15 Amazing Health Benefits of Honey
Nature has always provided us with some of the essential things we avail today. Honey is like one such elixir among natural substances known to mankind since ages. It is a natural product made by bees when they feed on the nectar from flowers. Honey has found its use in various religious offerings, cooking, skincare, and medicinal purpose. Let us go a little deep into the health benefits of honey.
How is Honey Made?
Honey is a clear amber colored liquid produced by the sweet nectar of flowers. The producer of this sweet liquid is the honey bees. While they fly from flower to flower to help them pollinate, they also suck the nectar from the flower. They then bring the nectar in their hive and keep them stored in the honey stomach.
The nectar is repeatedly ingested and regurgitated until the desired consistency and quality of the honey is achieved. This form of honey is raw and can be easily subjected to fermentation due to high water content.
The raw honey is dried in the honeycomb as the bees fan their wings continuously to create a wind draft for evaporation. Once dried the ripe honey is sealed inside the beehive with wax to preserve it and is ready to remove for use (1).
Types of Honey
The primary classification of the honey is on the basis of their processing- Raw honey and Pasteurized honey.
Raw honey is the crude form of the honey with high medicinal value. It is extracted before processing and can get fermented easily due to high water content.
Whereas, pasteurized honey is extracted after heating to kill the microorganisms.
Some common types of honey available in the market are
- Manuka Honey
- Lavender Honey
- Acacia Honey
- Alfalfa Honey
- Clover Honey
- Buckwheat Honey
- Rosemary Honey
- Sage Honey
- Eucalyptus Honey, etc.
Uses of Honey
Honey is made up of nearly 70 to 80% of sugar, making it a commonly used sweetener in the food industry. Apart from use in the food industry and cooking, it is also used in the cosmetic industry due to its moisturizing property. The use that tops the list is its medicinal use to treat various ailments like
- sore throat
- skin disease, etc.
- eye diseases (2)
Composition of Honey
Honey is like a magic liquid packed with a modest amount of all the essential nutrients. The main components that make honey are (3):
Carbohydrate forms the major part of honey around 82%. It is present in the form of polysaccharide and disaccharide sugars, namely fructose, glucose, and sucrose. The proportion of these sugars vary depending on the nectar obtained from different flowers as well as the enzyme in the bee’s saliva
2. Proteins and Amino Acids
Proteins are present in honey either in complex structures or simple amino acids. Invertase, amylase, glucose oxidase, and catalase are some of the commonly found enzymes of protein origin in honey. Proline is the most abundant amino acid of honey among the other eighteen.
With a mineral content of around 3.7%, honey is a good nutrient source for humans. They contain trace elements like potassium, chlorine, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, silicon, copper, manganese, sodium, etc.
4. Vitamins and Antioxidants
Honey contains a wide range of Vitamins like the B complex, and vitamin C. Pinocembrin is a unique flavonoid present in honey that imparts its antioxidizing property. The dark color of the honey indicates more amount of antioxidants present in it.
5. Other Compounds
The organic origin of honey enriches it with various organic acids like butanoic acid, formic acid, acetic acid, citric acid, succinic acid, malic acid, pyroglutamic acids, etc.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey is called golden liquid or elixir owing to the countless benefits it offers. The use and benefit of honey can be traced back to the era of Ayurveda when it was used for healing purposes. We have summed up some major benefits of the honey below:
1. Healing of Wounds and Burns
Honey boosts the healing of tissues and prevent infection. It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties that help in the healing of wounds and burns(4). Egyptian people use honey as a wound-healing agent since ancient times. People also use honey to treat a diabetic foot ulcer as it has skin nourishing property. Manila honey is the most effective to treat burns.
Read More: Essential Oils for Sunburn & How to Use Them
2. Good for Digestion
Honey aids in digestion and is a potent probiotic competent in the food. It maintains intestinal flora by nourishing the good bacteria. We use it to treat stomach ulcers due to the invasion of helicobacter pylori(5). Honey also prevents the risk of gastrointestinal reflux disease. It reduces acid reflux, bloating, etc.
3. Relieves Sore Throat
Sore throat is an effect of common cold and flu. Honey is a renowned natural remedy for cough and sore throat. It soothes the irritation of the throat lining and acts as a cough suppressant. The World Health Organization suggests that a teaspoon of honey ensures that your child with a sore throat or cough will have a good night’s sleep (6). It effectively curbs the irritation as compared to over the counter medicines available for sore throat. Honey can be included in green tea for better results.
4. Good for High Blood Pressure
The regular consumption of honey can lead to a drop in your blood pressure. It is beneficial for those suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure. The antioxidants present in honey helps to keep the high blood pressure in check. Studies carried out on both rodents, and humans support the fact that honey is good for people with high blood pressure (7).
5. Helps to fight Infection
Honey has the ability to kill microorganisms. We use it topically on infections to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus. A protein called defending is the main contributor behind this therapeutic property of honey (8). It also contains hydrogen peroxide which is antiseptic in nature and adds on to the value of this folklore remedy.
6. A powerhouse of Phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are the plant compounds that help them to ward off any danger or unfavorable condition. Honey is a natural plant product, is rich in phytonutrients. The phytonutrients impart honey its antioxidant, antibacterial as well as antifungal property. It is present in abundance in unprocessed raw honey. The great healing power of raw honey and its role as an immune booster is due to the phytonutrients (9).
