Honey contains a treasure chest of hidden nutritional and medicinal value for centuries. The sweet golden liquid from the beehive is a popular kitchen staple loaded with antibacterial and antifungal properties that has been used since the early days of Egyptian tombs.
Honey's scientific super powers contribute to its vastly touted health benefits for the whole body. The healthy natural sweetener offers many nutritional benefits depending on its variety. Raw honey is the unpasteurized version of commonly used honey and only differs in its filtration, which helps extend its shelf life. A tablespoon of raw honey contains 64 calories, is fat-free, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free, says the National Honey Board. Its composition is roughly 80 percent carbohydrates, 18 percent water, and two percent vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Typically, honey is sweet but can be cruel to infants. Spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria — found in dirt and dust, which can contaminate honey — may lead to infant botulism and produce a toxin inside the body that can cause muscle weakness and breathing problems. The Mayo Clinic recommends waiting until after 12 months of age to give infants honey; consumption is safe for older adults and kids, since they have a mature digestive system that can handle the spores.
Consume honey responsibly and reap the numerous health benefits of this liquid gold.
Honey's anti-inflammatory effects and ability to soothe coughs has led to the belief it can also reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. Although there are no clinical studies proving its efficacy, Dr. Matthew Brennecke, a board certified naturopathic doctor practicing at the Rocky Mountain Wellness Center in Fort Collins, Colo., told Medical Daily in an email, "A common theory is that honey acts like a natural vaccine." It contains small amounts of pollen, which if the body is exposed to small amounts of it, it can trigger an immune response that produces antibodies to the pollen. "After repeated exposure, you should build up these antibodies and the body should become accustomed to their presence so that less histamine is released, resulting in a lesser allergic response."
Honey is an excellent source of all-natural energy at just 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon. This natural unprocessed sugar — fructose and glucose — directly enter the bloodstream and can deliver a quick boost of energy. The rise in blood sugar acts as a short-term energy source for your workout, especially in longer endurance exercises. Brennecke said there is a con to adding honey to your workout. "If your goal in exercising is to increase muscle mass, working out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning is the way to go. When your body is in starvation mode (upon waking in morning), and you start exercising, you release insulin-like growthfactor-1 (IGF-1), which will help you build bulk," he said. Brennecke does warn this only works when blood sugars are low.
The sweet nectar is loaded in antioxidants that may help prevent cellular damage and loss within the brain. A 2011 study published in Menopause found a daily spoonful of Malaysian honey may boost postmenopausal women's memory, which can provide an alternative therapy for the hormone-related intellectual decline. After four months of taking 20 grams of honey a day, the women were more likely to have better short-term memory than their counterparts who took hormone pills.
Honey's ability to help the body absorb calcium, according to Brennecke, helps aid brain health. The brain needs calcium in order to process thought and make decisions. "As our populations continue to get older and older, the likelihood of dementia setting in because of poor intake of vitamins and minerals continues to get higher and higher," he said.
Honey can be the all-natural cure when it comes to pesky colds. A persistent cough that won't go away can easily be remedied with two teaspoons of honey, according to a 2012 study published in the journal Pediatrics. Children between the ages of 1 and 5 with nighttime cough due to colds coughed less frequently when they received two teaspoons of honey 30 minutes before bed.
The golden liquid's thick consistency helps coat the throat while the sweet taste is believed to trigger nerve endings that protect the throat from incessant coughing. Honey is believed to be as effective as the common cough suppressant ingredient dextromethorphan. It can be used in treating upper respiratory tract infections.
Honey can be a health aid for sleepless nights. Similar to sugar, honey can cause a rise in insulin and release serotonin — a neurotransmitter that improves mood and happiness. "The body converts serotonin into melatonin, a chemical compound that regulates the length and the quality of sleep," Rene Ficek, registered dietitian and lead dietitian nutritionist at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating in Chicago, Ill., told Medical Daily in an email.
Moreover, honey also contains several amino acids, including tryptophan that is commonly associated with turkey. Honey's steady rise in insulin, according to Brennecke, causes the tryptophan in honey to enter the brain, where it's then converted into serotonin and then into melatonin, which is a sleep aid. This hormone is responsible for regulating sleep and wake cycles.
Honey can bring temporary relief to the scalp by targeting dandruff. A 2001 study published in the European Journal of Medical Research found applying honey diluted with 10 percent warm water to problem areas and leaving it on for three hours before rinsing led to itch relief and no scaling within a week. Skin lesions healed within two weeks and patients even showed an improvement in hair loss. The patients did not relapse even after six months of use.
Thanks to honey's antibacterial and antifungal properties, it can also treat seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff, which are often caused by an overgrowth of fungus. Moreover, "honey also has anti-inflammatory properties, which address the redness and itching on the scalp," Brennecke said.
