Honey (madhu) is a sweet, viscous liquid produced by bees. It is made up of a complex mixture of sugars, fructose, glucose, organic acids, vitamins, minerals and water. The Buddha considered honey to be one of the five essential medicines (Vin.III,251), and because of its ability to absorb water, it is even today used as a healing and a restorative agent. Several types of honey were recognized in ancient India. Khudda, which was described by the Buddha as being `clear and sweet' (A.III,369), was produced by the Little Bee (Apis florea)  while the Rock Bee (Apis dorsata) produced a thicker darker honey (D.III,188; Dhp.49).

According to legend, just before the Buddha's enlightenment, a young woman named Sujàtà offered him a bowl of milk rice and honey, a meal that gave him the strength for his final struggle. The Tipiñaka tells us that the Buddha's first meal after his enlightenment was barley gruel and honey balls (mantha, madhupiõóika) given to him by the merchants Tapussa and Bhallika (Vin.I,4).

For these reasons, Buddhists have long considered honey to be a particularly auspicious food. The Buddha said that the person whose speech is `blameless, pleasant, easy on the ear, agreeable, going to the heart, urbane, pleasing and liked by everybody' can rightly be called `honey-tongued' (A.I,128). He also said that a lay disciple should earn his or her livelihood the way a bee collects honey (D.II,188), i.e. by diligent hard work and without harming the source of one's income (Dhp.49). The Mahàvastu mentions that those who kill bees while smoking them out of their hives create negative kamma for themselves, a sentiment consistent with Buddhism's general regard for all life. See Disciples, the Buddha's First.