Honey is a delicious, sweet, sticky substance that has many health benefits. It is made by honey bees, which collect nectar from flowers to make honey.

Bees eat honey as their primary food source.

Honey consists of sugar (75–79%), water (20%), proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, flavonoids, phytonutrients, and antioxidants (Matzen RD, 2018).

The sugar in honey is fructose and glucose (Burlando B, 2013).

It has amazing health properties which we will discuss in this article.

The Benefits of Honey

Honey contains over 180 substances (Lan Nguyen HT, 2019). The non-sugar components of honey are responsible for health benefits.

Due to its unique mix of ingredients, honey has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anticancer, and antimetastatic effects on health (Samarghandian S, 2017).

Anti-bacterial

Historically honey has been used as a dressing for wounds and burns (Burlando B, 2013).

It has antibacterial properties, keeps a wound moist, and is a protective barrier to prevent infection (Mandala MD, 2011).

The antibacterial effect of honey is due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide, flavonoids, and other substances it contains (Vallianou NG, 2014).

Through enzymes, hydrogen peroxide is naturally produced in honey (Alam F, 2014).

Other phytochemicals such as bee defensin-1 and methylglyoxal (MGO) are also antibacterial (Kwakman PH, 2010).

Honey has been shown to stimulate the immune response and reduce inflammation, which speeds up wound healing (Molan P, 2015)

Anti-microbial

Honey prevents the growth of microorganisms (Moussa A, 2012). It is acidic with a low pH between 3.2 – 4.5 (Mandala MD, 2011).

This is low enough to inhibit several bacterial pathogens (Haniyeh K, 2010).

Honey is high in sugar and low in moisture, making it very concentrated or highly osmotic (Mandala MD, 2011).

Honey’s acidic nature and the high concentration and presence of hydrogen peroxide, MGO, and bee defensin-1 (an antimicrobial) in honey are unique properties that make it antimicrobial (Kwakman PH, 2010).

Antioxidant

Honey is rich in phenolic compounds such as quercetin, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), acacetin, kaempferol, and galangin (Khalil MI, 2010).

These compounds found in raw honey benefit health and are natural antioxidants.

Dental health

Honey-based mouthwash has an antimicrobial effect on dental caries, plaque, and gums (Singhal R, 2018).

In one study, a 40% manuka honey mouthwash and a 20% raw honey mouthwash were equally effective at reducing plaque and inflammation of the gums in a 22-day trial (Singhal R, 2018).

Heart health

Honey can reduce the development of plaque build-up in the arteries, due to its phenolic antioxidant content (Lan Nguyen HT, 2019).

The phenolic compounds are associated with a reduced risk of heart diseases (Khalil MI, 2010).

Flavonoids in honey decrease the risk of heart disease by improving vasodilatation, decreasing blood clotting, and preventing LDLs from oxidizing (Khalil MI, 2010).

Cough relief

Honey performed better in a comparison of a cough suppressant medication and a single nightly dose of honey in treating a cough and sleep difficulty in children with upper respiratory tract infection (Paul IM, 2007).

Blood pressure

Oxidative stress is involved in high blood pressure (Erejuwa OO, 2012). Antioxidants combat oxidative stress.

Adding honey to the diets of hypertensive rats significantly decreased their blood pressure due to improving oxidative stress in the kidneys (Erejuwa OO, 2012).

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Honey may be the solution against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Medical grade honey has strong antibacterial activity against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause life-threatening infections (Mandala MD, 2011).

Skin benefits

The benefits of raw honey on the skin are powerful.

Honey can be used to condition hair, keep skin young looking, slow down wrinkle formation, and prevent skin infections, due to its phytonutrient and antioxidant content (Burlando B, 2013).  

What type of honey is the best?

Be sure to buy only “raw honey.” Check the ingredients label to avoid extra, unhealthy ingredients or preservatives. Pure raw honey will naturally last a long time and does not need anything added to it.

If you can’t find pure raw honey in your supermarket, try a farmer’s market or a local health food shop.

Pasteurized honey has no health benefits. It is just sugar. Heating honey decreases the activity of hydrogen peroxide and its other antibacterial components (Matzen RD, 2018).

One study found that the antibacterial activity of honey was negated at a temperature of 60° C (140° F).

Make sure not to surpass this temperature when using honey at home (Matzen RD, 2018).

Are there any issues with honey?

Honey is high in sugar and calories. One tablespoon of honey has 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar. This is equal to 4 teaspoons of sugar. It has an effect on raising blood sugar.

So, while honey has amazing health benefits, eat it moderately to avoid excessive sugar in your diet.

If you are going to have sugar, then raw honey is the one to have. Other forms of sugar have less or no nutrient content and health benefits.

If you are in the mood for a sweet treat, make it a moderate amount of raw honey and enjoy the health benefits!

If you’re interested in other surprising foods with fantastic health benefits, check out our articles “Benefits of Chlorella,” and “The Health Benefits of Moringa.”

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