MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: why can honey cure constipation?

Date: Tue May 7 16:49:32 2002
Posted By: Bernadette Baca, Health Physicist, Division of Reactor Safety
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 1020652280.Gb

It is believed that the existence of honey dates back millions of years.  
The products from bees have been used by the Chinese for millenniums.  The 
first writings extolling the healing virtues of honey were published in a 
Chinese herbal classic in the third century B.C., entitled 'The Agriculture 
Emperor's Materia Medica'.  Honey was also documented in India as part of 
Ayurveda treatments as far back as 5000 B.C.  The Rigveda and Atharva-veda 
(5000 years B.C.) are the earliest documented ancient Indian knowledge and 
references on health and diseases. Ayurved texts like Charak Samhita and 
Sushruta Samhita were documented about 1000 years B.C.  A little more 
recently a book, "Jane Bardsley's Outback Letterbook, Across the Years 
1896-1936," by Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1987 tell of the varied use of 
an aboriginal medicine - native honey.  Mrs. Bardsley's October 1898 letter 
tells that an aboriginal individual told her that for constipation they eat 
honey and in no time are relieved.

From many modern and ancient writings (anthropological and scientific), 
honey has been long stated as having various healing properties as well as 
mild laxative properties.  Dr. Yangfang Liu, Clinical Dean of American 
College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine in Houston, Texas, states that 
many Chinese herbal medicines are mixed with honey and then covered with 
bees wax to protect them.  She states that Chinese medical remedies include 
the use of honey as a treatment for weakness, fluid deficiency, blood 
deficiency, and constipation among other conditions.  In recent years, raw 
honey has been scientifically proven to be hygroscopic (it absorbs water) 
and maintain copious quantities of water.  The combination of possessing 
relatively large quantities of water, varying quantities of residual wax, 
and a tendency to hold on to its water content makes honey useful in 
keeping fecal matter moist and soft as it passes through the digestive 
system.  These properties help honey act as a lubricant and stimulates the 
bowels for passage of fecal material.

Laxatives, even herbal laxatives, should be used with caution.  Other 
natural remedies should be tried first. The gentlest remedies for 
constipation include increased movement and exercise, certain yoga 
postures, increase of fluid intake, and dietary changes including increased 
fiber and fruit.  And prune juice may be the most effective and gentlest 
remedy for constipation - tons of fiber and moisture.  However, if 
constipation is a chronic problem, seek a physician's help - the symptoms 
may be part of another medical problem.

The following websites may provide additional information on honey and 
other traditional methods for treating constipation: 



Hope this will help answer your question.

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