What is honey?
Honey is a thick, golden liquid that is produced by bees using the nectar of flowering plants. The type of flowers that the bees visit can affect the taste, smell and texture of the honey, resulting in different varieties, such as manuka, acacia, clover and orange blossom.
Honey has been used as both a food and a medicine in our life.
It's very high in beneficial plant compounds and offers several health benefits. Honey is particularly healthy when used instead of refined sugar, which is 100% empty calories.
Here are some health benefits of honey.
1. High-Quality Honey Is Rich in Antioxidants
2. Honey Is "Less Bad" Than Sugar for Diabetics
3. The Antioxidants in It Can Help Lower Blood Pressure.
4. Honey Also Helps Improve Cholesterol.
5. Honey Can Lower Triglycerides.
6. The Antioxidants in It Are Linked to Other Beneficial Effects on Heart Health.
7. Honey Promotes Burn and Wound Healing.
8. Honey Can Help Suppress Coughs in Children.
9. It's Delicious, But Still High in Calories and Sugar.
A natural sweetener, honey contains around 40% fructose and 30% glucose, along with some water, pollen and trace minerals, including potassium, calcium and magnesium. Refined sugar by comparison is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. As honey has a lower GI value than sugar, this means it does not raise blood sugar levels as quickly.
While honey is 100% natural, it is important to remember it is still high in sugar with around 5.6g of sugar per teaspoon, and honey counts as a ‘free’ sugar – the type that the NHS advises us to cut back on.
Honey may help with hayfever and allergies
Consuming local honey has long been touted as a hayfever remedy, but as yet there hasn’t been enough research to support this claim.
One study in 2011 looked at honey in cases of birch pollen allergy which is common in Finland. Patients consumed honey with added birch pollen daily from November through to March (before the hayfever season) and then they recorded their symptoms from April through to May. The results demonstrated a 60% lower total symptom score and twice as many asymptomatic days compared to those using conventional medicine. The sample size for this study was only 50 patients, but it’s a promising early result. However, more evidence is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Soothing sore throats and coughs
A study in 2007 found that parents favoured honey for symptomatic relief for their children’s night cough and sleep difficulty due to upper respiratory tract infection.
This has been supported by a later study in 2016 that found honey may be better than ‘no treatment’ for the symptomatic relief of cough but that it wasn’t better than certain over-the-counter cough mixtures. As always, it is best to be guided by your pharmacist or GP in the treatment of child coughs and upper respiratory tract infections.
Natural antibacterial and wound healing properties
Honey has natural antibacterial properties and its effects on wound healing have been well researched. It is a rich source of chemical compounds such as flavonoids which have been reported to have antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. Both laboratory studies and clinical trials have shown that honey is an effective broad-spectrum antibacterial agent.
Honey may help to stimulate new tissue growth and minimise scar formation which is encouraging for treating those with non-serious wounds, ulcers and burns.