Honey! Western research and Traditional usage



What is honey?  Nectar procured from flowers is then stored in a special ‘stomach’ or ‘crop’, brought back to the hive, and transferred to other bees (through regurgitation).  Whilst in the crop, the nectar mixes with enzymes. When transferred to the honeycomb cells, the nectar/enzyme mix is then fanned by bee wings to evaporate residual water, then encased with beeswax in the honeycomb and stored for future use.

What is honey’s chemical composition?  Honey is made up mainly of carbohydrates, specifically monosaccharides (single-sugar units) and glucose (specific single-sugar which creates energy molecules in the body), disaccharides (double-sugar units), oligosaccharides (multiple sugar units), as well as, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants (specific and unique to honey/bee pollen is pinocembrin), and organic acids

(J, Loveridge 2001).

Western Research: (not an exhaustive list)


“All bacterial species tested were susceptible to different combinations of bactericidal factors in honey, indicating that these bacteria were killed via distinct mechanisms. This clearly demonstrates the importance of the multifactorial nature of honey for its potent, broad-spectrum bactericidal activity.” (Kwakman, Paulus HS, et al. 2010)

“We have demonstrated for the first time that honey contains an antimicrobial peptide, bee defensin-1, and that this peptide substantially contributes to the bactericidal activity.” (Kwakman, Paulus HS, et al. 2010)

“Microbial resistance to honey has never been reported, which makes it a very promising topical antimicrobial agent against the infection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (e.g., MDR S. maltophilia) and in the treatment of chronic wound infections” (Mandal, Manisha Deb, and Shyamapada Mandal, 2011)

“high sugar concentration, hydrogen peroxide, and the low pH are well‐known antibacterial factors in honey and more recently, methylglyoxal and the antimicrobial peptide bee defensin‐1 were identified as important antibacterial compounds in honey.” (Kwakman, Paulus HS, and Sebastian AJ Zaat, 2012)

“When ingested, honey also promotes healing and shows antibacterial action by decreasing prostaglandin levels, elevating nitric oxide levels, and exerting prebiotic effects. These factors play a major role in controlling inflammation and promoting microbial control and healing processes.” (Al-Waili, Noori S., et al. 2011)

“The accelerative effect of honey in the wound, ulcer and skin burn healing process is related to its physical properties of hygroscopicity, hypertonicity, lower pH, and complex chemical composition” (Abeshu, Motuma Adimasu, and Bekesho Geleta, 2016)


“honey has anticancer effect through its interference with multiple cell-signaling pathways, such as inducing apoptosis, antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory, and antimutagenic pathways. Honey modulates the body immune system.” (Ahmed, Sarfraz, and Nor Hayati Othman, 2013)

“Some simple and polyphenols found in honey, namely, caffeic acid (CA), caffeic acid phenyl esters (CAPE), chrysin (CR), galangin (GA), quercetin (QU), kaempferol (KP), acacetin (AC), pinocembrin (PC), pinobanksin (PB), and apigenin (AP), have evolved as promising pharmacological agents in prevention and treatment of cancer” (Othman, Nor Hayati, 2012)

“Honey has showed antineoplastic activity in experimental bladder cancer treatment” (Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi, 2013)


“Although a possible application of honey and its active compounds as drugs against cancer is still far away from clinical practice, scientific results highlight that they could be used as immune booster for patients undergoing chemotherapy.” (Badolato, Mariateresa, et al, 2017)

“Honey has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune boosting property attributed to the high sugar concentration and the resulting osmotic effect, low PH and acidity, and hydrogen peroxide.” (Abeshu, Motuma Adimasu, and Bekesho Geleta, 2016)

“findings indicated that honey glycoproteins and glycopeptides significantly interfere with molecules of the innate immune system” (Mesaik, M. Ahmed, et al. 2015)

