In the United States, there are over 300 different types of honey that have been identified and enjoyed by humans.
From manuka honey to clover honey, each has a unique flavor and color — not to mention an assortment of health benefits that have been discovered through various studies.
Back in 2016, a number of underground blogs started circulating rumors about “sour honey,” a type of honey that could cure cancer. However, according to these blogs, the government and pharmaceutical industry were working in tandem to hide this cure from the rest of us.
At this point, you might be wondering to yourself: What in the world is sour honey? Is there really a natural cancer cure that has been concealed from the public? Or is this so-called miracle cure just an unfounded conspiracy pushed by right-wing extremists to sour the 2016 election?
To answer these questions, we must first examine whether sour honey even exists.
What is Sour Honey?
Truth be told, sour honey is not a real type of honey. Widely spread by conspiracy theorists as a cure for cancer, rumors about this non-existent type of honey date back to 2016.
When people refer to sour honey, there’s a chance that they’re mistaking it for a type of honey called sourwood honey. Sourwood honey is a natural American honey that comes from the nectar of the sourwood tree blossom. This flower nectar is collected by bees and broken down into simple sugars that are stored inside the honeycomb. Despite having “sour” in its name, this type of honey actually has a sweet taste.
Some of the conspiracy theorists may also be confusing “sour” honey for a substance called bee propolis, which is a mixture of pollen, beeswax and resin that’s collected by bees from the buds and sap of certain trees and plants. Humans have harvested this natural material for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments ranging from acne to tuberculosis.
Propolis is made up of a variety of chemical compounds, including derivatives of cinnamic acid, such as p-coumaric acid and Artepillin C, as well as substituted benzoic acids, phenolic acids, flavonoids and amino acids. As you’ll see later in this article, various studies on the compounds found in propolis offer insight into how a fictional type of honey became a cure for cancer.
However, right-wing blogs falsely claim that sour honey is a cure for cancer that the government has been hiding from you. To fully understand the conspiracies surrounding this mysterious type of honey, we must go back to the 2016 presidential election, when the sour honey myth first surfaced.
How The Sour Honey Myth Began
The rumor about “sour honey” emerged on several text-only YouTube videos (these types of videos are characteristic of hoaxes) sometime during the 2016 presidential election. The outlandish story was simple: Scientists recently discovered “sour honey,” a substance hidden deep in the Amazon jungle that could cure cancer. As the story goes, Big Pharma — and Hillary Clinton — didn’t want cancer patients to know about, as it would undercut their profits.
A November 2016 article published by The Horn News, an extreme right-wing blog, reported that sour honey can cure any type of cancer, based on a private and unpublished email exchange from 2013 between alleged “government researchers.”
“… [Sour Honey] is the only effective therapeutic available on the market so far,” claimed one email from an alleged “government researcher.” There is no image or link to the email.
The article is written by Brian Chambers with the Health Sciences Institute, a direct-marketing company owned by Agora. The publisher has gotten in trouble with government investigators multiple times, according to a 2015 investigation by Mother Jones.
Sprinkled throughout this absurd anti-Clinton article were unfounded claims that “sour honey” could cure cancer. Chambers cited unfounded studies that this mysterious honey killed 13% of breast cancer cells within 24 hours, stopped human-like tumor growth in mice, and killed up to 75% of cancer cells in two aggressive types of prostate cancer.
“In addition to eliminating cancer directly, Sour Honey has even been proven in studies to drive cancer cells to kill THEMSELVES,” wrote Chambers, whose identity remains a mystery.
A 2014 investigation into another HSI cancer cure claim by WAFF, a local Alabama NBC affiliate, couldn’t find any evidence that he existed.
In 2016 the organization published and sold a pamphlet called “Insider’s Book of Secrets: The Real Cures Buried by Clinton’s Cartel” that claims “sour honey” is a cure for cancer.
This viral hoax blames the “Clinton Cartel” for needlessly killing “more than 31,000 seniors” so pharmaceutical companies can reap billions by continuing to sell chemotherapy drugs. This theory has a powerful ally in Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs, whose 2016 video claimed Clinton was backed by Big Pharma.
What’s the Truth: Is Sour Honey a Cancer Cure?
The truth is: “Sour honey” does not exist. The medical industry, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians aren’t hiding a cure for cancer from the public.
In a more general sense, a 2013 review published Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine shared research on honey and its potential anti-cancer effects. While honey showed the potential to fight cancer through several mechanisms, this anti-cancer effect has yet to be fully understood.
Various studies have discovered that honey could combat cancer by interfering with multiple cell-signaling pathways, inducing apoptosis, antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory and antimutagenic pathways. Honey has also demonstrated the ability to modulate the body’s immune system.
In the same review, the researchers acknowledged that there are still many unanswered questions regarding honey. Honey has shown to have anticarcinogenic properties. Furthermore, different floral sources of honey may have different effects. All in all, more research is needed to examine the positive effect that honey has on cancer, but that doesn’t mean the government is hiding a natural cure from you.
The Buzz Around Bee Propolis
Bee propolis, a resin-like substance that bees make to coat their hives is not, in fact, honey in any sense of the term. It’s a completely separate product made by bees. However, there are studies that suggest certain compounds found in propolis may offer various anti-cancer effects, which could explain where this myth stems from.
A 2009 study published in Phytotherapy Research found that Artepillin C in Brazilian green propolis could suppress tumor growth in mice. Another study, published in a 2011 edition of Cancer Letters, discovered that propolis-derived caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) showcased anti-tumor effects in pre-clinical models of human breast cancer. Additionally, a 2009 study published in Oncology Reports found that ethanol extracts of propolis contain components may help combat colon cancer.
Scientists’ investigation of bee propolis has yet to definitively discover any anti-cancer use in humans, or a reason to believe that ingesting propolis would have any impact on cancer, especially because what effects the refined substance does have are not available in its raw form. So, there is no Brazilian bee propolis or “sour honey” that can cure cancer, despite what the marketing campaign for “sour honey” claims.
Just to reiterate: The reason there’s no sour honey that can cure cancer isn’t a large political conspiracy. It is because research has been (and continues to be) conducted and there is a lack of evidence that even refined propolis could cure any type of cancer, much less all of them.
Known as “Russian Penicillin,” bee propolis can be rock hard to tarry, depending on the temperature, said Joyce Dales, founder and president of Buzzagogo.
“Russian beekeepers, when they’d get sick, they would break it off and chew it as an antibiotic,” said Dales, adding that the substances smells “stinky and tastes horrible.”
Today the substance is included in chewing gum, ointments, creams, cosmetics and lozenges. It can also be taken by itself as a pill, powder or extract. Now’s a good time to point out that if you’re allergic to bee stings, honey, ragweed or chrysanthemums, you should not take a bee propolis supplement.
But again, despite the noted benefits of propolis, there’s no evidence that it can be used to cure cancer in humans.
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