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The Prophet’s Hadeeth About Honey in the Light of Modern Scientific Evidence: Honey and Diarrhea

honey and the prophet medicine

By Qadar Khan

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious! All Praise be to Allah!

Honey has many health benefits and its importance and healing properties have been emphasized both in the Quran and the authentic Hadeeth. In this article, I will not discuss about the general benefits of honey as that is a vast area and needs multiple pieces of writing. There are several hadeeth and Quranic references referring to the healing power of honey. To read about the general benefits of honey on health, you may visit this section which deals with the topic in an in-depth fashion. In this article I will describe only one Prophetic hadeeth regarding honey as cure for diarrhea and take into account the modern scientific research and evidence supporting the hadeeth which our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) shared with humanity fourteen hundred years ago.


It is reported both in Bukhari and Muslim from Abu Saeed al-Khudri (radiallah anhu) that:

“A man came to the Prophet (sallalahu aalyhe wassallam) and said, ‘My brother is complaining about his stomach (or he is complaining from diarrhea).’ The Prophet (sallalahu aalyhe wassallam) said: ‘Give him some honey. ‘ The man went and came back later, saying, ‘I have given him some honey, but it did not help,’ or he said,’ it made his diarrhea worse.’ He repeated this twice or three times, all the while the Prophet (sallalahu aalyhe wassallam) continued saying to him: ‘Give him some honey. ‘On the third or fourth time, the Prophet (sallalahu aalyhe wassallam) said: ‘Allah has said the truth while your brother’s stomach has lied.”

The Prophet (sallalahu aalyhe wassallam) did not say that the man or his brother lied rather he said that the man brother’s stomach lied. Scholars have interpreted this part of the hadeeth that the man’s brother diarrhea was quite severe and needed a significant amount of the medicine (honey). Jalaluddin Abdur Rahman As-Suyuti (rahimullah), in his book entitled Medicine of the Prophet,  explains that the words the “stomach has lied” meant that the man’s diarrhoea was in a state of flux and a dose once or twice was not enough to treat the ailment. Similarly, Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyah maintains that the man’s stomach had large amount of spoiled substances; and hence it needed a sufficient dose of medicine to expel them. The Prophet (sallalahu aalyhe wassallam) repeatedly asked the man to give his brother more honey. As-Suyuti mentions that the man gave his brother more honey and he was cured. The whole point here is the right medicine must be administered in the right dose. A dose too less may be ineffective while an excessive dose might prove fatal.

Scientific Research About Using Honey for the Treatment of Diarrhea

According to a research conducted by T.T.Adebolu (of the Department of Microbiology, Federal University of Technology, Ondo State, Nigeria) the effects of natural honey on diarrhea causing bacteria were investigated in 2005. It was found that natural honey was very effective against certain bacteria in the treatment of diarrhoea. The Professor concluded his findings in these words:

“This work has been able to show that honey has antimicrobial activity against bacteria that can cause diarrhea especially the ones that are caused by E. coli. So honey can be used in treating diarrhea caused by this organism.”

The research findings were published in details in the African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 4 in October, 2005.

In a research article published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research Journal volume 52, 2008, the authors concluded that the Manuka Newzealand Honey consisted antibacterial constituents and thus effective in fighting against various diahrreah causing bacteria and viruses.

WebMD noted in an article published online that tea with honey is an excellent relief for the digestive disorders, especially diarrhea. Livingstrong.com (with over 10 million page views!) reported that a study which was published in the British Medical Journal discovered that honey possessed healing effects in cases of infantile gastroenteritis and helped to reduce the recovery time of the ailment.

The University of Waikato also reported that high quality honey like manuka was antimicrobial and could fight against the following bacteria.

  •  E. Coli
  • Salmonella ssp
  •  Shigella spp
  •  Yersinia enterocolitica

Another study which was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicines, showed that honey was effective against viruses including rubella. The journal of Experimental and Toxicological Pathology published a study in which the researcher found manuka honey to be effective in protecting gastrointestinal linings.

