Health Benefits Of Tualang Honey 

It is claimed that Tualang Honey offers a range of health benefits.  Elsewhere on the web, it is advocated that:

  • Tualang Honey contains a range of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, antibacterial compounds and other phytochemicals which combine to give Tualang Honey anti-tumor and cardioprotective capabilities.  
  • It is also claimed that if used topically, Tualang Honey can heal wounds and cure skin infections.  
  • Tualang Honey is also said to reduce blood pressure, combat osteoporosis, combat diabetes, improve fertility, and improve athletic performance.  

How do these claims measure up?  Is there any scientific evidence relating to the various health claims for Tualang Honey?  Here I will take a look at the evidence.

Examining the Claimed Health Benefits Of Tualang Honey

Antimicrobial activity

It is known that honey has antimicrobial activity due to the high sugar content, the relatively low pH (honey is acidic) and the high peroxide content.  It would therefore seem logical that Tualang Honey would also offer antimicrobial activity.

Perhaps then, it is worth considering whether Tualang Honey is more effective than other honey offerings, especially considering its premium price. 

It would seem logical to compare Tualang with Manuka Honey, the latter being widely researched and established for its efficacy for example, against MRSA.  Manuka Honey is a premium honey, but significantly less expensive than Tualang Honey.

One comparison review by Ahmed et al1 claims that:

"TH [Tualang Honey] is more effective than Manuka honey against some gram-negative bacterial strains in burn wounds management (36,39), probably due to its higher content of phenolics, flavanoids, and HMF."

However,

  • Manuka Honey contains more phenolics and flavonoids than Tualang Honey, as clearly indicated in the researcher's own lists (see Tualang Honey vs Manuka Honey). 

    Ahmed et al provide no reference to support the claim that either of the honeys contains more HMF (5-(hydroxymethyl) furfural) than the other, and both honeys contain it.

  • The references quoted (numbered 36,39) on the report are a little puzzling.  Reference 39 (Norizah et al2) is not about Manuka Honey at all, but other Malaysian Honeys.  
    For reference 36 (Nasir et al3), the results state: 

"In the in-vitro antibacterial study, Aquacel-Ag and Aquacel-Manuka honey dressings gave better zone of inhibition for Gram positive bacteria compared to Aquacel-Tualang honey dressing.  However, comparable results were obtained against Gram negative bacteria tested with Aquacel-Manuka honey and Aquacel-Tualang honey dressing."

So it seems that Manuka Honey is better against Gram positive bacteria, and the two honey variants are comparable against Gram negative bacteria. 

Nasir et al conclude:

"Tualang honey has a bactericidal as well as bacteriostatic effect.  It is useful as a dressing, as it is easier to apply and is less sticky compared to Manuka honey. However, for Gram positive bacteria, tualang honey is not as effective as usual care products such as silver-based dressing or medical grade honey dressing."


Wound healing

A number of studies have shown that Tualang Honey is as effective as Manuka Honey and conventional silver based wound dressings in healing wounds and burns, and some of these studies were completed on humans. 

For example, Nur Azida et al4  found that Tualang Honey combined with Aquacel wound dressing, assisted healing of burn wounds.

The researchers state:

"Tualang Honey with Aquacel shows a faster healing rate of burn wounds in comparison with Aquacel plain. The healing properties of honey in combination with modern hydrofibre dressings (Aquacel plain) can expedite the healing of burn wounds." 

A number of the studies sometimes referenced in reviews were conducted on rats.  The results of these studies might not be replicated in humans, and for this reason I discard such studies (see further notes below).

Anti-tumor activity

Some studies have shown that Tualang Honey has some effect against tumors, or the cell lines that cause tumors.  For example, it has been shown that Tualang Honey has some activity against oral squamous cell carcinoma cells and human osteosarcoma cells5.  However, this study was not comparative, so it was not clear if the effect of the honey was greater or less than current treatments. 

Research from Fauzi et al6 may suggest that Tualang Honey has activity against some breast cancer cell lines and some cervical cancer cell lines. 

Another study done in vitro7 has suggested that Tualang Honey might increase the effectiveness of the drug tamoxifen against some breast cancer cell lines. 

Once again, the two studies above were not comparative, so it is difficult to assess the usefulness of Tualang Honey compared to other medicinal honey offerings and treatment currently used.

Anti-diabetic activity

Due to the high sugar content of honey, it is mostly considered inadvisable for diabetics to consume it. 

However, not all sugars are the same, and there is a school of thought that due to the high fructose content of honey generally, then Tualang Honey will have a lower glycaemic effect (i.e. it is less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin release).  See does honey increase blood sugar levels.

