Honey has a wide range of healing properties that make it more than just a natural sweetener. In fact, honey has been used since ancient times to heal wounds, reduce inflammation, and treat ailments like Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, common colds and flu.
Honey is a thick, golden-colored liquid produced by bees made from flower nectar. After they collect nectar from flowers, they take it back to the hive and regurgitate it, which is passed from one worker bee to another younger bee (house bee) through their mouths. The bees store the nectar into waxy hexagon-shaped cells called honeycomb. They then turn the nectar into honey by drying it out using a warm breeze made with their wings.
Honey is the main source of energy and nutrition for bees and some animals, but humans also enjoy it. People use honey in various foods and beverages as a flavoring and as a medicinal remedy.
Honey can vary in colour, taste and consistency depending on the flowers the nectar came from and the origin of the plant. Basically, lighter colored honey tends to be milder in taste as compared to the darker ones.
Types of Honey
In general, honey can be categorized as raw or pasteurized. Raw honey comes straight from the hive. It is the least processed and therefore, retains the most antioxidants.
Pasteurized honey, on the other hand, has been processed with heat treatment. The pasteurization process increases its shelf-life and kills yeast cells that can affect the taste of the honey. However, it may reduce some of the antioxidants and nutrients in the honey.
Honey is composed primarily of water and two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. In addition to that, honey contains small amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and polyphenols. These compounds are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with honey.
According to USDA FoodData Central, 1 tbsp (20 grams) of honey contains:
- 64 calories
- 17 g of carbohydrates
- 0.04 g of fiber
- 0.06 g of protein
- 17 g of sugars
- 0.1 mg of Vitamin C
- 1.3 mg of calcium
- 10.9 mg of potassium
- 0.08 mg of iron
Please note these nutritional values will vary depending on the batch and brand of honey you choose. It’s important to read product labels for more accurate nutritional information.
1. It may reduce heart disease risk
Honey is rich in phenolic compounds, which act as natural antioxidants. Many epidemiological studies have shown that regular intake of phenolic compounds is associated with reduced risk of heart disease.
One observational study including over 4,500 people over age 40 showed that light-to-moderate intake of honey was associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure among women .
Since high blood pressure is associated with heart disease and stroke, getting your blood pressure under control can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Another study in rats revealed that honey can protect the heart from oxidative stress, which can contribute to heart attack and stroke, although more research is needed to help clarify the link between honey and long-term human heart health .
2. Heals wounds and burns
Numerous studies have shown that honey is useful in wound healing because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
One study reported that a component isolated from Manuka honey stimulates the production of inflammatory cytokines from monocytes. This white blood cells play an important role in wound healing process .
Using honey on diabetic wounds has also been found to reduce the amputation rate .
Apply raw honey diretly to wounds, then put a gauze bandage on top; change the dressing daily to improve healing time.
3. Gives you an energy boost
As raw honey is a form of simple sugar, it can provide a quick boost of energy. But unlike refined sugar, honey also contains traces of amino acids, enzymes, and antioxidants. Because of this, many people use it as a nutrient-rich, pre-workout fuel.
4. Strengthens immune system
Research has indicated that raw honey is very good for boosting immune system and increasing white blood cell production during immune responses.
The phytonutrients in raw honey have been shown to support the immune system and help fight off illnesses. It also contains antioxidants and enzymes which help fight off the bacteria and viruses that cause colds or flu by boosting white blood cells’ ability to fight infection.
5. It may support brain health
Honey not only increases brain power and improve mental health but it also reduce your risk of developing neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease. It prevents metabolic stress and helps soothe the brain, which helps in augmenting memory in the long run.
A review states that honey polyphenols help fight inflammation in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory .
In addition, an animal study found that rats that consumed honey had protection against brain damage caused by exposure to lead .
6. Keeps your gut healthy
Raw honey contains prebiotics that feed the beneficial bacteria residing in your gut. These bacteria play key roles in digesting and absorbing nutrients, fending off pathogens, and promoting bowel regularity.
Raw honey has also been found to alleviate diarrhea in some research studies. For example, a study of 80 children with diarrhea showed that children who received honey and zinc gluconate recovered faster than those who received only zinc gluconate .
To help treat mild diarrhea, try taking a teaspoon of raw honey or mixing honey with a drink. Avoid taking too much honey because excess sugar can worsen the condition.
7. It may treat upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs)
The anti-inflammatory properties in raw honey can provide relief from an upper respiratory tract infection.
A study published in 2020 in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, researchers looked at 14 previously published studies on honey’s effectiveness in relieving URI symptoms.
The researchers found that honey improved both cough frequency and severity compared to usual treatments—like over-the-counter (OTC) medications and antibiotics. Concern over antimicrobial resistance, which is partly linked to overprescribing antibiotics for URIs, prompted the analysis .
8. It may moisturize the skin
Honey is very useful for dry skin types because of its moisturizing and nourishing effects. Raw honey not only helps moisturize parched skin but it also helps curing cracked lips during winters. Honey is found in various cosmetic products, including lip ointments, cleansing milk or gels, moisturisers, and conditioners .
Another benefit of honey on the face is that it can aid in the treatment of acne. The hydrogen peroxide in honey has antimicrobial properties that help reduce acne and inflammation. It also aids in the unclogging of pores and the growth of new tissues.
9. It can treat dandruff
Since honey has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it also can help in the prevention and treatment of dandruff.
A 2001 study conducted by the Dubai Specialised Medical Center discovered that raw honey can be used to treat scaling, itching and hair loss. This is thought to be due to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties .
To get rid of dandruff, all you need to do is mix two tablespoons of honey with equal amounts of vegetable oil and apply it to your hair. Keep this hair mask on for 15 minutes, and then rinse it off before you shampoo.
Is Honey Safe for Children and Pregnant Women?
Honey is fine for women during pregnancy but it should not be given to children under the age of 1 years old. This because honey can sometimes contain bacterial spores that produce toxins in a baby’s gut, which can lead to severe illness called infant botulism. Even pasteurized honey has a chance of containing these spores, so it’s advised that infants under 1 year should not consume honey.
How to Store Raw Honey
Honey should be stored in a cool, dark place, and in a tightly sealed container. Keep it away from sunlight and any heat-producing appliances. It’s recommended that you use the original container the honey came in, though any glass jar with lid or food-safe plastic container will work. Avoid storing honey in metal or non-food plastic containers because they can cause honey to oxidize.