Sugar has been cast as a villain in the causes of cancer… As well it should be.
But not all sugar is created equal. A natural sweetener produced by industrious insects has been called a “natural cancer vaccine.” It’s been shown to help fight against cancer in more than one way.
Discover this medicinal sweetener and what it can do for you…
Did you guess that this superfood is honey?
To make this ancient sweetener honey bees drink flower nectar and store it in honeycombs in the hive as food over the long winters.
During this storage phase, the honey bees dehydrate the viscous liquid by flapping their wings to speed up the evaporation process. This creates the sticky golden liquid we use in tea, on toast and in countless recipes.
Honey is a chemically complex substance, containing more than 200 compounds that vary depending on the flowers used by the bees.
Some compounds are found in all honeys, regardless of their nectar of origin. These include amino and phenolic acids and a wide range of flavonoids like apigenin, kaempferol, quercetin, and chrysin.
It’s because of these chemicals, which give honey its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, that this sweetener has been used medicinally for more than 8,000 years, since the Stone Age.
While it may have gone under the radar, honey is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the medical world, particularly when it comes to preventing and treating cancer…
What the research proves about the anti-cancer value of honey
There’s a large body of research showing honey as a natural anti-cancer agent… too many to list them all here. Below are a few examples from the research.
A study of the possible effects of Tualang honey, a multiflora honey from the Malaysian jungle, found that it induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in both oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC; ear, nose or throat cancers) and human osteosarcoma (HOS; bone cancer) cell lines.
The researchers tested a range of Tualang honey concentrations on the cells, from 1%-20%. A 4% and 3.5% concentration destroyed 50% of the OCSS cells and HOS cells, respectively.
At just 15% concentration, the honey destroyed about 80% of the OCSS and HOS cancer cell lines.(1)
Another study found that a combination of Gelam honey (made from the Melaleuca leucadendra tree in Malaysia) and ginger disrupted the cell signaling pathways of HT20 colon cancer cells, causing the cells to die.
The results look promising enough for the researchers to conclude, “The combination of Gelam honey and ginger may serve as a potential therapy in the treatment of colorectal cancer.”(2)
Honey can help heal chronic wounds…
Eating honey can do you good, but did you know you can apply honey topically to treat wounds? Chronic wounds that won’t heal can contribute to cancer development because your immune system gets worn out trying to constantly fight off bacteria and heal the site.
Manuka honey, made from the Manuka bush native to New Zealand, was used in ancient times, and is being used again in modern medicine, as a topical treatment to aid wound healing.
You see, honey is acidic and high in sugar, which inhibits microbial growth and neutralizes the alkaline environment created in chronic non-healing wounds.
When antibiotics entered the picture, the use of honey was dismissed. But with antibiotic resistance becoming a real problem, medical practitioners are returning to the antimicrobial properties in honey to treat wounds.
In a 2016 review of the medicinal uses of Manuka honey, researchers found:
- Manuka honey appears to stimulate healing and reduce scarring when applied to wounds, with no evidence of damage to healthy cells.
- Antimicrobial activity remains even when the sugar and pH content are diluted to negligible levels.
- Manuka honey is effective against a wide range of pathogens, particularly those that can colonize the skin.
- Attempts to generate honey-resistant strains of bacteria in the lab have not been successful, and there have been no reports of acquired resistance to honey.(3)
One particular type of wound that honey can heal faster is oral mucositis, painful ulcers in the mouth often associated with radiation and chemotherapy that can lead to weight loss and other complications.
Studies have shown oral administration of honey after radiation or chemotherapy treatment can delay or prevent the onset of moderate to severe mucositis and weight loss.(4)
…and honey guards against superbugs
Manuka honey also inhibits the growth of MRSA (Methylene resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant superbug, by stopping cell division.
A study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy discovered that a combination of Manuka honey and the antibiotic oxacillin was more effective in destroying the bacteria than antibiotics alone.(5)
Antioxidant flavonoids in honey may help prevent and treat cancer
In addition to the enzymes, sugars, and pH level of honey, at least four flavonoids can act as your cells’ best friend, clearing out free radicals, soothing inflammation throughout your body and destroying unhealthy cells.
