History, phytochemistry, experimental pharmacology and clinical uses of honey: A comprehensive review with special reference to Unani medicine

J Ethnopharmacol. 2022 Jan 10;282:114614. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2021.114614. Epub 2021 Sep 8.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Honey is one of the most popular functional foods, speculated to be in use since the advent of human civilization. Its health-protective activity is endorsed by many religions and traditional medicines. In Unani medicine, honey is prescribed for many health conditions as wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, etc. In the present era, honey is gaining popularity over sugar for its myriad health benefits and low glycemic index. This review attempts to provide a comprehensive account of the biological activities and potential therapeutic uses of honey, with scientific evidence.

Methodology: In this paper, we have provided a comprehensive overview of historical uses, types, physical characteristics, bioactive constituents and pharmacological activities of honey. The information was gathered from Classical Unani textbooks and leading scientific databases. There is a plethora of information regarding various therapeutic activities of honey, and it is daunting to draw practical conclusions. Hence, in this paper, we have tried to summarize those aspects which are most relevant to clinical application.

Observations and conclusions: Many important bioactive constituents are identified in different honey types, e.g. phenolics, proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, organic acids, etc., which exert important biological activities like anti-microbial, wound healing, immunomodulatory, anti-toxin, antioxidant, and many others. Honey has the potential to alleviate many lifestyle disorders, mitigate the adverse effects of drugs and toxins, and also provide healthy nutrition. Although conclusive clinical evidence is not available, yet honey may potentially be a safer alternative to sucrose for diabetic patients.

Keywords: Antiaging; Antimicrobial; Antioxidant; Functional food; Glycemic index; Honey.

Publication types

  • Review