by Sayer Ji
May 5, 2014
Most of us know honey as a
but few are aware of
its powerful cancer killing
Honey is a superlative healing food.
know it has many health benefits, as confirmed by
the biomedical literature itself. But did you know it could be of
profound benefit in diseases as life threatening and seemingly
incurable as cancer?
recent study published the journal Molecules (Effects
of Honey and Its Mechanisms of Action on the Development and
Progression of Cancer) looked
at the role of honey in positively impacting the development and
progression of tumors or cancers.
The review identified the presence
of flavonoids and phenolic acids in honey as the primary
anti-cancer compounds involved in its beneficial properties.
According to the study, flavonoids are
biologically active natural compounds with a 15-carbon (C6-C3-C6)
structure, comprising two benzene rings joined by a heterocyclic
pyrane ring, with honey containing the following:
Interestingly, many of these flavonoids are
classified as phytoestrogens,
which are phytochemicals structurally similar to mammalian estrogens
and therefore can bind to estrogen receptors.
While many of these honey-derived
flavonoids have been demonstrated to have both inhibitory and
stimulatory effects, the vast majority of the cell (in vitro) and
animal (in vivo) studies have demonstrated the anti-breast and
estrogen sensitive cancer properties of these compounds, indicating
that flavonoid rich honeys are likely to positively influence
estrogenic activity in estrogen-receptor positive cancers.
Furthermore, some honeys - such as Tualang honey
- exhibit the property of selective
cytotoxicity, meaning they target cancer cells by
cell death while leaving non-cancerous cells unharmed.
This is extremely different than the mechanism of action behind conventional
chemotherapy agents and radiotherapy which
indiscriminately target both healthy and cancerous tissue, often
conferring increased survival advantage to the most tumorigenic
cells themselves: cancer
Unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy,
natural compounds commonly exhibit this ‘do no harm’ property when
it comes to healthy tissue, while at the same time being
exceptionally effective at
targeting the harmful cells.
Better than Chemotherapy?
Another recent study compared the effect
of Tualang honey with that of the pharmaceutical
tamoxifen (an estrogen receptor antagonist) in two
breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231).
The study found
that the anti-cancer effect of tualang honey on
breast cancer cells was comparable to that of tamoxifen, a
multi-billion dollar blockbuster drug.
This is all the more
remarkable, considering that Tamoxifen is classified by the World
Health Organization and the
American Cancer Society to be a human carcinogen, and
is technically a xenobiotic chemical - inherently toxic and
biologically alien to human physiology.
Kills Cancer in Animals
According to the study, animal research
has established honey’s significant anti-cancer properties,
specifically in regard to inhibiting metastasis (invasiveness):
"Several studies have also confirmed
the antimetastic, antiproliferative and anticancer effects of
honey on breast tumor or cancer in rodents.
In a murine (mammary
carcinoma) tumor model, the anti-metastatic effect of honey when
applied before tumor-cell inoculation has been reported.
The antimetastatic effect of honey may be due to its flavonoids
such chrysin which have been shown to inhibit the metastatic
potential of human breast cancer cells.
Similarly, a study
investigated the antitumor effect of two honey samples
containing different phenolic contents against Ehrlich ascites
and solid carcinoma. Both honeys were found to markedly inhibit
the growth of Ehrlich ascites carcinoma, but the honey
containing higher phenolic content exerted a greater antitumor
Research carried out by Tomasin and Gomes-Marcondes
investigated the effects of combined Aloe vera and honey on
tumor growth and cell proliferation against Walker 256 carcinoma
implant in Wistar rats.
Both agents were found to suppress tumor
growth and inhibit cell proliferation."
Kills A Wide Range of Cancers
The review focused on the potential of
honey to affect a variety of cancers, including:
Gelam honey has been found to kill
liver cancer cells, exhibiting selective
cytotoxicity, anti-angiogenic, cytotoxic, and anti-proliferative
properties, in both cell and animal research.
and nenas monofloral honeys exhibit anti-cancer properties in
colorectal cell lines.
honeys (thyme, pine and fir honey) have been found to exhibit anti-proliferative
Other Forms of Cancer:
has been a battery of studies on the anti-cancer properties of
honey, focusing on the following types:
renal cell carcinoma
skin cancer cells
non-small cell lung cancer
the Mechanisms of Honey’s Anti-Cancer Properties?
There are a wide range of observed
mechanisms of honey’s cancer-killing properties, which include:
Cell Cycle Arrest
the normal process of cancer cell replication is halted.
Activation of the Mitochondrial Pathway
compounds or agents such as honey rich in flavonoids that are
capable of activating mitochondrial pathway and release of
proteins such as cytochrome C are considered potential cytotoxic (cell
Induction of Mitochondrial Outer Membrane
of mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) leads to
leakage of intermembrane space proteins into the cytosol and
consequently causing cell death.
Induction of Programmed Cell Death (Apoptosis)
activation of a "cell death" program designed to protect against
Modulation of Oxidative Stress
is believed that honey’s antioxidant properties may nip one of
the fundamental processes in cancer’s progression - oxidative
stress - in the bud.
Amelioration of Inflammation
is at the root of many cancers, and since honey is able to
suppress it, it is can significant impact carcinogenesis.
Modulation of Insulin Signaling
cancer is associated with increased insulin resistance and honey
is capable of reducing insulin resistance, it is believed to
mitigate a major driving factor in carcinogenesis.
Inhibition of Angiogenesis
has been found to inhibit the fundamental process of cancer
expansion (the production of a new blood supply) by inhibiting
The study reviewed all possible avenues
through which honey suppressed cancer, with 20 depicted in the image
The study concluded with following
"Honey is a natural product that
shows potential effects to
inhibit or suppress the development and progression of tumor and
Its antiproliferative, antitumor, antimetastic and
anticancer effects are mediated via diverse mechanisms,
including cell cycle arrest, activation of mitochondrial
pathway, induction of mitochondrial outer membrane
permeabilization, induction of apoptosis, modulation of
oxidative stress, amelioration of inflammation, modulation of
insulin signaling, and inhibition of angiogenesis in cancer
Honey is highly and selectively cytotoxic against tumor
or cancer cells while it is non-cytotoxic to normal cells. It
can inhibit cancerogenesis by modulating or interfering with the
molecular processes or events of initiation, promotion, and
It, therefore, can be considered a potential
and promising anticancer agent which warrants further
research - both in experimental and clinical studies."