 I E Haffejee and A Moosa conducted a study and published its findings in the British Medical Journal. The abstract of the study reads:

“The results showed that honey shortens the duration of bacterial diarrhoea, does not prolong the duration of non-bacterial diarrhoea, and may safely be used as a substitute for glucose in an oral rehydration solution containing electrolytes”

Elaine Gottschall, who is a nutritional consultant at the University of Western Ontario, Canada concluded in her research that honey was a dietary cure for diarrhoea. Her article, which is published by Consumer Health in their online resource, confirms that refined sugar, maple syrup or corn syrup is bad for diarrhea but honey is great for it.

Kwakman, P. H. S. and Zaat, S. A. J. (2012) in their article published in the journal of International Union of Biochmeistry and Molecular Biology Inc (IUBMB) observed that:

“The high sugar concentration, hydrogen peroxide, and the low pH are well-known antibacterial factors in honey and more recently, methylglyoxal and the antimicrobial peptide bee defensin-1 were identified as important antibacterial compounds in honey. The antibacterial activity of honey is highly complex due to the involvement of multiple compounds and due to the large variation in the concentrations of these compounds among honeys”

 Honey As aftercare

A study was undertaken by 5 members of the Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, USA to examine the Nutritional composition of some wild plants foods and honey used by Hadza Foragers of Tanzania. They found that most important nutrients and minerals are present in honey along with carbohydrates. During diarrhoea, the body loses a significant amount of these minerals, vitamins and energy. In order to overcome weakness and regain strength, it is absolutely important that the body is replenished with energy, essential vitamins and minerals. Honey, thus, not only fights bacteria to eliminate diarrhoea, it also naturally gets the body regain the lost strength by providing it all the necessary nutrients. Lab tests have confirmed that honey contains Sodium, Carbohydrates, Dietary Fibre, Protein, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Rib Flavin, Foliate and minerals like Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium and Fluoride.

While commenting on the benefits of honey bees-online.com observed that honey contains both peroxide and non-peroxide anti-bacterial properties. It promotes re-hydration of the whole body and clears up bad bacteria in the digestive gut.

In article published in honeybook.com, the author noted that if a stomach has an ongoing problem and switches between constipation and diarrhea, which are two opposite extremes, then the best way to get it balanced is by taking a teaspoon of honey in the morning and a teaspoon at night.

 References:

  1. Abdullah, Abdul Rahman., and Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jauziyah. Healing with the Medicine of the Prophet. 2010 ed. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ;Houston, TX: Darussalam, 2010. Print.
  2. As-Suyuti, Jalaludding Abdur Rahman. Medicine of the Prophet. 1994 ed. London: Ta-ha, 2009. Print.
  3. Bukhārī, Muḥammad Ibn Ismāʻīl, and Muhammad Muhsin. Khan. Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī: The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari : Arabic-English. Riyadh-Saudi Arabia: Darussalam Pub. & Distr., 1997. Print.
  4. Muslim, Ibn Al-Ḥajjāj. Summarised Muslim, A Translation of English with Arabic. 1962. Print.
  5. http://academicjournals.org/ajb/PDF/Pdf2005/Oct/Adebolu.pdf
  6. http://www.honeybook.net/diarrhea.shtml
  7. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-diarrhea
  8. http://www.bees-online.com/HealthBenefitsOfHoney.htm
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1416773/
  10. http://www.consumerhealth.org/articles/display.cfm?ID=19990303154953
  11. http://www.consumerhealth.org/articles/display.cfm?ID=19990303154953
  12. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mnfr.200700282/abstract
  13. Kwakman, P. H. S. and Zaat, S. A. J. (2012), Antibacterial components of honey. IUBMB Life, 64: 48-55. doi: 10.1002/iub.578
  14. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/iub.578/full

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