Digestive system

“Honey has prebiotic effects, increasing the population of bacterial microflora important for the health of gastrointestinal tract.” (Abeshu, Motuma Adimasu, and Bekesho Geleta, 2016)

“Oral administration of honey to treat and protect against gastrointestinal infection such as gastritis, duodenitis and gastric ulceration caused by bacteria and rotavirus has been reported” (Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi, 2013)

“honey decreased the duration of diarrhea in cases of bacterial gastroenteritis as compared to group using sugar in replacement fluid.  In rehydration fluid, honey adds potassium and water uptake without increasing sodium uptake. It also helps to repair the damaged intestinal mucosa, stimulates the growth of new tissues and work as an anti-inflammatory agent (Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi, 2013)


“Studies have shown that honey consistently produces a lower glycemic effect when compared to glucose and sucrose in normal volunteers and type I diabetics” (Abeshu, Motuma Adimasu, and Bekesho Geleta, 2016)

“long periods of honey intake seem to reduce fasting glucose levels in humans, suggesting that honey consumption influences plasma glucose regulation, mainly through a normo- or hypoglycemic effect. Therefore, honey may be proposed as a nutritional dietary supplement for healthy individuals and for those suffering from alterations in glycemic regulation” (Cortés, Manuel E., Pilar Vigil, and Gloria Montenegro, 2011)

“it was found that honey stimulates insulin secretion, decrease blood glucose levels, elevates hemoglobin concentration and improves lipid profile” (Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi, 2013)


AR (Allergic Rhinitis) “Honey ingestion at a high dose (1g/kg body weight) improves the overall and individual symptoms of AR, and it could serve as a complementary therapy for AR.” (Asha’ari, Zamzil Amin, et al, 2013)

BPH (Birch Pollen Honey) “The results should be regarded as preliminary, but they indicate that BPH could serve as a complementary therapy for birch pollen allergy.” (Saarinen, K., J. Jantunen, and T. Haahtela, 2011)

“The results of this systematic review have demonstrated that honey is effective in alleviating nasal allergy symptoms in numerous mediums including nasal spray as well as oral intake when produced in the geographic area in which the patient population resides.” (Ditzel, Arielle N. 2019)


Traditional Use: (not an exhaustive list)

Ayurvedic: (Madhu = Sanskrit for honey)  for insomnia, weak digestion, cough, eye care (cataracts), gum/teeth care, wound healing, anemia, heart conditions, used for Kapha imbalance (reduces Kapha) and should be avoided by Pitta types (too heating).

Traditional Chinese Medicine: (Feng mi = honey) nourishes the yin (prevent dryness), effecting the Lungs, Spleen, Large intestine, and Stomach Organs, herbs are cooked in honey to increase yin effects, reduce toxicity (used for aconite poisoning), or to stimulate a specific organ system (specific to Spleen/Stomach, tonifying), as well as restore qi.  Also used as a laxative, emollient for the skin, to bind herbal powders in formulations, aid in taste in formulations, and as a demulcent on inflamed mucous membranes like gums.

Other cultures:  wound healing, embalming the dead, gout treatment, for nervous disorders, fevers, oxymels (honey and vinegar combo) for pain, hydromel (water and honey combo) for thirst, baldness, cough, laxative, as a healthy drink, and TB infections.

Some of my herbal-skin products contain honey for its amazing healing properties.  Some products are outlined on my website here, but a full, and seasonal, selection can be found every Wednesday at the Roberts Creek Farm Gate Eco Market, Roberts Creek Sunshine Coast BC, from 130 to 6pm (times subject to change, add RC_Farm_Gate_Eco_Market to Instagram to follow posts on times and vendor info)