However, it is worth noting that Tualang Honey actually contains a lower proportion of fructose within its overall sugar composition than either ordinary blossom honey and Manuka Honey (see Tualang Honey vs Manuka Honey). Therefore, it is doubtful that Tualang Honey will offer an advantage over other honey offerings in this regard.


The glycaemic effect of Tualang honey has been tested, and the one study found carried out in humans was in just 8 healthy volunteers.  

Most of the other studies I have seen that are cited to support the claim of anti-diabetic activity, were carried out using rats, and their conclusions are not necessarily true for humans.  For example:

  • According to www.safermedicines.org, 92% of new drugs successful in animal studies go on to fail in clinical trials, as at Northwick Park – sometimes injuring or killing volunteers and patients. 

  • Even tests on similar animal species can show startlingly different results.  For example, one study tested 392 chemicals, and found that whilst some were toxic for rats, they were not necessarily toxic for mice, and vice versa.

    (source: "Ranking Possible Carcinogenic Hazards", Bruce N Ames, Renae Magaw and Lois Swirsky Gold, [i]Science[/i], Vol 236, 1987, p271 at 275)

According to the Mayo Clinic, you can substitute honey for sugar if you prefer the taste, but only in moderation and:

"Generally, there's no advantage to substituting honey for sugar in a diabetes eating plan. Both honey and sugar will affect your blood sugar level." - the Mayo Clinic.

Other claimed health benefits

There are claims for other health advantages connected with Tualang Honey based on studies that were actually carried out on rats.

  • For example, it has been claimed elsewhere on the web that Tualang Honey improves cardiovascular risk by improving lipid profile or by reducing blood pressure, but upon closer inspection, the principal study on lipid profile was not carried out with Tualang Honey, and the study on blood pressure was carried out on rats.  

  • Studies supporting claims for increasing sperm count, sperm motility and improving female sexual hormones were also only carried out on rats.  

  • However, there is one study8 carried out in humans that has shown that a small daily ‘dose’ of Tualang honey reduced some acute respiratory symptoms typically encountered by pilgrims performing Hajj in Mekah. Pilgrims consuming a small amount of honey daily for 42 days had fewer rhinitis and sore throat symptoms than the control group. No significant difference was noted for cough and fever.  This surprised me a little since honey is a well-known anti-tussive (cough suppressant).  Both the intervention and control groups had received an influenza vaccination.

Conclusion

Although there are reasons proposed for superior health benefits from Tualang Honey, not all of these advantages have yet been fully proven in human patients versus conventional treatments and sometimes versus other honey offerings, such as Manuka Honey.

It is worth remembering that Tualang Honey is extremely expensive.  Without relevant, robust and substantial evidence of advantage over conventional treatments and other medical-grade honey offerings, in my view, support for its use in established clinical settings may be limited.  

It is also notable that Tualang Honey is a multi-floral blossom honey, meaning that variations in formula needs to be taken into account, in contrast with medical-grade, mono-floral alternatives.

References

1. Ahmed S, Othman NH. Review of the medicinal effects of tualang honey and a comparison with manuka honey. Malays J Med Sci. 2013;20(3):6-13.

2. Norizah T, Nurul AAH, Noor INJ, Shahjahan M. Antibacterial studies on some selected brands of Malaysian honey. Malays J Medic Sci. 2004;11(1):127–128.

3. Nasir et al 2010.  Antibacterial properties of tualang honey and its effect in burn wound management: a comparative study.  BMC Complement Altern Medicine June 2010.

4. M. N., Nur Azida; A. A., Dorai; A. S., Halim; Y., Norimah. A COMPARATIVE PILOT STUDY USING TUALANG HONEY WITH AQUACEL AND AQUACEL DRESSING ON SUPERFICIAL BURN WOUNDS. Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences . Jul2008 Supplement, p204-204. 1p.

5.  Ghashm et al  2010.  Antiproliferative effect of Tualang honey on oral squamous cell carcinoma and osteosarcoma cell lines.  BMC Complement Altern Medicine Sept 2010.

6. Fauzi AN, Norazmi MN, Yaacob NS. Tualang honey induces apoptosis and disrupts the mitochondrial membrane potential of human breast and cervical cancer cell lines. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011;49(4):871–878. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

7. Yaacob NS, Nengsih A, Norazmi MN. Tualang honey promotes apoptotic cell death induced by tamoxifen in breast cancer cell lines. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:989841. doi: 10.1155/2013/989841. Epub 2013 Feb 13. PMID: 23476711; PMCID: PMC3586458.

8. Sulaiman SA, Hasan H, Deris ZZ, Wahab MS, Yusof RC, Naing NN, et al. The Benefit of Tualang Honey in Reducing Acute Respiratory Symptoms Among Malaysian Hajj Pilgrims: A Preliminary Study. J ApiPro ApiMedic Sci. 2011;3(1):38–44.










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