7. Rich in Antioxidants
Honey is enriched with an array of beneficial plant components called antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge the free oxygen radicals and prevent tissue damage. These free radicals can lead to aging, cancer, and cardiac disorders. Polyphenol is the major antioxidant present in raw as well as processed honey. It protects the body from oxidative stress (10).
8. Good for Cardiac Health
The consumption of honey is beneficial in people suffering from heart diseases(11). Honey is a rich source of phenol that benefits the heart by reducing the chances of stroke and blood clot formation. Honey also dilates the heart blood vessels to facilitate the smooth flow of blood.
9. Alternative Sweetening Agent to Sugar
Honey is the most common sweetener in the food industry as well as for household cooking purposes. Owing to the fact that honey is full of minerals, vitamins, and essential amino acids it makes an ideal substitute for sugar. It adds nutritional value to the food rather than just adding onto the calories like sugar.
10. Helps to treat Diarrhea
Honey significantly reduces the duration as well as the severity of diarrhea. Honey helps to detain the electrolyte and water content in the body during diarrhea. Reviews from research papers have furthermore revealed that honey also has the ability to cease the action of pathogens that cause loose motions (12).
11. Helps to lower the level of Triglyceride
The high levels of triglyceride in the body is an indication of coming heart disease. Elevated levels of triglyceride are due to high sugar and refined carb diet. Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are also connected to high triglyceride levels.
Results from multiple research reveal that when we replace sugar with honey, the triglyceride level drops down to the normal range. A comparison study between sugar and honey consumers have shown around 11 to 19% drop of triglyceride level in honey users (13).
12. Improves the level of good Cholesterol
A high level of cholesterol in the blood invites the onset of atherosclerosis. The fat deposition in the arteries can even lead to a heart block or stroke. Honey reduces the cholesterol level in the blood. It reduces the level of low-density lipids while increasing the amount of high-density good lipids in the body. Honey also decreases the fat content of the body and aids in weight loss (14)
13. Promotes Skin Lightening and Brightening
Honey is a well-known component of various domestic and skincare products. The exfoliating property of honey helps to eliminate the dead skin cells from the skin. It provides a brightening glow and also helps to make the skin firm. The topical application of honey can help to reduce wrinkles and tighten the sagging skin. It lightens dark spots and provides bright and supple skin (15).
Read More: DIY Moisturizers for Glowing Skin
14. Helps to Fade Scars
Honey is famous for its healing properties. It promotes the fading of scars. Honey is applicable in spot treatment to get rid of ugly acne scar or pimple spots. It also helps to lighten the scar from a wound or burn. Although it may not work for deep burns and severe wound scars, it is able to enhance beauty (16).
15. Other Medicinal Uses
Folklore and household remedies have witnessed the use of honey for various ailments like weakness, insomnia, bad breath, asthma, hiccups, vomiting, frequent urination, jaundice, obesity, hangover relief, skin diseases like eczema, dermatitis, teething pain in infants, etc. It has its uses in the topical preparations.
Side Effects of Overconsumption of Honey
It is a common saying that excess of everything is bad, and the same goes for the consumption of honey. Although honey possesses numerous health and therapeutic benefits, excess ingestion can cause various complications like follows:
1. Weight Gain
One should be cautious while using honey as a substitute for sugar in their diet. Honey is rich in natural sugar. While it contains many nutritional values, it is still high in calories, and excess consumption can cause significant weight gain. Thus, while switching to honey keep an eye on the amount you consume in a day, or it can cause more damage than benefits.
2. Infant Botulism
The consumption of honey is not advisable for children under 12 months of age. Honey is likely to contain the spore Clostridium botulinum that can produce toxins in infants. If an infant suffers from botulism, it hampers the motor and autonomic functions. The commonly observed symptoms are constitution, saggy eyelids, respiratory failure, weak cries, loss of head movement, and facial expressions. Thus, children below one year of age are not be given honey or honey products (17).
3. Allergic Reaction
Many people can develop an allergy to honey and thus should refrain from eating any food item that has honey in it. People who are allergic to pollen grains are likely to have an allergy to honey. In severe cases, the allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which is a fatal condition for the patient. Rashes on the skin, facial swelling, nausea, vomiting, and shock are common symptoms if a person is suffering an allergic reaction due to honey.
3. Elevation of Blood Sugar Levels
The composition of honey reveals that it is majorly made of sugars. In spite of being a better alternative to sugar, long term consumption of honey can increase the glucose level in the blood. It can also increase the triglyceride level and negatively impact the glucose response in the body
4. Food Poisoning
Microbes are generally in honey, but its antimicrobial property makes it less of a concern. But still honey can lead to food poisoning if any of the microorganisms have crept in as a secondary contaminant during processing. People should be cautious and rely on known sellers for good honey
5. Tooth Decay
The dense, sticky texture and high sugar content of honey can pose a threat to teeth health. Tooth decay due to honey is common in children if they do not rinse their mouth properly after having a spoonful of honey. The natural sugar in honey encourages oral bacteria to grow and cause tooth decay
In some people, honey hampers the mechanism of blood clotting or blood coagulation. However, it is rare but can be life-threatening in case of bleeding. If anyone has a history of a bleeding disorder, it is advisable to cross-check with your physician before consuming honey.