  • Joel Loveridge, 2001, “The Chemistry of Bees”, School of Chemistry Bristol UK.
  • Kwakman, Paulus HS, et al. “How honey kills bacteria.” The FASEB Journal 24.7 (2010): 2576-2582.
  • Mandal, Manisha Deb, and Shyamapada Mandal. “Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity.” Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine 1.2 (2011): 154.
  • Kwakman, Paulus HS, and Sebastian AJ Zaat. “Antibacterial components of honey.” IUBMB life 64.1 (2012): 48-55.
  • Al-Waili, Noori S., et al. “Honey and microbial infections: a review supporting the use of honey for microbial control.” Journal of medicinal food 14.10 (2011): 1079-1096.
  • Abeshu, Motuma Adimasu, and Bekesho Geleta. “Medicinal uses of honey.” Biology and Medicine 8.2 (2016): 1.
  • Mesaik, M. Ahmed, et al. “Characterization of immunomodulatory activities of honey glycoproteins and glycopeptides.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 63.1 (2015): 177-184.
  • Ahmed, Sarfraz, and Nor Hayati Othman. “Honey as a potential natural anticancer agent: a review of its mechanisms.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).
  • Othman, Nor Hayati. “Honey and cancer: sustainable inverse relationship particularly for developing nations—a review.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2012).
  • Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi. “Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review.” Iranian journal of basic medical sciences 16.6 (2013): 731.
  • Badolato, Mariateresa, et al. “From the hive: Honey, a novel weapon against cancer.” European journal of medicinal chemistry 142 (2017): 290-299.
  • Cortés, Manuel E., Pilar Vigil, and Gloria Montenegro. “The medicinal value of honey: a review on its benefits to human health, with a special focus on its effects on glycemic regulation.” Ciencia e investigación agraria: revista latinoamericana de ciencias de la agricultura 38.2 (2011): 303-317.
  • Asha’ari, Zamzil Amin, et al. “Ingestion of honey improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis: evidence from a randomized placebo-controlled trial in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.” Annals of Saudi medicine 33.5 (2013): 469-475.
  • Saarinen, K., J. Jantunen, and T. Haahtela. “Birch pollen honey for birch pollen allergy–a randomized controlled pilot study.” International archives of allergy and immunology 155.2 (2011): 160-166.
  • Ditzel, Arielle N. “Is Honey, as Adjunctive Therapy, Effective in Alleviating Nasal Allergy Symptoms?.” (2019).

2 Medicinal Mushrooms: Western Research and Traditional use with a focus on immunity and anti-cancer properties


*Reishi image credit in ref section


Part: fruiting body, mycelium, spores

Taste: bitter, bland

Energy:  warming

Latin name: Ganodema lucidum

Western medicine/research: constituents (not an exhaustive list); terpenoids, glycoproteins, phenols, nucleotides, steroids, polysaccharides, all the essential amino acids, lysine and leucine, etc.

Actions:  immune-boosting, anti-carcinogenic, anti-allergy, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, sedative, tonic

“G. lucidum could be administered as an alternative adjunct to conventional treatment in consideration of its potential of enhancing tumour response and stimulating host immunity.” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)

“meta‐analysis results showed that patients who had been given G. lucidum alongside with chemo/radiotherapy were more likely to respond positively compared to chemo/radiotherapy alone” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)

“results for host immune function indicators suggested that G. lucidum simultaneously increases the percentage of CD3, CD4 and CD8… In addition, leukocyte, NK‐cell activity and CD4/CD8 ratio were marginally elevated” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)

“Based on the evidence to date, using Ganoderma lucidum for cancer treatment may increase the chance of better response to treatment, but this is uncertain. It may improve the body’s immune response, in particular, on T-cells, but the effect on natural killer cells (NK activity) is uncertain.” (Santesso, Nancy, and L. Susan Wieland, 2016)

“effectiveness of Reishi has been attributed to either the polysaccharide fraction, which is responsible for the stimulation of the immune system, or to the triterpenes, which demonstrate cytotoxic activity against a variety of cancer cells” (Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. 2013)

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) study, in vivo: “tumor volume was significantly (>50%) reduced (P<0.02) in the Reishi treated mice compared with mice gavaged daily with vehicle treatment” (Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. 2013)

