Humans have sought honey for numerous purposes since ancient times, with cave paintings dating back 8000 years depicting its harvest. The delicious, sweet syrup contains an excellent nutritional profile with strong medicinal properties. The numerous mentions found in literature of earliest doctors verifies its ancient usage. Honey bees produce honey and store it in hexagonal, cellular structures called hives. The benefits of honey are attributed to its completely organic nature and zero additives. The Holy Prophet (SAW) has repeatedly mentioned the numerous health benefits of honey in hadith: “Make use of the two remedies: honey and the Qur’an” (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Al-Bayhaqi).
- Reference in Hadith: عسل.
- Reference in Quran: عسل.
- Arabic Name: عسل.
- English Name: Honey.
- Urdu Name: شہد (Shahad).
Quranic References of Honey
Following are the Quranic references of honey:
- 16, Al Nahl, Verse 68 & 69.
- 47, Muhammad, Verse 15.
- 66, Tah’reen, Verse 1.
Brief About Honey Bees
Honey bees produce honey by visiting flowers and collect nectar from them, pollinating them in the process. They also collect the pollen to produce bee bread which is used as a food source by the hive workers as well as larvae. A hive is comprised of 20,000 – 40,000 female worker bees, a queen bee for laying new eggs and a number of male drones to fertilize them.
The hive is shaped into hexagonal chambers made from beeswax and compartmentalized to store honey and raise larvae. While they start out as same, a larva will mature into a male drone if unfertilized and a female worker bee if fertilized. Initially fed with royal jelly, a larva will turn into a queen bee if fed on it exclusively. A queen bee has a lifespan of 3-5 years, a drone lives for only a few weeks and a worker born in summer lives for 6-7 weeks and for 4-6 months if born in autumn.
Honey bees store honey as food reserve for consumption during winter season. The male drones are forced out of the colony to die off and the workers huddle around the queen to keep her warm. They rotate duties from outside to inside to avoid the bees from dying due to cold.
What is Honey?
Honey is a sweet, viscous liquid produced by honey bees and stored in their hives as food stock for the winter. The honey bees secrete beeswax for creating their hives and create hexagonal structures in which they seal and store the honey. It has a thick consistency resembling a syrup, has a sweet flavor and is primarily comprised of simple carbohydrates. Honey contains 17-18% water, 75-78% glucose and fructose and pollen from the flowers, beeswax, vitamins and essential minerals. Honey bees use pollen from flowers as the source for making honey, though they may eat fruits if pollen is scarce.
The color of honey depends on the flowers from which the pollen has been sourced by the bees and the type of bees which have produced the honey. Generally, smaller bees produce a milder tasting and lighter shade of honey with the flavor intensifying and shade darkening with size. Smaller bees also tend to have a lesser yield of honey as compared to their larger variants. The flavor and shade is also heavily influenced by the pollen from which the honey has been sourced, with some common shades given below:
- Acacia: Yellow to lighter shades, depending on species of Acacia.
- Fenugreek/Sidr: Golden light.
- Eucalyptus: Highly variable, between light amber to medium-dark red.
- Clover: Light amber to pale white.
- Orange: Light amber to slightly darker shades.
How Is Honey Produced?
Honey bees produce honey by visiting flowers and collecting their nectar with their proboscis. In the process, they pollinate flowers, which is imperative for agriculture and continuation of numerous plant species. This nectar is stored in their special honey stomach, which mixes with salivary and hypopharyngeal gland secretions.
Upon returning to the hive, the worker bees regurgitate the mix to other bees, who then regurgitate it again as bubbles for maximum surface area to evaporate water. The bees remove moisture from the mix by fanning it with their wings. After it has achieved a moisture content of approximately 18 percent, the bees seal it with beeswax for consumption during winter.
Honey bees habitually produce excessive honey, with their yield being 2-3 times more than required for the winter month. This is achieved under good conditions when the hive is free from disease and the nectar from flowers is readily available. Typically, a hive can produce anywhere between 10-30 kilograms of surplus honey, which has allowed bee farmers to semi-domesticate honey bees. Various animals also prey on the sticky, sweet substance owing to its irresistible taste.
Following is the nutritional information of honey per 100 grams, as verified by nutritiondata.
|No.||Nutrients||Unit||Value per 100 g|
|01||Total Calories||kilojoule (kJ)||1273|
|02||Calories from Carbohydrate||kilojoule (kJ)||1269|
|03||Calories from Fat||kilojoule (kJ)||0|
|04||Calories from Protein||kilojoule (kJ)||4.2|
|05||Total Carbohydrates||grams (g)||82.4|
|10||Total Fats||grams (g)||0|
|11||Total Protein||grams (g)||0.3|
|12||Total Water Content||grams (g)||17.1|
Benefits of Honey According to TibeNabvi
The benefits of honey encompass excellent medicinal and superior nutritional qualities. The Holy Quran and Ahadith also contain numerous references to the benefits of honey. As narrated by Abdullah (RA), The Holy Prophet (SAW) said “You should take the two that bring healing: Honey and the Qur’an” (Sunan Ibn Maja, Book 32, Hadith 3578).
The Holy Quran has also mentioned the healing qualities of honey in verse (16:69) of chapter (16) sūrat l-naḥl (The Bees):
“Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you].” There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed, in that is a sign for a people who give thought.”
