was again significantly reduced in rats fed honey (p less than 0.05) and a sugar-free diet (p less than 0.01) compared with those fed sucrose, the weights of honey-fed rats and those fed the sugar-free diet being comparable at the end of the study. In addition, blood glucose levels were significantly lower (p less than 0.001), and HDL-cholesterol levels significantly higher (p less than 0.05) in animals fed honey compared with those fed sucrose after 52 weeks, but no differences in these parameters were observed between rats fed sucrose and a sugar-free diet. No other significant differences in lipid profiles were observed. Immunity measures were improved after feeding honey or sucrose for 52 weeks, animals in both of these diet groups having significantly higher levels of neutrophil phagocytosis compared with those fed the sugar-free diet (both p less than 0.0001). In addition, the percentage of leukocytes that were lymphocytes was significantly higher in honey-fed rats at the end of the study. Furthermore, levels of oxidative damage in aortic collagen were significantly reduced in rats fed honey or the sugar-free diet (both p less than 0.05) compared with those fed sucrose after 52 weeks. Full body DEXA scans were also undertaken in this 12-month study to assess body fat levels and bone mineral composition and density, although they revealed few statistically significant differences. Percentage body fat levels were shown to be nearly 10% lower in honey-fed rats compared with sucrose-fed animals at the end of the study (p less than 0.05), but no other significant differences between diet groups were observed. With one exception, no differences in bone mineral composition or bone mineral density were observed between the three diet groups after 52 weeks. This data agreed with the results generated from two earlier studies that showed that feeding honey short-term (for 6-8 weeks) to rats that were either calcium-deficient or fed a low calcium diet had no effect on bone calcium levels, bone mineral content, bone mineral density or bone breaking parameters. Lastly, long-term feeding of honey to rats had a number of statistically significant effects on anxiety and cognitive performance when assessed using animal maze tasks. Anxiety-like behaviour was significantly reduced in honey-fed rats overall compared with those fed sucrose (p = 0.056) or a sugar free diet (p less than 0.05). Spatial memory was also better in honey fed-rats throughout the 12 month study, these animals not displaying the same degree of age-related spatial memory loss seen in the other two diet groups. No significant differences in recognition memory or learning capability were observed between diet groups after 52 weeks. In conclusion, both short-term and long-term feeding of honey result in a number of health benefits compared with eating similar amounts of sucrose. These include less weight gain, improved immunity, reduced levels of oxidative damage and improved cognitive performance.. These effects of honey are likely to occur through a number of different processes, although the presence of high concentrations of antioxidants and other minor components in honey are likely to be important contributors. Honey may therefore help to improve human heath if it is used as an alternative to sucrose in foods and beverages, although feeding studies in humans are required to assess its efficacy. In addition, more animal studies are needed to assess which features of honey (e.g. fructose content, antioxidant content and bioactivities) are required to achieve optimal effects, and to determine what impact heating and food processing may have on the beneficial health effects of honey.
