It is estimated that erectile dysfunction (ED) affects 18 million men in the United States alone. The causes are numerous, and can be psychological or physical in nature, or a combination of the two. Common physical causes include diseases such diabetes, kidney disease, neurological disorders and prostate cancer.
But the list doesn’t end there. Other causes include surgery, injury, hormonal imbalances, prostate enlargement, prescription drug use (in fact, more than 200 types of prescription drugs may cause ED), and tobacco, alcohol or drug use.
When it comes to smoking cigarettes, research shows that men who smoke more than a pack a day have a greater risk of ED when compared to nonsmokers. Given this, a group of researchers set out to determine the potential protective effect honey may have against the toxic effect of cigarette smoke on sexual behavior and fertility in male rats.
They divided 32 male rats into four groups:
1. Control Group
2. Honey Group: Rats were given 1.2 g of honey per kg of body weight each day.
3. Cigarette Smoke Group: Rats were exposed to cigarette smoke for eight minutes three times a day. For each exposure, the smoke produced from 10 burning cigarettes was pumped into the rats’ compartments. This raised their serum cotinine to a level that corresponds with humans who smoke more than 20 cigarettes (the number in an average pack) a day.
4. Cigarette Smoke Plus Honey Group: Rats were given the same amount of honey and exposed to the same amount of cigarette smoke as the previous two groups.
The treatments lasted 13 weeks, but 10 weeks into the study period the males were paired with female rats, observed and assessed on a number of different mating and fertility indexes.
The percentages of rats from the cigarette smoke group that had sex (25 percent) and ejaculated (25 percent) were significantly lower compared with the control (100 percent for both sex and ejaculation) and honey groups (also 100 percent for both).
For the group that was exposed to the smoke but also given honey, the percentage of rats that had sex (75 percent) was significantly higher than the smoke-only group, but not significantly different from the control and honey groups.
Additionally, the percentage of rats reaching ejaculation in the smoke plus honey group (62.5 percent) was slightly higher than the cigarette smoke group, but slightly lower than control and honey groups. However, the differences were not statistically significant.
In other words, while the honey did not have a significant impact on the “non-smoking” rats, it did seem to have a positive effect on the “smoking” rats, suggesting that the honey had a protective effect against the damaging effects of cigarettes.
The authors did not come to a conclusion as to why the honey worked, but the two potential reasons cited were related to testosterone and antioxidants. First, low testosterone levels are associated with ED, and an earlier study they conducted showed that honey significantly increased testosterone levels in male rats exposed to cigarette smoke. Second, honey contains antioxidants, which may offset oxidative stress within penile tissues caused by smoking.
As for fertility, the pups fathered by the “smokers” were smaller than those fathered by rats in the control or honey groups, but honey supplementation showed an improvement in birth weight, indicating that it might help reduce the adverse effect of smoke on the fetal growth in rats. The reason for this also remains unclear, but the authors said it may be that honey reduces the sperm DNA damage caused by smoking.
Researchers concluded, “Our results demonstrated that honey at the dose of 1.2 g/kg body weight daily significantly increased the percentages of rats achieving intromission and ejaculation as well as increased mating and fertility indexes of male rats exposed to [cigarette smoke].”
In humans, this dosage is relative to 0.2 g/kg body weight. So, for the averageU.S.male, who weighs approximately 195 pounds, this would work out to be about 17.7 grams, or a little over 1 tablespoon, a day.
Sweeten Up Your Sex Life
First things first: If you smoke, try to quit. In addition to raising your risk of sexual dysfunction, smoking comes with a host of other deadly side effects. And even if you don’t smoke or suffer from ED, you may want to consider giving honey a try, as it has a number of other natural health benefits.
The authors did not specify what type of honey was used in this particular study, but not all honey contains the same amount of antioxidants. Generally, the darker the honey is, the better, with poplar and buckwheat being good choices you can find in your local grocery store. The most powerful honey is manuka honey, but you can typically only get that online or through mail order.
Many people enjoy simply taking a spoonful of honey, but you can also put it on cereal, toast or oatmeal in the morning, add it to a cup of hot tea, or dip fruit in it for a tasty snack.
 Lam TH et al. Smoking and sexual dysfunction in Chinese males: findings from men’s health survey. International Journal of Impotence Research. 2006;18, 364–369.
 Mohamed M, et al. Protective effect of honey against cigarette smoke induced-impaired sexual behavior and fertility of male rats. Toxicol Ind Health. 2012 Jan 24. [Epub ahead of print.]
 Mohamed M et al. Effect of honey on testicular functions in rats exposed to cigarette smoke. Journal of ApiProd ApiMedical Science. 2011:3, 12–17.