COVID-19 and honey: bee products in the fight against viral infection and its consequences

As the COVID-2 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-19 virus hit the world, the health system faced a new challenge – diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Various drugs were used to treat sick patients, but the lack of accurate therapy also led to a turn to natural remedies, one of which is bee products known to mankind for thousands of years.

What exactly does honey, propolis, royal jelly and pollen have on a person with COVID-19 and how to reduce the impact of infection by consuming honey and other beekeeping products is being studied by scientists from the Faculty of Chemistry and Geosciences of Vilnius University (VU) and the Center for Physical and Technological Sciences (FTMC) together with partners from Taiwan and Latvia.

Honey – a well-known means of prevention

In folk medicine, honey has been used for many years to alleviate the symptoms of various infections. Due to its ability to modulate molecular targets, which are important for the binding of the virus, entry into host cells and the replication of RNA, honey can be applied as a means of preventing COVID-19: it helps to solve problems associated with complications of COVID-19 infection and, due to its strong immunomodulatory effect, is used in the treatment of edema, fibrosis, thrombosis and systemic inflammation.

Although clinical trials are currently underway on bee products, further studies are still relevant, revealing the potential effects of these products in the treatment of COVID-19. Various active components used in apitherapy are studied. Honey, rich in water, sugars, enzymes, amino acids, flavonoids, organic acids, phenolic acids, minerals, vitamins and volatile compounds, can inhibit the specific proteases of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for COVID-19. Honey contains such virucidal compounds as methylglyoxalis (manuka honey), which can inhibit the growth of membrane-containing viruses.

In addition, honey has an antioxidant effect, so it can act as protection in the presence of influenza or coronavirus infections. Another important point is the polyphenols of plant origin contained in honey, which are necessary for immune function and are able to reduce the release of inflammatory cytokines, thereby facilitating the course of the disease in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, it can be said that regular eating of honey can contribute to improving the course of this disease, the prevention of complications.

According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, honey can be consumed per day about 10% of a person’s total calorie intake without consuming other sweeteners or sugar. The effect of honey, due to its different active chemical composition, varies depending on the plants it contains, i.e. whether it is linden or buckwheat, milkweed, acacia honey, etc. Honey can be divided into multi-flowered, when bees produce it using nectar from various flower sources, and monofloral – from the nectar of one type of flower. The latter can be somewhat more expensive and is applied in the treatment of specific symptoms, and multifocal honey can improve the functions of the liver, digestive system.

Useful and other bee products

Not only honey, but also other bee products have various properties that help alleviate the symptoms of viral diseases. Propolis (propolis), a resin-like substance containing resins, beeswax, pollen, amino acids, minerals, vitamins B, E, C, sugars, flavanoids, phenols and aromatic compounds, is known for its antimicrobial properties, and also has an antiviral effect.

Studies show that bee propolis can suppress various viruses, including chickenpox, herpes and HIV viruses. Preliminary studies of COVID-19 showed the interaction of propolis and specific proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as inhibition of the action of the polymerase of the virus RNA, which leads to inhibition of the action of the virus. Clinical studies have revealed that propolis and honey can positively affect specific symptoms of COVID-19, such as dry cough, sore throat and fever. This is due to the ability of propolis to inhibit the replication of the virus, as well as anti-inflammatory compounds (for example, galangin) contained in propolis and honey.

Bee venom also contains various active components, i.e. enzymes and peptides, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies show that bee venom can trigger an immune response against COVID-19 infection by promoting the differentiation of specific cells involved in the immune system. In China, a survey of beekeepers was conducted about covid-19 cases and complications. She showed that beekeepers, who are often bitten by bees, did not suffer from COVID-19 disease or suffered from an asymptomatic form of the disease. However, this theory did not materialize in the course of a similar study with beekeepers in Germany. This testifies to the need for further research to prove the positive effect of bee venom on the treatment and prevention of COVID-19 disease.

Royal jelly has antiviral properties that help fight hepatitis C and B viruses, inhibit the main receptors and enzymes of the virus. In addition, in the course of studies related to SARS-CoV-2, it was found that royal jelly proteins can block viral invasion, reduce symptoms and affect anti-inflammatory activity. Studies show that a special protein blend from royal jelly, called PF50, can be a weapon against the alpha and beta versions of COVID-19. This component of royal jelly not only stops the virus from entering the cells, but also limits the activity of the virus and protects the lungs from damage.






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