By Zeenat Farooq
Honey is a sugary liquid of high consistency and stickiness that is produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers by biological processes of conversion in bee stomachs. Honey is primarily a yellowish liquid but can vary in colour, depending upon the plant from which nectar is collected since some forms of honey are white or red in colour also. The main nutrients contained in honey are simple sugars like fructose and glucose (approximately 70%) but the spectrum of these sugars also varies slightly, depending upon the plants chosen for obtaining nectar.
Bees make honey constantly while move among flowers with good quality nectar and fragrances. It is an inherent quality in the bees that they only choose flowers with good quality nectar and stay away from poisonous plants, toxic substances and filth, unlike other types of bees. Once the bee reaches its hive, it starts the process of making honey by secreting various enzymes which aid in the process. It also preserves the micronutrients and prevents them from degradation and dilution during the process. A bee, on an average, produces approximately 10 grams of honey per day which requires it to fly about 60 times back and forth.
Honey is a heterogeneous mixture of various substances, many of which have nutritive value, healing properties and are used in preventive medicine. The composition, according to Yusuf Al Hajj Ahmad’s includes Fructose is almost 38 percent, Glucose is 31 percent, water is 17 percent, Maltose is 7.2 percent, tri-Saccharides are 4.2 percent, Surcose is 1.5 percent and the balance 0.5 percent are minerals and vitamins.
The carbohydrates in honey are mostly simple sugars which are easily digested, absorbed to provide instant energy. It can very easily be given to small children because it is even sweeter than sugar and has additional nutrients. It contains vitamin B1 which is important for nerves, vitamin B6 which is used to treat convulsions in children. It also contains sodium, potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorus, sulphur and chlorine. These minerals promote bone and dental health, ensure proper enzyme function, help in raising haemoglobin levels and also play role in maintaining electrolyte balance.
Honey is used as a topical agent to treat a number of skin ailments without leaving any scars. Its other medicinal applications are:
- Preventing anaemia and rickets in children.A spoonful of honey diluted with water administered orally to children can compensate for the deficiency of calcium and iron in mother’s milk and thus can prevent anaemia and rickets.
- Combat bedwetting. A child suffering with this problem can be given a spoon of honey before bedtime. This will help calm his nerves and also has a dilating effect on bladder muscles which promote urine retention. The concentrated sugars contained in honey also absorb water from the child’s system.
- Treating wounds and infections. Honey and cod liver applied on wounds in the ratio of 1:4 has an effect of healing wounds, preventing infection and also reduces wound pains.
- Treating diarrhoea, stomach and duodenal ulcers. Honey is a good treatment for diarrhoea since it promotes water absorption from intestines without the absorption of sodium. It also is a good remedy for ulcers since it restores the secretion of hydrochloric acid levels to normal. It is also used in case of spasms in intestinal muscles.
- Cold, flu and throat infections. Inhalation of a 10% solution of honey decreases sensitivity in nasopharynx and helps to prevent flu and throat infections.
- Sleep disturbances. Honey contains reasonable amounts of minerals potassium, sodium and also vitamin B1. These help in calming nerves, reducing anxiety and thus encourage proper sleep.
- Treating cough. Boiling lemon in hot water followed by addition of glycerine and a spoon of honey helps alleviate symptoms of cough. Honey in lemon water is also helpful in aiding weight loss.
- Honey is also used to treat muscle spasms and eye infections. In fact, the effects on eye infections are comparable to those with leading antibiotics without any side effects.It is also useful in case of hair loss, heavy metal poisoning, liver diseases, congestion of the brain and brain tumors.
Allah, the Exalted says in Al-Quran “ And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: ‘Take you habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they erect, then, eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of your Lordmade easy (for you).’ There comes forth from their bellies a drink of varying colour wherein is healing for men. Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think.”(Soorah Al-Nahl, 16:68-69)
Honey contains a rich mixture of simple sugars which are readily absorbed into the blood stream. This helps to restore normal cellular activities, most importantly brain function. It also replenishes the glycogen reserves of the liver and muscles by promoting glycogenesis and at the same time, inhibits gluconeogenesis, thereby restoring normal pH in the blood. It promotes water absorption from intestines which helps to stay hydrated during long fasting hours. It reduces HCl secretion which prevents hyperacidity and promotes healthy gut activity. It calms nerves, replenishes vitamins and minerals in the body, promotes healthy blood formation, prevents infections and also promotes psychological health according to the Sunnah of the prophet of Islam.
(Author is a Research Scholar at Department of Biotechnology, university of Kashmir.)