Bees can be a real pest when it comes to invading your backyard barbecue, but they sure do their good deed in providing the goods for people to enhance their health – and they are downright sweet about it. Bee-produced honey has been used for centuries as both a food and a medicine, and it serves its purpose quite well in both regards.
Per healthline.com, honey has an abundance of beneficial plant-based compounds, beginning with the fact that it is a healthy and worthy substitute for refined sugar, which is nothing but empty calories. Yes, honey contains a fair amount of sugar, but much less than pure refined sugar. The trick is to not overeat.
Ancient Egyptians certainly had a fondness for honey, per cnn.com, offering it up to their gods. They later followed the lead of the Greeks, Romans, and Chinese in using honey as a salve to ease the discomfort and speed the healing of wounds and as a treatment to alleviate the symptoms of fevers and stomach ailments.
What Makes Honey So Special?
Honey is a sweet, sticky, thick liquid produced by honeybees, which collect nectar from flowers. Once back inside their beehive, the bees consume, digest, and regurgitate the nectar numerous times, eventually resulting in the production of honey to be stored by bees for their food source.
Although honey contains minimal amounts of vitamins and minerals, what gives it its health-inducing qualities is its abundance of bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants, per healthline.com, with antioxidants linked to a diminished risk of heart attacks and strokes. Note, too, that honey is essentially without fiber, fat, or protein.
Honey also has antibacterial properties and has proven useful for treating cold or cough for children over the age of one; it is recommended that honey not be given to children under 12 months. That’s the edict of Mayo Clinic, mindful that bacterial spores found in dust and dirt can contaminate honey, possibly leading to infant botulism while producing a toxin that can result in muscle weakness and breathing issues, per medicaldaily.com.
Honey’s Health Benefits
If you are on any sort of prescription medicine related to any of the following issues, you are advised to discuss adding honey or other bee by-product with your physician, as honey products shouldn’t be regarded as substitutes for prescription drugs. Just proceed cautiously, with common sense, and professional guidance.
- Treat allergies. Raw honey produced local to where you live has often been mentioned as a workable antidote to seasonal allergies. Few, if any, scientific studies confirm this, although board-certified naturopathic doctor Dr. Matthew Brennecke has reportedly suggested that “ . . . honey acts like a vaccine,” per medicaldaily.com. Because honey contains traces of pollen, once inside your body it can activate an immune response generating antibodies to the pollen. The effect isn’t immediate though, as it takes repeated exposure over time in order to build up the antibodies, allowing your body to become attuned to their presence, thus inhibiting release of histamine.
- Provide energy boost. Per medicaldaily.com, honey is a great source of all-natural energy in the forms of fructose and glucose – two types of natural unprocessed sugar. Once ingested, they go straight into the bloodstream, from which they can provide a quick jolt of energy.
- Reduce high blood pressure. Honey’s antioxidant compounds are the key here, as studies using both rats and humans as test subjects have shown that ingesting honey can produce modest drops in blood pressure, per healthline.com. In a similar vein, honey can also improve cholesterol levels, by reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol. And to complete the trifecta, it can also lower triglycerides, so your cardiovascular health might benefit.
- Acts as an antibacterial. Per cnn.com, honey’s antimicrobic properties are linked to the hydrogen peroxide deposited into honey by bees as they synthesize the pollen gathered from flowers. Plus honey is naturally acidic, which bolsters its functionality as an antibacterial. A form of honey known as manuka honey is an especially potent type of antibacterial.
- Improve memory. Per medicaldaily.com, referring to a 2011 study published in Menopause, this appears most pertinent to postmenopausal women, whose memory can be affected by hormone-related factors. One study found that a spoonful of Malaysian honey consumed daily can boost postmenopausal women’s memory. An influential factor in honey’s apparent memory-enhancing characteristic is how it assists in the body’s absorption of calcium, which can aid in brain health.
- Burn/wound healing. Per healthline.com, various studies have shown that honey can be effective in healing some burns and wounds that post-surgery have become infected. It also has demonstrated potential in treating diabetic foot ulcers, as well as other skin issues such as psoriasis and herpes lesions.
- Sleep aid. Consuming honey can induce a rise in insulin, per medicaldaily.com, and this ramps up a release of serotonin, which can in turn enhance mood and happiness. Additionally, the body can apparently convert serotonin into melatonin, a chemical that positively affects the quality and length of sleep.
- Cough suppressant. Studies have shown that honey can work better than some common cough medications is reducing cough symptoms. This is especially welcome when treating children with upper-respiratory infections, although remember to not give honey to young children aged 12 months and under.