Honey is a natural sweet substance produced by different species of bees from the nectar of flowering plants. It is one of the most valued natural products introduced to humankind since ancient times, going back thousands of years. In its natural pure raw unprocessed state, it offers many health benefits and medical benefits. Raw honey is antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, a powerful antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral strong wound healer and antidiabetic as well as having a naturally long shelf life. While excavating Egypt’s pyramids, archaeologists have found pots of raw honey in an ancient tomb. It dates back to about 3,000 BC and is still perfectly edible today!
Most of the honey that is sold commercially is subjected to high temperatures to improve the colour and texture, to remove crystallization and extend its shelf life. We can refer to it as commercial or regular honey. Many of the beneficial nutrients are also destroyed in the process (like with most other refined or processed food). To understand the difference between pure raw honey and regular (or industrially processed, commercial) honey see: Is all honey the same?
All honey references in this article refer to natural pure raw honey.
Raw honey is one of the most valued natural products with many health benefits and medical uses
Traditionally, honey is used in the treatment of eye diseases, bronchial asthma, throat infections, tuberculosis, thirst, hiccups, fatigue, dizziness, hepatitis, constipation, worm infestation, piles, eczema, healing of ulcers, and wounds as well as being used as a nutritious supplement.
Studies suggest honey may reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure
Today, honey is used for its nutritional as well as health properties described in traditional medicine and as an alternative treatment for clinical conditions ranging from wound healing to cancer treatment. Animal and human studies suggest that trading regular sugar for honey may help reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
Some of the many benefits of honey include:
- Antibacterial and antifungal properties
- There’s no doubt honey has the power to kill bacteria and fungus. Studies have shown that it is effective against dozens of strains of bacteria including E. coli and salmonella as well as fighting staph and the digestive bacteria responsible for peptic ulcers, H. pylori.
- What makes honey antimicrobic? Most bees deposit hydrogen peroxide into the honey as they synthesize flower pollen. Additionally, honey is naturally acidic, and you have a recipe for antibacterial properties.
- That would explain honey’s centuries-old role in speeding wound healing and treating gastric complaints. Sure enough, modern science has shown honey’s effectiveness in treatment of ulcers, bed sores, burns, skin sores and inflammation. Honey has even been known to heal wounds that don’t respond to antibiotics, although care must be taken to be sure the honey itself is free of contaminants.
- Soothing sore throats
- Have a cold? Try a spoonful of honey. Honey is an old sore throat remedy. Add it to hot tea with lemon when a cold virus hits you.
- It also works as a cough suppressant. Research has suggested that honey is as effective as dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in over-the-counter cough medication. Just take one or two teaspoonfuls, straight.
- A study of 139 children found that honey did a better job of easing nighttime coughs and improving sleep than cough suppressants.
- Studies in Italy and Israel found that honey outperformed placebos in reducing both nighttime coughs and sleeping troubles in children with respiratory infections.
- However, honey should never be given to children under the age of 1, because the digestive systems of infants can’t handle any contaminates in honey.
- High in antioxidants
- High-quality honey is rich in several important antioxidants — such as phenolic acids and flavonoids — that may support better health. Antioxidants are compounds that help fight disease-causing free radicals, thereby reducing your risk of oxidative cell damage.
- These compounds play a central role in health and disease — with some research suggesting that they may protect against chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
- Several studies have found that it may increase the antioxidant status of your blood.
- Free radicals contribute to the aging process and may also contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Research shows that antioxidant compounds in honey called polyphenols may play a role in preventing heart disease.
- May improve heart health
- Swapping sugar for high-quality honey in your diet may improve different aspects of heart health, as it has been shown to reduce several risk factors for heart disease.
- For example, one 30-day study comparing the effects of table sugar and honey in 55 people found that honey helped decrease levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol.
- It was also able to lower triglyceride levels by up to 19%.
- Additionally, animal studies have found that supplementing with honey may reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading), another major risk factor for heart disease.
- Promotes wound healing
- In some forms of traditional medicine, such as Ayurveda, honey is applied directly to the skin to aid wound healing.
- This is thought to be due to the antibacterial properties of honey and its ability to decrease the growth of microorganisms that could cause infection.
- One study in 30 people showed that adding honey to wound dressings enhanced healing in about 43% of diabetic foot ulcers after three months.
- Meanwhile, other research suggests that it may also be a useful treatment for skin conditions, such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and herpes.
- Better than refined sugar
- As a sweetener, honey is a better nutritional choice than sugar because honey provides antioxidants — including phenolic acids and flavonoids.
- Plus, one study in 48 people with type 2 diabetes showed that though honey increases blood sugar levels, it may not be to the same extent as sugar.
- Studies also suggest that using honey instead of table sugar may decrease triglycerides, as well as total and “bad” LDL cholesterol to support your heart health.
- However, while honey may be a better option than refined sugar, it should still be consumed in moderation.
- Phytonutrient powerhouse
- Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that help protect the plant from harm. For example, some keep insects away or shield the plant from ultraviolet radiation.
- The phytonutrients in honey are responsible for its antioxidant properties, as well as its antibacterial and antifungal power. They’re also thought to be the reason raw honey has shown immune-boosting and anticancer benefits. Heavy processing destroys these valuable nutrients.
- Help for digestive issues
- Honey is sometimes used to treat digestive issues such as diarrhea, though there isn’t much research to show that it works. It’s proven to be effective as a treatment for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, though, a common cause of stomach ulcers.
- It’s also a potent prebiotic, meaning it nourishes the good bacteria that live in the intestines, which are crucial not only for digestion but overall health.
The ingredients of honey exert antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anticancer, and antimetastatic effects. Many evidences suggest the use of honey in the control and treatment of wounds, soothing throats, respiratory infections, diabetes mellitus, cancer, asthma, and also cardiovascular, neurological, and gastrointestinal diseases.
Honey has a potential therapeutic role in the treatment of disease by phytochemical, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Flavonoids and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, are two main bioactive molecules present in honey. According to modern scientific literature, honey may be useful and has protective effects for the treatment of various disease conditions such as diabetes mellitus, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, it is even useful in cancer treatment because many types of antioxidant are present in honey.
A natural therapeutic agent for various medicinal purposes
Therefore, honey could be considered as a natural therapeutic agent for various medicinal purposes. Sufficient evidence exists recommending the use of honey in the management of disease conditions and other health benefits.
Despite the health benefits that may be associated with honey, it’s high in sugar — which can be detrimental to your health. Therefore, the best way to take advantage of the potential benefits linked to honey is to opt for a high-quality raw honey and use it to replace unhealthy sweeteners, such as corn syrup or refined sugar.