Cave paintings show that around 8,000 years ago, honey was first being used by humans, although there was no evidence of humans keeping and cultivating colonies of bees until 2,400 BC. Honey is one of the most appreciated and valued natural products introduced to humankind since ancient times. Honey is used not only as a nutritional product but also in health described in traditional medicine and as an alternative treatment for clinical conditions ranging from wound healing to cancer treatment. This review aims to emphasize the ability of honey and its multitude in medicinal aspects. Honey has a potential therapeutic role in the treatment of disease by phytochemical, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. In conclusion, honey could be considered as a natural therapeutic agent for various medicinal purposes. Sufficient evidence exists recommending the use of honey in the management of disease conditions. Based on these facts, the use of honey in clinical wards is highly recommended.
What is honey & how to collect?
Honey is a sweet liquid made by bees using the nectar from flowers. It is graded by colour, with the clear, golden amber honey often fetching a higher retail price than the darker varieties. The flavour of a particular type of honey will vary based on the types of flower from which the nectar was harvested. Both raw and pasteurized forms of honey are available. Raw honey is removed from the hive and bottled directly, and as such will contain trace amounts of yeast, wax, and pollen. Consuming local raw honey is believed to help with seasonal allergies, due to repeated exposure to the pollen in the area. Pasteurized honey has been heated and processed to remove impurities. Broadly, Honey can be categorized as raw or processed. Raw honey is a more natural form of honey and considered to be purer than the processed one, which is heated and bottled in a factory resulting in loss of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.
Honey has high levels of monosaccharides, fructose, and glucose, and it contains about 70 to 80 per cent sugar, which provides its sweetness. Honey also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Modern medical science has managed to find uses for honey in chronic wound management and combating infection.
Types of Honey:
The market currently is flooded with a vast variety of Honey, with each one bearing its characteristic taste, flavour and colour. To be precise, there are more than 300 types of honey that exist today and with each one boasting of a special set of health and nutritional benefits, Honey lovers are in for a sweet time. Different types of honey are categorized by the flower source but did you know that even if it was extracted from the same flower in the same location. There are a few types of honey mentioned below:
- Yemeni Sidr Honey
- Black Seed Sidr Honey
- Pure Mountain Honey with Saussurea Costus
- Pure Mountain Honey with Ginger
- Pure Mountain Honey with Black Seed
- Pure Mountain Honey with Sesame
- Pure Mountain Honey with Pollen
- Honey with Comb
- Manuka Honey
- Organic Brazilian Mountain Honey
- Organic Rainforest Honey & Black Seed
- Raw Thyme Honey
- Organic Multi-flower Honey
- Natural Black Seed Honey
- Natural Pure Raw Lime Honey
- Blossom Honey
- Organic Acacia Honey
- Rowse Blossom Pure & Natural Squeezable Honey
- Gale's Clear Honey
- Poly Flora Honey
- Royal Honey
Benefits of taking Honey:
1) Healing wounds and burns
There have been some cases in which people have reported positive effects of using honey in treating wounds. A review published in The Cochrane Library indicated that honey might be able to help heal burns. The lead author of the study said that “topical honey is cheaper than other interventions, notably oral antibiotics, which are often used and may have other deleterious side effects.”
However, there is a lack of evidence to fully support this claim. A study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases concluded that applying medical-grade honey to the wounds of patients has no advantage over normal antibiotics among patients undergoing dialysis.
Honey should never be given to young infants as it can cause botulism, a rare but severe type of food poisoning.
2) Reducing the duration of diarrhoea
According to research-based reviews on honey, it has been shown to decrease the severity and duration of diarrhoea. Honey also promotes increased potassium and water intake, which is particularly helpful when experiencing diarrhoea. Research that took place in Lagos, Nigeria suggests that honey has also shown the ability to block the actions of pathogens that commonly cause diarrhoea.
3) Preventing acid reflux
Recent research has shown that honey can reduce the upward flow of stomach acid and undigested food by lining the oesophagus and stomach. This has helped to reduce the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD can cause inflammation, acid reflux, and heartburn.
4) Fighting infections
In 2010, scientists from the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam reported in FASEB Journal that honey’s ability to kill bacteria lies in a protein called defensin-1.
A more recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases showed that a certain type of honey, called Manuka honey, can help prevent the bacteria Clostridium difficult from settling in the body. C. difficile is known for causing severe diarrhoea and sickness. Some studies have revealed that Manuka honey may even be effective for the treatment of MRSA infections.
5) Relieving cold and cough symptoms
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends honey as a natural cough remedy. The American Academy of Paediatrics also recognizes honey as a treatment for a cough.
However, they advise that honey is not suitable for children under the age of one year. A 2007 study by Penn State College of Medicine suggested that honey reduced night-time coughing and improved sleep quality in children with upper respiratory infection to a greater degree than the cough medicine dextromethorphan.
6) Replacing added sugar in the diet
Honey’s sweet flavour makes it an ideal substitute for sugar in the diet. Added sugar in the diet provides excess calories with no nutritional benefit. This can lead to increased body weight, which comes with an increased risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. As a general rule, use ¾ cup of honey for every one cup of sugar, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 2 tablespoons and lower the oven temperature by 25º Fahrenheit.
Here are some quick tips for including honey in the diet:
- Use honey to sweeten your dressings or marinades.
- Stir honey into coffee or tea.
- Drizzle honey on top of toast or pancakes.
- Mix honey into yoghurt, cereal, or oatmeal for a more natural sweetener.
- Spread raw honey over whole-grain toast and top with peanut butter.
Honey can be added to food and beverages to sweeten the taste without the negative health impact of added sugars. However, since honey is still a sweetener, it is important to remain mindful of how much honey being is used.
Honey has been used to treat a wide array of illnesses, ailments, and injuries. It can be mixed with other remedies and consumed or rubbed onto the skin. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine have attempted to use honey as a remedy for the following:
- Stress weakness
- Sleep disturbance
- Vision problems
- Bad breath
- Teething pain, in children over a year old
- Cough and asthma
- Stomach ulcers
- Diarrhoea and dysentery
- Bedwetting and frequent urination
- High blood pressure
- Hangover relief
- Eczema and dermatitis
- Burns, cuts, and wounds
While not all uses of honey are confirmed as effective, trying it as treatment will not make conditions any worse or cause harm. Honey is sometimes touted as a cosmetic solution for cracked, dry, pimply, or clogged skin.