The enjoyment of consuming honey begins with the premise that it’s best not to picture how it is produced. Simply, bees collect the sugar-rich nectar from assorted flowers; once they get back to their beehives, they repeatedly eat, digest, and regurgitate the nectar. Eventually, they produce the end product we know as honey – a thickish liquid that is food for bees, with a smell, color, and taste contingent on the varieties of flowers being “tapped.”
Honey’s potent health benefits are attributed mainly to the bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants that comprise its content, per healthline.com. The darker the honey, the greater the amount of those healthful ingredients than what’s contained in the lighter shades of honey, although, per medicalnewstoday.com, the lighter, golden amber brand of honey tends to fetch a higher price than the darker varieties.
Honey’s abundance of antibacterial and antifungal properties has made it a staple in kitchens since the early days of Egyptian tombs, per medicaldaily.com, which also described honey as “liquid gold.” Honey has been used for its medicinal benefits for more than 5,000 years; it has also shown itself to be a healthier option at mealtime when replacing sugars in food items being consumed.
Honey as an Antidote to Seasonal Allergies
Honey not only is produced in a variety of shades, it is also sold in both raw and pasteurized forms. Raw honey is removed from the hive and immediately bottled, still containing trace amounts of yeast, wax, and pollen. Such a raw version of honey is thought to be an effective deterrent to seasonal allergies and symptoms that include watery, itchy eyes; runny nose; and bouts of sneezing.
Raw honey works in this regard because of its repeated exposure to pollen in the same area where it is being bought and consumed. Area consumers of such local brands of honey are, effectively, inoculating themselves against the symptoms of seasonal (i.e. spring) allergies by consuming the raw honey. This is provided they get a head start for several weeks before seasonal allergies hit.
Pasteurized honey, by contrast, has been heated and processed to remove impurities, per medicalnewstoday.com.
Honey’s Health Benefits
We’ve touched on the basics of how honey works and what makes it beneficial to our health in general terms. Let’s look at some of the specifics:
- Heals burns and wounds. Honey is a natural antibiotic, per medicaldaily.com. It can act both internally and externally – a 2005 study cited in the British Journal of Surgery found that a vast majority of patients with wounds and leg ulcers showed marked improvement following a topical application of honey.
- Shorten bouts of diarrhea. Honey shows promise in this area, not only decreasing the duration but also the severity of diarrhea, linked to its ability to promote the increase of potassium and water intake.
- Boost energy. Honey can pack a wallop as a homemade energy-booster drink at just 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon, per medicaldaily.com. Its unprocessed sugar – fructose and glucose – head straight to the bloodstream once consumed to provide that quick hit of enhanced energy.
- Stave off acid reflux. Recent research, per medicalnewstoday.com, says that honey can thwart the upward flow of stomach acid and undigested food by lining the esophagus and stomach. In a similar manner, honey can also assist in minimizing the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease, better known simply as GERD.
- Relieve cold and cough. Reducing night-time coughing and improving sleep quality in children beset with an upper-respiratory infection was found workable with honey to even a greater degree than a dextromethorphan, a common cough medicine, per medicalnewstoday.com. NOTE: Children under the age of 12 months should not be given honey.
- Bolster memory. Yep, it’s apparently true, per a 2011 study featured in the publication Menopause, cited at medicaldaily.com, in which it was found that a spoonful of Malaysian honey given daily can enhance postmenopausal women’s memories.
- Sleep aid. OK, a bit of connecting dots is needed here. Much like what sugar can do, honey can boost insulin levels and promote the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Your body then converts serotonin – which can boost mood and happiness – into melatonin, a chemical compound that optimizes sleep quality and length, per medicaldaily.com.
- Alleviate dandruff. Credit this to honey’s antibacterial and antifungal characteristics. A 2001 study cited at medicaldaily.com found that honey diluted by 10 percent warm water and applied to problem areas for three hours, then rinsed, produced itch relief and no scaling within seven days. Added benefits included healing of skin lesions and reduction of hair loss.
- Improve cholesterol. Not only has honey been shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, it apparently can also raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, per healthline.com. That’s a healthy, two-way combination not often found in foods or supplements that have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.