1. A Remedy for Diabetes
Honey is often prescribed to Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes patients as a replacement for simple and processed sugars in their diet. Food sources such as white sugar, pastries, ice cream, pasta and confectioner’s goods are loaded with simple carbohydrates. They require little digestion, lots of insulin and are readily absorbed into the bloodstream which causes spiking in blood glucose level.
With 18 percent water content and almost entirely comprised of simple sugars, honey may not seem any different but in reality is an excellent substitute for diabetic patients. The sugars are absent of toxic compounds since they are naturally occurring. It has a lower Glycemic Index (GI) than cane sugar as well.
The benefits of honey are mentioned The Holy Prophet (SAW) in the hadith: “By Him in whose hand is my soul, eat honey, for there is no house in which honey is kept for which the angels will not ask for mercy. If a person eats honey, a thousand remedies enter his stomach, and a million diseases will come out. If a man dies and honey is found within him, fire will not touch his body” (Chaghhayni M. Tibb al-nabbi. Trans. C Elgood. Osiris 1962; 14: 188; Chisti SHM. The Sufi Book of Healing. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International: 59).
A single tablespoon of honey contains about 64 calories, while the same amount of refined cane sugar has 80 calories. Honey mainly contains fructose (variable, from 21% to 43%, depending on honey bee species and diet), which has a GI of 19, compared to glucose which has GI of 100 and sucrose with 60 GI. The micronutrients, essential vitamins and rare mineral content contribute towards the excellent health benefits of honey. As narrated by Hazrat Aisha (RA), “The Holy Prophet (SAW) used to like sweet edible things and honey” (Bukhari).
We have a complete blog regarding diabetes and how to take good care of your health. To read the complete blog, click here.
2. Honey Cures Diarrhea
The benefits of honey include treatment of diarrhea owing to its usage since ancient times for treating upset stomach. It is easily digested and lubricates the digestive tract to ensure food passes easily. Honey targets strains of clostridium difficile bacteria, which is responsible for causing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It also fights bacterial gastroenteritis by blocking the bacteria from targeting mucosal epithelial cells. Rehydration and replenishing salts is necessary during diarrhea as the body loses its water content and honey greatly assists in this matter by increasing potassium absorption. Combined with its antibacterial properties, honey serves as an excellent remedy for curing diarrhea.
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (RA) narrates about the benefits of honey in a hadith where a man came to The Holy Prophet (SAW) and said “My brother has diarrhea.” The Holy Prophet (SAW) said, “Give him honey to drink.” The man gave him honey to drink later returned, saying, “I gave it to him but his diarrhea only got worse.” The Holy Prophet (SAW) replied, “Allah told the truth and your brother’s stomach is mistaken.” He gave him more honey and get got better (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5386, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 4114).
We have a complete blog regarding diarrhea and its treatment with the grace of tibenabvi. To read further, click here.
3. Honey Helps Bowel Movement
Honey by itself is excellent for bowel movement as it helps the food retain water content and be easily passed through the digestive tract. It can be mixed with black cumin, senna and butter extract which is excellent for facilitating bowel movement. Black cumin itself has numerous health benefits and is an integral part of Tibenabvi. The Holy Prophet (SAW) said “If there would be cure (شفاء) for death (الموت) it would be Sanna (Senna) (السنا)” (Tirmizi: 2225, Book No. 28).
To read more about the numerous health benefits and usage of black seed according to tibenabvi, click here.
4. Honey Massage for Eczema
Eczema is a chronic medical condition which makes the skin itchy and dry, which sends a strong urge to scratch the affected area. It is characterized by dry, itchy skin, reddish brown discoloration and inflammation. The triggers are specific for each patient and cannot be generalized under a single category. The attacks can be induced from several vectors, ranging from pollen and nuts to smoke and environmental elements.
Honey soothes the skin and has strong antibacterial qualities, which makes it suitable for treating eczema. It is suitable for topical application since it contains nutrients which can be directly absorbed by the skin. It should be applied on the skin and be washed off 20-30 minutes later with cool water. In cases of sensitivity, the skin should be patted dry to avoid abrasions. Repeating it 3 times daily relieves eczema symptoms and allows the skin to return to normal condition. Honey contains nutrients that are absorbed by the skin, antibacterial qualities that eliminate chances of contracting bacterial infections and anti-inflammatory properties to soothe the skin aggravation.
It has been specified by The Holy Prophet (SAW) that the benefits of honey includes strengthening healing, as he said “Healing is in three things: cupping, a gulp of honey or cauterization, (branding with fire) but I forbid my followers to use cauterization (branding with fire)” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5681, Book 76, Hadith 4).
To read more about eczema and its treatment according to tibenabvi, click here.
5. Supports Blood Formation
Honey provides crucial nutrients to the body, which includes simple carbohydrates, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are readily absorbed in the bloodstream and contribute towards the production of blood. Honey reduces significantly reduces chances of contracting heart diseases and cancer because it is rich in antioxidants and has zero cholesterol.
The Holy Prophet (SAW) highlighted the benefits of honey, saying “It sharpens the sight and strengthens the heart” (Ibn Habib A. Mujtasar fi al-tibb / Compendio de medicina. Ed. C Álvarez de Morales and F Girón Irueste. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992:72).