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Chinese name: Ling zhi

Organs:  Heart, Spleen, Liver, Lung, Kidney

Traditional use:  said to be the mushroom of ‘longevity’ & ‘Immortality’, long used in China for insomnia/anxiety related to ‘Calming the Shen’ (Calming the Spirit of the Heart), tonifying properties (increasing functionality of organ/energy systems in order to boost immunity), reduce toxicity (anti-inflammatory, reduction of cancerous cells within the body), and protect the spirit/emotions/body of the user (relax cells and allow for healing, rest boosts immunity)

“Ben Cao Gang Mu by Li Shin-Zhen, which is considered to be the first pharmacopoeia in China (1590 AD; Ming dynasty), the mushroom was attributed with therapeutic properties, such as tonifying effects, enhancing vital energy, strengthening cardiac function, increasing memory, and antiaging effects” (Wachtel-Galor, Sissi, et al. 2011)

Cautions: No toxicity found, some studies outlined some nausea and sleep disturbances

Preparation/dosage: there was a lot of conflicting evidence to say what works and what did not.  No one study/site/book referenced a primary preparation or dosage for cancer support or immunity.  Due to the variety of medicinal constituents within the Reishi mushroom, it is recommended by most platforms to do a dual-extraction method (decoct in water, then tincture in ethanol), this allows the extraction of the highest amounts of ‘medicinal constituents’ which are the polysaccharides (beta-glucans) and triterpenes. From my experience using Reishi 1:4 dual-extracted tincture, effects on insomnia and general well-being after use have been supported, but these effects have been observed when Reishi is combined in a synergistic formula with other herbs.

Picture: Local Sunshine Coast Turkey Tail mushrooms collected by me for dual-extracted tincture 😊

  Turkey Tail

Part: fruiting body, mycelium, spores

Taste: bland, sweet

Energy: neutral

Latin name: Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor

Western medicine/research: constituents (not an exhaustive list); polysaccharides; “beta-glucans, arabinoxylane, glucose, xylose, galactose, mannose, glycoproteins, ergosterols, triterpenoids” (Stamets, Paul, 2012), phenolic & protein components, sterols, triterpene derivatives, hydroquinone-derived aromatic compounds, cerebroside, triglyceride derivative, etc. (Habibi, Emran, et al. 2015)

Actions:  anti-tumor, antioxidant, immune modulating, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective

“results thus indicate that CVPs (water-soluble Coriolus versicolor polysaccharide) can be a potential candidate to ameliorate toxic effects when used in cancer therapy.” (Cai, Xinzhong, et al. 2010)

“T versicolor preparation is safe and tolerable in women with breast cancer who had undergone chemotherapy. Perhaps the most intriguing part of this study was the finding that 6 g of T versicolor appeared to lead to faster immune recovery after radiotherapy” (Stamets, Paul, 2012)

“dietary supplement prepared from extracts ofT. versicolor reduces the growth of hormone responsive prostate cancer” (Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. 2012)

“polysaccharide of this mushroom has been demonstrated to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in vitro and in vivo, examined on the human hepatoma cancer” (Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. 2012)

“The strain is excellent in platelet aggregation inhibitory effect, chemokine gene expression inhibitory effect, antimutagenic effect, antitumor effect, antihypertensive effect, and immunomodulatory effect” (Eguchi, Fumio, Ryo Sumi, and Nobuo Mori, 2010)

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Chinese name: Yun Zhi or ‘cloud mushroom’

Organs:  Liver, Spleen, and Lung

Traditional use:  used traditionally for tonification of the Spleen (digestion and production of nourishing Blood), increasing energy and vitality (circulation of Blood), also said to reduce ‘Dampness’ (tumors, lumps, cancer) whilst clearing Heat and toxicity (inflammation)

Cautions: studies did not indicate any toxicity, safe to use in conjunction with conventional cancer therapies

Preparation: wide variety of preparations, including; in food/drink, pharmaceutical formulations, dual-extracted tinctures, freeze-dried mycelium capsules, etc.