Kaempferol is an excellent antioxidant that’s been shown to increase cell strength in response to oxidative stress, which helps to prevent the cells from falling prey to cancer in the first place.
However, if unhealthy and/or cancerous cells are present kaempferol can target and turn off the signaling path of cancer cells, triggering apoptosis (programmed cell death). This essentially destroys unhealthy cells.
A study published in the journal Food Chemistry showed that kaempferol inhibits cancer cell growth in a variety of different cancer cell lines, while simultaneously boosting the strength of normal, healthy cells.(6)
According to an article titled “Quercetin and Cancer Chemoprevention,” in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the flavonoid quercetin is an excellent free-radical scavenging antioxidant that also acts as a chemopreventer by exerting a direct apoptotic effect on tumor cells.(7)
Quercetin works by blocking the growth of several kinds of human cancer cells at varying stages of the cell cycle. And much like kaempferol, it can do so while leaving the healthy cells unaffected.
Researchers also found quercetin to be effective against colon and lung carcinoma cells and glioma cells (cancer that begins in the brain and/or spine).(7)
The flavonoid apigenin has much to recommend it.
A 2013 study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research showed it to be the most effective compound (compared to other flavonoids, phenolic acids and ascorbic acids) in inducing apoptosis and arresting the cell cycle of pancreatic cancer.(8)
A study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research discovered apigenin shut down the receptors and signaling pathways of stubborn breast cancer cells caused by progestin, a synthetic component of hormone replacement therapy that has been linked to an increase in breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.(9)
Chrysin is an antioxidant flavonoid found in passion flowers and honeycombs. Research shows it induces apoptosis and can exert an anti-proliferation effect on leukemia cells more powerful than other kinds of flavonoids.(10)
Researchers in a 2011 study cultured human prostate cancer cells and then treated them with honey. They discovered the chrysin present in the honey stopped the spread of the cancer cells, and destroyed them.(11)
A 2016 study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine found the chrysin in honey induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cell lines as well.(12)
Honey has proven its place in modern medicine. But remember, not all honey is created equal. Be sure to buy raw honey, in its most unprocessed form, to get all the enzymes and medicinal properties.
Also, if you’re diabetic or have insulin resistance, check with your doctor before adding honey to you diet.
For wound treatment, dressings treated with Manuka honey are available so you don’t have to guess at how much to use.
- Antiproliferative effect of Tualang honey on oral squamous cell carcinoma and osteosarcoma cell lines. http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-10-49
- Mechanism of chemoprevention against colon cancer cells using combined Gelam honey and ginger extract via mTOR and Wnt/β-catenin pathways. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Yasmin_Anum_Mohd_Yusof/publication/283212402_Mechanism_of_Chemoprevention_against_Colon_Cancer_Cells_Using_Combined_Gelam_Honey_and_Ginger_Extract_via_mTOR_and_Wntb-catenin_Pathways/links/562e2b8108aef25a24440beb.pdf
- Therapeutic Manuka honey: No longer so alternative. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837971/
- Effects of honey use on the management of radio/chemotherapy-induced mucositis: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. http://www.ijoms.com/article/S0901-5027(16)30185-0/abstract; Effects of honey on oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer: A meta-analysis. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/lary.25233/full
- Synergy between oxacillin and Manuka honey sensitizes methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to oxacillin. http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/67/6/1405.short
- A review of the dietary flavonoid, kaempferol on human health and cancer chemoprevention. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601579/
- Quercetin and cancer chemoprevention. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136711/
- Flavonoid apigenin modified gene expression associated with inflammation and cancer and induced apoptosis in human pancreatic cancer cells through inhibition of GSK-3β/NF-κB signaling cascade. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23943362
- Apigenin prevents development of medroxyprogesterone acetate-accelerated 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced mammary tumors in Sprague–Dawley rats. http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/8/1316.short
- Apoptotic effects of chrysin in human cancer cell lines. http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/11/5/2188/htm
- Chrysin reduces proliferation and induces apoptosis in the human prostate cancer cell line pc-3. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1807-59322011000600026&script=sci_arttext
- Inhibitory and cytotoxic activities of chrysin on human breast adenocarcinoma cells by induction of apoptosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5068120/