Article
Background: Honey is a viscous, supersaturated sugar solution derived from nectar gathered and modified by the honeybee, Apis mellifera. Honey has been used since ancient times as a remedy in wound care. Evidence from animal studies and some trials has suggested that honey may accelerate wound healing. Objectives: The objective was to determine whether honey increases the rate of healing in acute wounds (e.g. burns, lacerations) and chronic wounds (e.g. skin ulcers, infected surgical wounds). Search methods: For this first update of the review we searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (searched 13 June 2012); The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 5); Ovid MEDLINE (2008 to May Week 5 2012); Ovid MEDLINE (In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations 12 June 2012); Ovid EMBASE (2008 to 2012 Week 23); and EBSCO CINAHL (2008 to 8 June 2012). Selection criteria: Randomised and quasi-randomised trials that evaluated honey as a treatment for any sort of acute or chronic wound were sought. There was no restriction in terms of source, date of publication or language. Wound healing was the primary endpoint. Data collection and analysis: Data from eligible trials were extracted and summarised by one review author, using a data extraction sheet, and independently verified by a second review author. Main results: We identified 25 trials (with a total of 2987 participants) that met the inclusion criteria, including six new trials that were added to this update. In acute wounds, three trials evaluated the effect of honey in acute lacerations, abrasions or minor surgical wounds and 12 trials evaluated the effect of honey in burns. In chronic wounds, two trials evaluated the effect of honey in venous leg ulcers, and single trials investigated its effect in infected post-operative wounds, pressure injuries, cutaneous Lieshmaniasis, diabetic foot ulcers and Fournier's gangrene. Three trials recruited people into mixed groups of chronic or acute wounds. Most trials were at high or unclear risk of bias. In acute wounds, specifically partial-thickness burns, honey might reduce time to healing compared with some conventional dressings (WMD -4.68 days, 95%CI -4.28 to -5.09 days), but, when compared with early excision and grafting, honey delays healing in partial- and full-thickness burns (WMD 13.6 days, 95% CI 10.02 to 17.18 days). In chronic wounds, honey does not significantly increase healing in venous leg ulcers when used as an adjuvant to compression (RR 1.15, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.38), and may delay healing in cutaneous Leishmaniasis when used as an adjuvant to meglumine antimoniate compared to meglumine antimoniate alone (RR 0.72, 95% CI 0.51 to 1.01). Authors' conclusions: Honey dressings do not increase rates of healing significantly in venous leg ulcers when used as an adjuvant to compression. Honey may delay healing in partial- and full-thickness burns in comparison to early excision and grafting, and in cutaneous Leishmaniasis when used as an adjuvant with meglumine antimoniate. Honey might be superior to some conventional dressing materials, but there is considerable uncertainty about the replicability and applicability of this evidence. There is insufficient evidence to guide clinical practice in other types of wounds, and purchasers should refrain from providing honey dressings for routine use until sufficient evidence of effect is available.
Article
Fifty-nine patients with wounds and ulcers most of which (80 per cent) had failed to heal with conventional treatment were treated with unprocessed honey. Fifty-eight cases showed remarkable improvement following topical application of honey. One case, later diagnosed as Buruli ulcer, failed to respond. Wounds that were sterile at the outset, remained sterile until healed, while infected wounds and ulcer became sterile within 1 week of topical application of honey. Honey debrided wounds rapidly, replacing sloughs with granulation tissue. It also promoted rapid epithelialization, and absorption of oedema from around the ulcer margins.
Article
Honey contains fructose in excess of glucose, which may lead to incomplete fructose absorption associated with abdominal symptoms and/or diarrhea. This hypothesis was investigated in 20 healthy volunteers (13 males, 7 females) with a mean (+/- SD) age of 35.9 +/- 12.1 y. Each subject drank the following aqueous solutions in random order: 20 g lactulose, 100 g honey, 50 g honey, and 35 g each of a glucose and fructose mixture. The breath-hydrogen concentration was measured every 15 min for 6 h. Semiquantitative estimates of carbohydrate malabsorption were assessed with lactose as a nonabsorbable standard. Breath-hydrogen concentrations increased by 52 +/- 6, 30 +/- 4, 20 +/- 3, and 4 +/- 1 ppm (mean +/- SEM) after each of the four test solutions, respectively. The estimated carbohydrate malabsorption was 10.3 +/- 1.8, 5.9 +/- 1.2, and 0.5 +/- 0.2 g after 100 g honey, 50 g honey, and the glucose-fructose mixture, respectively (F[2,57] = 16.05, P < 0.001). Within 10 h after the ingestion of 100 g honey, 50 g honey, and the glucose-fructose mixture, six, three and none of the volunteers, respectively, reported loose stools (chi 2 = 7.1, df = 2, P < 0.03). The results of this study suggest that carbohydrate malabsorption after ordinary doses of honey is frequent in healthy adults and may be associated with abdominal complaints. Honey may have a laxative effect in certain otherwise healthy individuals, probably because of incomplete fructose absorption.
