How Honey Fights Cancer (And Plenty of Other Diseases)

| Mar 6, 2018

People are finally starting to acknowledge the many dangers of sugar. We’ve written at length about how processed sugar promotes chronic inflammation, feeds the growth of cancer, [1] and contributes heavily to the development of heart disease, [2] diabetes, obesity, [3] liver disease, [4] high cholesterol, [5] and other serious health conditions.

This doesn’t mean, however, that anything sweet-tasting has to be bad for your health. For example, honey not only lacks the dangers and health risks of processed sugar, but also actively helps heal and prevent the very conditions caused by sugar consumption.

Amidst the anti-sugar frenzy in recent years, honey has often been lumped into the same category and derided as just another health-sapping sweetener—but nothing could be further from the truth.

Other than its sweetness, honey shares very little in common with processed sugar (just make sure you’re using raw, unprocessed honey).

In another article, we discussed the subtleties of sugar versus honey: how sugar is a glucose isolate, whereas honey is a complex whole food containing over twenty-five different types of sugars, as well as an abundance of other nutrients, prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes, and more.

As researchers delve deeper into exploring honey’s therapeutic properties, it’s reputation as “just another sweetener” is quickly disappearing. The chemistry is so complex that we still don’t quite know how it all works—but we do know that, as long as honey is consumed as an unprocessed whole food, it does not have the same metabolic effects as sugar (and thus doesn’t lead to any of sugar’s negative health consequences).

Studies have demonstrated that raw honey can boost immune function, combat allergies, improve glucose response and the function of appetite hormones, [6] lower inflammatory biomarkers and triglyceride levels, [7] and prevent fat accumulation. [8]

Specific honey varietals such as Manuka honey have even been shown to function as an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antibiotic (it even works against MRSA, without disrupting your microbiome), and healing agent for the digestive system. [9]

Now researchers have added another therapeutic application to honey’s already impressive list: the ability to fight cancer.

Could honey be better than chemotherapy?

An exciting study published in the journal Molecules examined the role that honey can play in inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer. The researchers found that a number of honey’s compounds function like phytoestrogens, which are known to work therapeutically against cancer via estrogenic activity.

Additionally, they found that some honey varietals even go a step further by directly killing cancer cells. These types of honey are therefore said to exhibit “selective cytotoxicity,” by which they induce cancer cells to destroy themselves (this process is called apoptosis or programmed cell death). [10]

It’s extremely important to note that honey exerts this cancer-fighting effect without harming the body’s healthy cells in any way. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, kills healthy and cancerous cells alike, severely weakening the body in the process.

But can honey stand up to the cancer-killing efficacy of chemotherapy? Another team of researchers pitted a specific honey varietal called Tualang against tamoxifen, the leading chemotherapy drug. They found that the effectiveness of Tualang honey against breast cancer cells was entirely comparable to that of tamoxifen, and that no damage was done to healthy tissues.[11]

Another limitation of chemotherapy is its inability to target a wide variety of cancers. Pharmaceutical companies have had to develop many different drugs for different treatment protocols, and even this approach falls short.

Honey, on the other hand, has been shown to fight many kinds of cancer, including liver cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, endometrial cancer, cervical cancer, skin cancer, renal cell carcinoma, lung cancer, mouth cancer, and bone cancer. Analyses of many studies conclude that honey is “antiproliferative, antitumor, antimetastatic, and anticancer,” and that it can benefit cancer patients without the risk of side effects. [12]

Everyone can benefit from honey

Whether you’re struggling with health problems or simply want to optimize your well-being (so as to prevent future problems), honey is an all-star food to include in your diet.

Remember: always choose raw, organic honey. Commercially processed honeys bear little resemblance to their wild cousins—they’re stripped of their beneficial enzymes and nutrients, and often contain toxic fillers, coloring, and even unhealthy sweeteners like sugar or corn syrup (that’s right, manufacturers add more sweeteners to honey).

For acute therapeutic purposes, seek out special types of honey like Manuka or Tualang. For general maintenance, or if you’re focusing on alleviating allergies or immune issues, choose a locally produced honey (which will modulate your immune response by exposing you to trace amounts of the offending allergen).

When using honey as a functional food to treat illness and disease, it’s best to absorb it under the tongue. Tea with honey is another match made in heaven, but be aware that boiling water can break down some of honey’s beneficial components.

 


References

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0306987783900956

[2] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/899.short

[3] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/199317

[4] http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(07)00427-8/abstract

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673878/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21504975

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15117561

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21310307

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/

[10] http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/19/2/2497

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5387200/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865795/

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