Benefits of honey in Chinese medicine

Honey is widely loved around the world as a foodstuff and is also considered a medicinal raw material in traditional Chinese medicine. Honey is one of the 365 medicinal herbs in Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, China’s first pharmacological monograph. Honey is sweet in flavour, neutral in nature and acts on the meridians of the lungs, spleen and large intestine. Honey can tonify the spleen, moisten dryness, relieve pain, alleviate the toxicity of certain herbs, and is also used externally to promote healing of sores.

Improving deficiency of spleen-Qi and relieving abdominal pain

Honey is particularly suitable for people with deficiency of spleen Qi and malnutrition.

Honey is often used as an excipient in pills and concentrated decoctions that have tonic effects, or as an auxiliary ingredient in certain tonic medicines. This is not only because honey improves the taste and odour of the herbs and is viscous, but also because it supplements the nutrients and moderates the properties of the herbs.

For the symptoms of abdominal pain, if the pain can be slightly relieved by pressing on the painful area, and the pain is severe in the empty stomach, but slightly relieved after eating, then it is a syndrome of deficiency of the spleen and stomach. Honey can both tonify the spleen and relieve pain. It can be used alone or in combination with herbs that tonify the spleen, relieve spasm and relieve pain, like Bai Shao and Gan Cao.

Improving dryness of the lungs and relieving dry cough

Honey moistens lungs and relieves cough, as well as tonifies the Qi of lungs.

A prolonged cough depletes the body’s Qi and Yin, resulting in shortness of breath and lack of strength, and dryness of the throat with little phlegm. Honey can be used alone. It can also be combined with herbs that nourish Qi and Yin, such as Ren Shen (ginseng) and Sheng Di Huang.

Dryness injures the lungs, resulting in a dry cough with no phlegm or little sticky phlegm. Honey can be combined with medicinal materials that nourish Yin and moisten dryness, such as E Jiao, and herbs that clear heat of the lungs, moisten dryness and relieve cough, such as Sang Ye and Chuan Bei Mu.

Honey is used to moisten the lungs and relieve coughs, especially as an auxiliary ingredient in the processing of cough-relieving herbs, or as an excipient in pills or concentrated decoctions that moisten the lungs and relieve coughs.

Moistening dryness of bowels and improving constipation

Honey can moisten the bowels and make the excretion of stool smooth, so it is suitable for relieving constipation caused by dryness of the bowels. Not only can it be used alone, it can also be combined with herbs such as Sheng Di Huang, Dang Gui and Huo Ma Ren. The making of honey suppositories for the evacuation of the bowels is mentioned in Shang Han Lun, a classic book of Chinese medicine recipes.

Reducing toxicity of aconite

In Chinese herbs, Fu Zi, Chuan Wu, and Cao Wu are all made from the roots of aconite, which are toxic and can cause poisoning when used incorrectly. When making decoctions of these herbs, honey is added to boil together for a long time, which can reduce the toxicity of these herbs. In ancient China, taking large quantities of honey was a relief measure for aconite poisoning.

Accelerating healing of sores and burns

Used externally, honey promotes skin recovery and speeds up recovery from sores as well as burns caused by hot water and fire.

Notes on Use

In the case of dampness obstructing the spleen, which leads to a feeling of distension and fullness in the epigastrium, or in the case of the retention of phlegm formed by dampness and heat, is not suitable for the use of honey, as it has the moistening effect which may promote the retention of dampness in the epigastrium. As honey promotes evacuation of bowels, it should be avoided in cases of loose stools and diarrhoea.

Additional knowledge


In traditional Chinese medicine, propolis is bitter and pungent in taste, and is cold in nature, acting on the meridians of the spleen and stomach.

Propolis not only nourishes deficiency, but is also believed to dissolve thick blood lipids and improve the syndrome which has the symptoms of polydipsia, polyphagia but emaciation.

Propolis is mostly used as an ingredient of pills and powder, or taken after mixing it with water and honey.

When used externally, propolis can relieve toxins, improve swellings and promote skin recovery, so it can be used to improve chapped skin and accelerate the healing of burns.

Jin Qiao Mai

In China, the seeds of buckwheat are ground into flour to make food such as steamed buns and noodles. In traditional Chinese medicine the herb from the buckwheat genus is the dried rhizome of Jin Qiao Mai (Fagopyrum dibotrys (D.Don) Hara). Jin Qiao Mai has been recorded in the seventh century A.D. in Xin Xiu Ben Cao which was a herbal pharmacopoeia issued by the Chinese government of the Tang Dynasty.

Jin Qiao Mai is slightly pungent and astringent in taste, and is cool in nature. It acts on the lung meridian.

Jin Qiao Mai can clear heat and relieve toxins, as well as clear the heat of the lungs and dissolve phlegm. Moreover, it can drain pus, and remove blood stasis. Therefore, it can be used to alleviate the symptoms of lung abscess, such as coughing up thick, foul-smelling phlegm or coughing up pus with blood. To improve lung abscess, it can be used alone or in combination with herbs such as Yu Xing Cao, Jin Yin Hua and Lu Gen. To improve the cough of lung-heat, it can be combined with herbs such as Tian Hua Fen and She Gan.

As Jin Qiao Mai can relieve toxins, alleviate abscesses and swelling, as well as benefit the throat, it can also be used to improve the neck lumps, with herbs such as raw He Shou Wu; to improve the sores, carbuncles, boils or poisonous snake bites, with herbs such as Pu Gong Ying and Zi Hua Di Ding; to improve the sore and swelling throat, with herbs such as She Gan, Shan Dou Gen and Ma Bo.

Jin Qiao Mai also has the effect of invigorating the spleen and improving digestion. With herbs such as Fu Ling and Mai Ya, it can improve emaciation caused by chronic malnutrition, or improve loss of appetite with the sensation of abdominal swelling.


Zhong, Gansheng. (2016). Chinese Materia Medica. China Press of Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Some medicinal materials are not allowed to use in the EU. The knowledge of the article is based on the conditions of China. The actual use of medicinal materials in the EU complies with the regulations of the EU.

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