Article
Dressing wounds with honey, a standard practice in past times, went out of fashion when antibiotics came into use. Because antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become a widespread clinical problem, a renaissance in honey use has occurred. Laboratory studies and clinical trials have shown that honey is an effective broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that has no adverse effects on wound tissues. As well as having an antibacterial action, honey also provides rapid autolytic debridement, deodorizes wounds, and stimulates the growth of wound tissues to hasten healing and start the healing process in dormant wounds. Its anti-inflammatory activity rapidly reduces pain, edema, and exudate and minimizes hypertrophic scarring. It also provides a moist healing environment for wound tissues with no risk of maceration of surrounding skin and completely prevents adherence of dressings to the wound bed so no pain or tissue damage is associated with dressing changes. Using appropriate dressing practice overcomes potential messiness and handling problems.
Article
Although honey has been used as a traditional remedy for burns and wounds, the potential for its inclusion in mainstream medical care is not well recognized. Many studies have demonstrated that honey has antibacterial activity in vitro, and a small number of clinical case studies have shown that application of honey to severely infected cutaneous wounds is capable of clearing infection from the wound and improving tissue healing. The physicochemical properties (eg, osmotic effects and pH) of honey also aid in its antibacterial actions. Research has also indicated that honey may possess antiinflammatory activity and stimulate immune responses within a wound. The overall effect is to reduce infection and to enhance wound healing in burns, ulcers, and other cutaneous wounds. It is also known that honeys derived from particular floral sources in Australia and New Zealand (Leptospermum spp) have enhanced antibacterial activity, and these honeys have been approved for marketing as therapeutic honeys (Medihoney and Active Manuka honey). This review outlines what is known about the medical properties of honey and indicates the potential for honey to be incorporated into the management of a large number of wound types.
Article
This study included the following experiments: (1) effects of dextrose solution (250 mL of water containing 75 g of dextrose) or honey solution (250 mL of water containing 75 g of natural honey) on plasma glucose level (PGL), plasma insulin, and plasma C-peptide (eight subjects); (2) effects of dextrose, honey, or artificial honey (250 mL of water containing 35 g of dextrose and 40 g of fructose) on cholesterol and triglycerides (TG) (nine subjects); (3) effects of honey solution, administered for 15 days, on PGL, blood lipids, C-reactive protein (CRP), and homocysteine (eight subjects); (4) effects of honey or artificial honey on cholesterol and TG in six patients with hypercholesterolemia and five patients with hypertriglyceridemia; (5) effects of honey for 15 days on blood lipid and CRP in five patients with elevated cholesterol and CRP; (6) effects of 70 g of dextrose or 90 g of honey on PGL in seven patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus; and (7) effects of 30 g of sucrose or 30 g of honey on PGL, plasma insulin, and plasma C-peptide in five diabetic patients. In healthy subjects, dextrose elevated PGL at 1 (53%) and 2 (3%) hours, and decreased PGL after 3 hours (20%). Honey elevated PGL after 1 hour (14%) and decreased it after 3 hours (10%). Elevation of insulin and C-peptide was significantly higher after dextrose than after honey. Dextrose slightly reduced cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) after 1 hour and significantly after 2 hours, and increased TG after 1, 2, and 3 hours. Artificial honey slightly decreased cholesterol and LDL-C and elevated TG. Honey reduced cholesterol, LDL-C, and TG and slightly elevated high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C). Honey consumed for 15 days decreased cholesterol (7%), LDL-C (1%), TG (2%), CRP (7%), homocysteine (6%), and PGL (6%), and increased HDL-C (2%). In patients with hypertriglyceridemia, artificial honey increased TG, while honey decreased TG. In patients with hyperlipidemia, artificial honey increased LDL-C, while honey decreased LDL-C. Honey decreased cholesterol (8%), LDL-C (11%), and CRP (75%) after 15 days. In diabetic patients, honey compared with dextrose caused a significantly lower rise of PGL. Elevation of PGL was greater after honey than after sucrose at 30 minutes, and was lower after honey than it was after sucrose at 60, 120, and 180 minutes. Honey caused greater elevation of insulin than sucrose did after 30, 120, and 180 minutes. Honey reduces blood lipids, homocysteine, and CRP in normal and hyperlipidemic subjects. Honey compared with dextrose and sucrose caused lower elevation of PGL in diabetics.