Bees, their keepers, and honey have been in the news quite a bit over the past several years. From the decrease in bee populations to the resulting growing popularity of beekeeping, particularly in urban settings, and the significant effects these changes have on our food sources—excuse the pun—but there’s been quite a buzz. This vital pollinating species also provides a favorite sweet treat that has been viewed essentially as liquid gold for centuries. That’s right, I’m talking about honey. So, grab a jar, a spoon, and join me in finding out some of the benefits of honey.
As the daughter of a beekeeper, honey often serves as the first stage of intervention for coughs, treatment of wounds and even burns. It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “Eat some honey,” or “Put some honey on it,” in response to an admission of one of the above complaints. Why is honey such a popular home remedy that has withstood the tests of time?
1. Honey contains antioxidants, like Vitamin C, monophenols, flavonoids, and polyphenols. Antioxidants interact with free radicals and prevent any resulting damage to the cells that make up the body. Darker honeys, like Buckwheat honey, contain higher levels of antioxidants. The different shades of gold seen in honey are determined by the types of nectar the bees have access to. Darker honeys also tend to have a stronger flavoring.
2. Honey has some antiseptic and antibacterial properties. The pH of honey tends to be slightly acidic, which prevents the growth of bacteria. This is one of the reasons why honey has a never ending shelf life. It doesn't go bad.
3. Honey can help relieve nocturnal coughing from upper respiratory infections, according to the World Health Organization. Research has shown that the nerve fibers that get a cough started resemble the nerve fibers that allow you to taste sweetness. As a result, the sweetness in honey helps to fight the urge to cough. Taking 2 teaspoons before bed can provide relief through the night. However, keep in mind, coughing is not always a bad thing. It helps the body clear out our systems. Too much honey can also cause difficulty sleeping, cavities, etc. Honey is not advisable for children under the age of 1 because of the risk of infant botulism.
4. Honey can help treat wounds and mild burns. Honey is a pretty amazing substance. It has a low concentration of water, causing it to absorb water from the environment around it. This keeps the skin moist when applied to a wound under a gauze dressing, which encourages the regeneration of tissue. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey mentioned earlier can also be beneficial when treating small wounds and mild burns.
It is important to remember that scientific research for the uses and values of honey are still going on and being solidified. But, centuries of home remedies have shown that honey is a good complement to a healthy diet and treatment of minor home injuries as described above. I hope this snapshot into the world of honey will stick with you and come to mind the next time you are at the grocery store or passing a honey stall at the farmer's market.
Until Next Time,
Abby Scheer, DC
Paul I, Beiler J, McMonagle A, Shaffer M, Duda L, Berlin C. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. 2007;161(12):1140-6.
Schramm DD, Karim M, Schrader HR, Holt RR, Cardetti M, Keen CL. Honey with high levels of antioxidants can provide protection to healthy human subjects. 2003;51(6):1732-5.