The Health Benefits of Honey.
For thousands of years, honey has traditionally been used by a variety of cultures to promote health and wellbeing, to treat a range of common ailments including gastric problems and ulcers, and as a healing salve for wounds and burns. But what health benefits does honey really confer, and what why?
One of raw honey’s major benefits is that it is a valuable source of powerful antioxidants which combat ageing and the development of some chronic disease. In fact, honey is the only food known to contain pinocembrin, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning, and with the potential to treat cerebral haemorrhage, cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. Phytonutrients are derived from plants and may also act as antioxidants, as well as conferring anti-inflammatory properties. 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, making it an excellent alternative for artificial sweeteners, which can produce undesirable side effects. Honey provides a ready supply of energy and aids in promoting restorative sleep if consumed at bedtime. Honey has also proven to be as effective as some common cough medicines in alleviating coughs and sore throats and has been demonstrated to provide a degree of relief for those suffering from peptic ulcers.
Most microorganisms are unable to grow in honey, which has been prized as a natural preservative since ancient times. Raw honey has long been used to heal wounds, as a topical antiseptic and antibiotic, and to rejuvenate the skin. When applied topically, honey creates a protective barrier, acting as a natural moisturiser and assisting to prevent damage by the sun. Honey’s antibacterial properties were first identified by modern science in 1892, and its effectiveness against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria has since been confirmed by numerous subsequent studies. Recently two critical ingredients, hydrogen peroxide and methylglyoxal, have been shown to impart natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. Manuka honey, in particular, has been proven to have enhanced antibacterial qualities due to high concentrations of dietary methylglyoxal. It has been demonstrated to kill potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses in a laboratory setting and has been used to combat Staphylococcus infections that have become resistant to antibiotics.
Bandages infused with medical-grade honey are now used in some hospitals. In addition to reducing infection, there is reliable evidence that honey can considerably speed the healing process in wounds including burns; it has also been reported to be useful in treating conjunctivitis. Honey is nontoxic and prevents dressings from adhering; it helps create an environment which promotes the formation of new tissue.
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. Of special interest in the current climate is that in April 2020, clinical trials began in the US to investigate whether natural honey could be of assistance to patients infected with COVID-19. This was based upon honey’s efficacy in treating upper respiratory infections and highlights the potential this amazing natural substance has for yielding additional health benefits.
It is important to remember that the health benefits inherent in pure natural honey are compromised by pasteurisation and other commercial treatments, which result in the destruction of natural enzymes, vitamins and phytonutrients. The goodness of raw honey – one of nature’s real superfoods – is best sourced direct from your local beekeeper or apiarist!