Honey (Fēnɡ Mì) in Chinese medicine

Honey

Chinese: 蜂蜜

Pinyin: Fēnɡ Mì

Parts used: Honey

TCM category: Laxative herbs that drain downward

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestineLung

Scientific name: Honey

Use of honey (Fēnɡ Mì) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Main actions according to TCM*: Reinforces the spleen and stomach. Moistens dryness, relieves pain, and detoxifies.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which honey may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abdominal pain Dry cough Constipation Hemorrhoids Burns

Common TCM formulas in which honey are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind honey's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), honey are plants that belong to the 'Laxative herbs that drain downward' category. The herbs in this category are those whose main purpose is to treat constipation. They're called 'laxative' because they're often rich in oils. This allows them to lubricate the Intestines in order to help it remove the stools from the body.

Furthermore honey are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that honey typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of honey means that you don't have to worry about that!

Honey also taste Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like honey tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such honey are thought to target the Stomach, the Large intestine and the Lung. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on honey

Evidence suggests that sterilized honey may help healing in skin wounds after surgery and mild (partial thickness) burns.1

Honey is recommended for children over the age of one for the treatment of coughs. It is deemed as effective as dextromethorphan and more effective than diphenhydramine.2

Honey may be useful for controlling side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy applied in cancer treatment.3

Sources:

1. Jull, Andrew B.; Cullum, Nicky; Dumville, Jo C.; Westby, Maggie J.; Deshpande, Sohan; Walker, Natalie (2015). "Honey as a topical treatment for wounds". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (3): CD005083. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd005083.pub4.

2. Goldman, Ran D. (2014). "Honey for treatment of cough in children". Canadian Family Physician (Systematic review). 60 (12): 1107–1110. PMC 4264806. PMID 25642485.

3. Bardy J, Slevin NJ, Mais KL, Molassiotis A (2008). "A systematic review of honey uses and its potential value within oncology care". J Clin Nurs. 17 (19): 2604–23. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02304.x.

Use of honey as food

Honey are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Honey-Butterscotch Candy or Salted Honey Pie.