The Health Benefits of Honey – Part 1.
For thousands of years, natural honey has traditionally been used in many cultures to treat a variety of common ailments. Honey contains natural antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, in addition to chemicals that assist to neutralise the potentially damaging activity of free radicals. In Ayurvedic medicine, honey has been used to relieve asthma, stomach ulcers, hypertension, jaundice, eczema and dermatitis, arthritis, stress and sleep problems, amongst other conditions. A report in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine concluded that although we have a poor understanding of the therapeutic properties of raw honey, it is underutilised and deserves better recognition.
A Healthy Alternative to Sugar.
Honey has about the same relative sweetness as granulated sugar, but unlike white sugar, it does not cause a sugar spike and the consequent elevation in insulin levels. Research has shown that weight gain and blood sugar levels are reduced when honey replaces sugar in the diet, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Natural Healing Power for Wounds, Burns and Infections.
Most microorganisms, such as bacteria, are unable to grow in honey, and hence it has been traditionally used as a natural preservative; if sealed it does not spoil and can literally last for thousands of years. Natural antibacterial, antifungal and immunomodulatory properties combine to impart potent healing potential, and high viscosity enables the establishment of a protective barrier against infection.
There is a substantial body of medical and scientific evidence to the effect that honey is beneficial in treating burns and wounds, and in fighting infections, including chronic conditions. Two critical ingredients, hydrogen peroxide and methylglyoxal, have been shown to impart natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. Topical honey is cheaper than conventional antibiotics and does not have any unwanted side effects. In fact, bandages infused with medical-grade honey are used in some hospitals. Manuka honey, in particular, has been used to combat Staphylococcus infections that have become resistant to bacteria. In addition to reducing infection, studies have shown that Manuka honey can also speed the healing process. Honey is nontoxic and prevents dressings from adhering; it helps create an environment which promotes the formation of new tissue.
Other Medicinal Applications.
Studies have shown that Manuka honey, in particular, can inhibit the bacteria that cause diarrhea. Honey also promotes the intake of water and potassium, which is beneficial for
patients suffering from diarrhea, and has been proven to reduce both the symptoms and duration of this condition.
Honey has also been demonstrated to reduce acid reflux and heartburn, and can provide some relief for sufferers of peptic ulcers. It has proven to be as effective as some common cough medicines in alleviating coughs and sore throats, and is endorsed as a natural cough remedy by the World Health Organisation and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Honey has also been reported to be useful in treating conjunctivitis.
In terms of general health, raw honey is a good source of antioxidants which combat ageing and the development of some chronic disease. Phytonutrients are derived from plants and may also act as antioxidants, as well as conferring anti-inflammatory properties.
Honey also provides a ready supply of energy and aids in promoting restorative sleep if consumed at bedtime. Raw honey contains traces of the pollen that may induce seasonal allergies in some people, and its consumption can therefore result in desensitization to these substances.
It is important to remember that although raw honey may offer a variety of beneficial effects to the consumer, this is not necessarily the case for honey that has been heated or commercially processed in other ways. Pasteurisation, or heat treatment, destroys many of the naturally occurring enzymes and vitamins. Commercial honey may also be filtered and chemically refined, and this removes phytonutrients and propolis, or bee glue. Natural raw honey can be sourced direct from local apiarists and does not require special storage or refrigeration. It has a typically opaque appearance. As a precautionary measure, raw honey should not be consumed by children under one year of age.