Honey is a natural antibiotic that can act both internally and externally. It can be used as a conventional treatment for wounds and burns by disinfecting wounds and sores from major species of bacteria such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A 2005 study published in the British Journal of Surgery found all but one of patients who suffered from wounds and leg ulcers showed remarkable improvement after applying a topical application of honey.
Dr. Diane Radford, a breast surgical oncologist in St. Louis, Mo., told Medical Daily in an email, Manuka honey has antibacterial properties for wound healing. "The precursor for the active antibacterial agent methylglyoxal (MGO) comes from the nectar of manuka trees. A specialized research unit at the University of Waikato is looking into the conversion to the active product," she said.
Honey has been utilized for its medicinal properties for over 2,000 years and continues its legacy as a multipurpose health aid.
"Raw honey is incredible for your skin thanks to its antibacterial properties and hefty serving of skin-saving antioxidants," natural beauty expert Kim Wallace, founder of kimberlyloc.com, told us. "Whether you're looking for an inexpensive DIY solution or a powerful skin treatment, raw honey can help you regain your glow."
Wallace shares four of the main skin-saving properties of honey.
Acne: Honey is naturally antibacterial, so it's great for acne treatment and prevention.
Aging: Full of antioxidants, it is great for slowing down aging.
Complexion boost: It is extremely moisturizing and soothing, so it helps create a glow.
Pores: Honey is clarifying because it opens up pores making them easy to unclog.
Wallace tells us that one of the easiest things you can do with raw honey is layer it on as a mask. "Raw honey can help unclog pores while simultaneously delivering moisture to parched skin," she says.
Apply a thin layer of raw honey to slightly damp skin using a circular motion. Leave the honey for at least 30 minutes and then gently rinse it off with warm water. "You'll find that it easily washes away, leaving you with soft, radiant skin."
Try zapping pesky zits with honey. "If you're suffering from a breakout, reach for a swab of honey instead of an overly drying over-the-counter pimple cream," Wallace advises. "Applied ever so lightly, you can sleep with a dab of honey on your face and awaken to less-stressed skin." Swirl a small amount of honey onto a cotton swab and dab onto your blemish. If you want a little extra boost, Wallace suggests mixing the honey with tea tree oil and lavender oil for additional natural cleansing.
Though it's not meant for removing delicate eye makeup, honey still makes a good cleanser. "It is amazing at dissolving other makeup, especially when mixed with your favorite natural plant oil and spices," Wallace tells us. She suggests creating a mixture of honey and oil (try coconut oil or jojoba oil) to form a balmy texture that is slippery enough to slide across your face. "Add in a dash of cinnamon, turmeric or nutmeg for an aromatic treat. Massage the concoction over your face, loosening up heavy makeup and moisturizing your skin at the same time."
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You can exfoliate your skin once or twice a week with a gentle scrub made with two parts honey and one part Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. "Baking soda offers light exfoliation while the honey soothes and smooths the skin," explains Wallace. "Don't be shy about using this recipe from head to toe — your arms, legs and feet will also benefit from this simple yet effective concoction."
Once you start dealing with dry winter skin, turn to honey to soothe. "As the seasons change, your skin can go into overdrive trying to rebalance itself to the conditions. Warm baths with soothing ingredients can keep your skin in check," affirms Wallace. "Add two cups of honey to a running bath to create body-smoothing bliss. Soak for 15 minutes and then add a cup of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda for your final 15 minutes to help rid your body of dead skin cells without irritation."
Honey is often considered to be a healthy option for weight loss. Lemon and honey mixed with warm water in the morning is a popular remedy people most often restore to, to bring their weight issues under control. But does honey help in weight loss? Before jumping to the uses or benefits of honey in weight loss, it is important to address the doubts people often express regarding honey.
The body needs essential nutrients and vitamins to digest sugar. Normally, when we consume refined sugar, to digest it and to dissolve the fat & cholesterol content related to it, vitamins and minerals that are already stored in the body are utilized. Therefore, when you regularly eat too much of white sugar, it eventually leads to weight gain not because of the high amount of calories in the sugar but because of lack of minerals and vitamins in the body that are essential for its digestion. Consuming honey on the other hand, balances this effect by providing the required amount of minerals and vitamins thus making losing and balancing weight an easier proposition.
It may, therefore, be correct to say that honey for weight loss is a safe choice because it provides fibre, protein, water, energy, iron, sodium, potassium and calcium and is also a rich source of folate, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B6 & C among others. For people who are obese, daily consumption of honey helps in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disorders while keeping their weight in check. A recent study also suggests that as compared to sugar, honey may aid in reducing cholesterol levels and it can lead to lower increase in plasma glucose levels when consumed with care.