Dosage: (4-9g) “4 g twice daily… capsules consist of activated, freeze-dried, organic mushroom mycelium, containing polysaccharides”…“up to 9 g/day tolerable in women with breast cancer who had undergone chemotherapy.”  (Stamets, Paul, 2012)


Table 7

Summary of Potential Clinical Applications

Type of Cancer Indicated Mushroom
Nonsmall-cell lung cancer Cordyceps
Lung cancer Reishi
Gastric cancer PSK (turkey tail)
Hepatocellular carcinoma Agaricus, reishi
Leukemia Agaricus, reishi
Lymphoma Cordyceps
Breast cancer Reishi, maitake, turkey tail
Colon cancer Maitake, reishi, turkey tail
Prostate cancer Reishi
Sarcoma Reishi

(Guggenheim, Alena G., Kirsten M. Wright, and Heather L. Zwickey, 2014)

**Always consult a qualified health professional before using herbal medicine, especially in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, or book an appointment with me!

Book an appointment today with Shannon Hobson

Certified East West Herbalist

Consultations now over the phone or Skype

Text or call 604-993-0169

Click to Email

IG: natural_knowhow

Facebook: Natural-Know How


Image: Reishi mushroom (© 1997-2020 Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Inc.)

  • Guggenheim, Alena G., Kirsten M. Wright, and Heather L. Zwickey. “Immune modulation from five major mushrooms: application to integrative oncology.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 13.1 (2014): 32.
  • Jin, Xingzhong, et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 6 (2012).
  • Santesso, Nancy, and L. Susan Wieland. “A Summary of a Cochrane Review: Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for the treatment of cancer.” European journal of integrative medicine 8.5 (2016): 619.
  • Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. “Anti-tumor effects of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) in inflammatory breast cancer in in vivo and in vitro models.” PloS one 8.2 (2013).
  • Wachtel-Galor, Sissi, et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi).” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, 2011.
  • Habibi, Emran, et al. “Mycochemical investigation of the turkey tail medicinal mushroom Trametes versicolor (higher basidiomycetes): A potential application of the isolated compounds in documented pharmacological studies.” International journal of medicinal mushrooms 17.3 (2015).
  • Cai, Xinzhong, et al. “Hepatoma cell growth inhibition by inducing apoptosis with polysaccharide isolated from Turkey tail medicinal mushroom, Trametes versicolor (L.: Fr.) Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae).” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 12.3 (2010).
  • Stamets, Paul. “Trametes versicolor (turkey tail mushrooms) and the treatment of breast Cancer.” Global advances in health and medicine 1.5 (2012): 20.
  • Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. “Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review.” 3 Biotech 2.1 (2012): 1-15.
  • Eguchi, Fumio, Ryo Sumi, and Nobuo Mori. “Strain of turkey tail mushroom, extract from the same, and use of the same.” U.S. Patent No. 7,790,175. 7 Sep. 2010.

Some Antiviral and Immunity Herbs

*image credit to learningherbs.com

 PDF download:  Some Antiviral and Immunity Herbs Blog

**Always consult a qualified health professional before using herbal medicine, especially in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, or book an appointment with me!

Book an appointment today with Shannon Hobson

Certified East West Herbalist

Consultations now over the phone or Skype

Text or call 604-993-0169

Click to Email

IG: natural_knowhow

Facebook: Natural-Know How


My ‘Elderberry Syrup Blend’ for purchase: *Elderberry, *Elderflower, *Echinacea, *ginger, *raw sugar (vegan) or *honey, water  (*organic ingredients)

Tinctures available for purchase:  All antivirals/immunity herbs outlined, except Isatis leaf

Antiviral tincture for purchase: Elderberry, Elderflower, Forsythia, Isatis root, Echinacea, Honeysuckle, Astragalus blend