The Health Benefits of Honey

Whether against sore throats, infected wounds, or upset digestion, the health benefits of honey have been demonstrated time and time again.

| February/March 1999

  • health benefits of honey
    Whether you eat the sweet sticky stuff or apply it externally, the health benefits of honey make (nearly) everything better — inside and out.
    PHOTO: SHAFER/SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY

  • health benefits of honey

Spring brings a picture-perfect day. You’re enjoying yourself on a well-deserved vacation. Then you fall, a victim of loose gravel. Your leg is a mess. At the local hospital, you’re given a cream to apply two times a day to keep infection at bay. Returning home after a week of pain and aches, your leg isn’t healing as it should. A call to the local herbalist or homeopath, and it’s suggested that you apply honey to the wound. That’s too simple. “How can honey do anything to help this?” you ask. The reply, “Honey not only can heal, it will improve your overall health.”

Sweeteners come in many forms, but no other has the health benefits of honey. It remains the one confection offering life-giving qualities. Sugar has more calories. Many artificial sweeteners ultimately do more harm than good. But honey is a natural choice, even for diabetics (in moderation). The bear in the woods knew what he was doing when he fought the bees to get to his favorite sweet stuff.

Native Americans learned from the animals around them. As they watched a bear walk through swarms of bees, pulled like a magnet to the hive despite being stung many times over, they had to observe the pain the animal endured to get the sticky stuff. When they finally got their own hands on honey, they discovered that it not only tasted great, but it healed their bee stings and other cuts, too. The women used it on their faces. Taken for colds, it soothed sore throats. Given to children in the evening, honey was found to keep many an animal skin dry by morning.

Modern creams and antibiotics may help heal, but they often have the disadvantage of killing tissue and causing scabs and scars. But not all of us think to put honey under that Band-Aid or bandage. Results of a three year clinical trial at the University Teaching Hospital in Calabar, Nigeria, showed that unprocessed honey can heal wounds when more modern dressings and antibiotic treatments fail. In 59 patients treated for wounds and external ulcers, honey was effective in all but one case. Topical applications kept sterile wounds sterile until they had time to heal, while infected wounds became sterile within a week. Honey was also shown to remove dead tissue from persistent wounds, helping some patients avoid skin grafts or amputations.



“Honey provides a moist healing environment yet prevents bacterial growth even when wounds are heavily infected,” notes Dr. Peter Molan of the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. “It is a very effective means of quickly rendering heavily infected wounds sterile, without the side effects of antibiotics, and it is even effective against antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.”

What gives honey its healing capacity? A combination, it seems, of several factors: Honey’s acidity, or pH, is low enough to hinder or prevent the growth of many species of bacteria, although this acidity may be neutralized as honey is diluted, with, for example, body fluids from a cut or wound. Then there’s honey’s osmolarity, or tendency to absorb water from a wound, which deprives bacteria of the moisture they need to thrive. Hydrogen peroxide plays another big part. When honey is diluted (again, say, with fluids from a wound) an enzyme is activated to produce hydrogen peroxide, which, as we know, is a potent antibacterial (who doesn’t have a brown bottle of this stuff in their medicine cabinet?). Honey has also been shown to reduce the inflammation and soothe the pain of deep wounds and burns. And honey dressings won't stick to wounds, since what ends up in contact with the affected area is a solution of honey and fluid that can be easily lifted off or rinsed away. That means no pain when changing dressings, notes Molan, and no tearing away of newly formed tissue.

starlytes.planet
9/26/2017 5:11:07 PM

I live on 3,300m² of land in the outskirts of a French village. The garden is mature and quite wild, with a stream. I'd like to start a small bee hive or 2, with a minimum financial out put (the house is old and in need of work, so money goes mainly into that!). Can any one give me any advice on beginning bees, please? Honey, unpasteurized, natural and un-cut with sugar, is hard to come by, or VERY expensive. It's such a wealth of goodness, and the only way I can see me getting it is by having bees.


lindashirley46
9/15/2017 10:32:26 AM

What did you mean by this: "Given to children in the evening, honey was found to keep many an animal skin dry by morning."


golferdude619
9/28/2014 3:00:18 PM

Hi everyone. I've read a few claims that local honey helps with allergies. I have a hard time believing it to be true. This article supports my claim that it isn't true. Point #2. http://www.viralbistro.com/10-annoying-myths-honey-ever/ Help anyone??







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