Published January 5, 2020
By Olufunke Faluyi
A visit to the wound care section of one of the nation’s teaching hospitals recently encouraged me to write about honey. I saw that they used it in dressing the wounds of patients.
Honey is a natural product made by bees from nectar which is a secretion of flowers of plants. The bees particularly of the genus Apis are known for honey production. Commercial honey production exploits bees through the perfection of bee keeping. Honey is, in effect, a natural product even at the industrial scale.
Honey has a long medicinal history; the ancient Egyptians not only made offerings of honey to their gods, they also used it as an embalming fluid and a dressing for wounds.
Today, many people use honey because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Holistic practitioners consider it one of nature’s best all-around remedies.
In addition to important roles of natural honey in traditional medicine during the past few decades, it has been subjected to laboratory and clinical investigations by several research groups and it found a place in modern medicine. Honey has been reported to have an inhibitory effect on around 60 species of bacteria, some species of fungi and viruses
The benefits are explained below:
Healthy sweetener: It can be used as a substitute for sugar in many foods and drinks. It contains about 69 per cent glucose and fructose, enabling it to be used as a sweetener which is far better for one’s overall health than normal white sugar.
Weight loss: Though it has more calories than sugar, honey helps in digesting the fat stored in one’s body. Similarly, honey with lemon juice or cinnamon helps in reducing weight.
Provides relief for cough: In 2012, a research was conducted on 300 children of age one to five years to find out the effect of honey on nocturnal cough and sleep quality. The results published in the Pediatrics Journals showed that honey could be a preferable treatment for a cough and sleep difficulty associated with childhood upper respiratory tract infections.
Boosts energy: According to the USDA, honey contains about 64 calories per tablespoon ; therefore, it is used by many people as a source of energy. Furthermore, the carbohydrates in it can be easily converted into glucose since it is simple for the body to digest this pure and natural substance.
Improves performance: Research has shown that honey is effective in boosting an athlete’s performance. It is a great way to maintain blood sugar levels, recuperate muscles, and restore glycogen after a workout.
Improves memory: Honey contains polyphenols that can significantly improve the memory-related functions of the brain. It counters deficits in recall functions and induces memory formation at the molecular level.
It is this modulation of neural circuitry that helps in improving memory. Research on Tualang honey, multi-floral honey found in Malaysia, showed that its intake improves the brain morphology to improve various learning and memory functions.
Rich in vitamins and minerals: It contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. The type of vitamins, minerals and their quantity depend on the type of flowers used for apiculture. Commonly, honey contains vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
Antiseptic property: It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, so it is often used as a natural antiseptic in traditional medicines. In-vitro tests on different medical-grade honeys showed potent bactericidal activity even in the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause life-threatening infections in humans. However, the antimicrobial activity depends on the source of nectar.
Antioxidant properties: It contains nutraceuticals highly effective for the removal of free radicals from the body. As a result, one’s body immunity is improved against many chronic health conditions. A study on the antioxidant properties of honey, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, attributed these qualities to the presence of a wide range of compounds, which include phenolics, peptides, Maillard reaction products, organic acids, enzymes, and other minor components.
Anticancer properties: A review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that there is growing evidence of honey’s anticancer potential. This is displayed by its antiproliferative, apoptosis, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. However, the floral source also decides its properties. Another article published in the same journal pointed out that as a natural substance, honey is a sustainable and low-cost option in cancer care in developing nations.
Skin and hair care: Milk and honey are often served together since both of these ingredients help in creating smooth, beautiful skin. Consuming this combination every morning is a common practice in many countries for this reason. A study published in the European Journal of Medical Research investigated and confirmed the use of honey for dandruff and dermatitis. It said that crude honey could markedly improve seborrheic dermatitis, its associated hair loss and prevent relapse when applied weekly.
Speeds wound healing: Significant research is being carried out to study its benefits in the treatment of wounds. These have been listed below: honey possesses antimicrobial properties, helps in promoting autolytic debridement and deodorises malodorous wounds.
It also speeds up the healing process by stimulating wound tissues and helps in initiating the healing process in dormant wounds.
These healing powers are not overstated. The Waikato Honey Research Unit provides details about the worldwide research being carried out on the benefits of honey in medicine.
According to a British Broadcasting Corporation report ; doctors at the Christie Hospital in Didsbury, Manchester are planning to use it for faster recovery of cancer patients after surgery. Such research will provide scientific evidence for the beliefs held by honey lovers all over the world and will help in propagating the benefits to more people.
The Russians used honey in World War I to prevent wound infection and to accelerate wound healing. The Germans combined cod liver oil and honey to treat ulcers, burns, fistulas and boils .
Nearly all types of wounds like abrasion, abscess, amputation, bed sores /decubitus ulcers, burns, chill blains, burst abdominal wound, cracked nipples, fistulas, diabetic, malignant, leprosy, traumatic, cervical, varicose and sickle cell ulcers, septic wounds, surgical wound or wounds of abdominal wall and perineum are found to be responsive to honey therapy. Application of honey as wound dressing leads to stimulation of healing process and rapidly clears the infection. Honey has cleansing action on wounds, stimulates tissue regeneration and reduces inflammation. Honey impregnated pads act as non-adhesive tissue dressing .
Opthalmology and honey
Honey is used worldwide for the treatment of various ophthalmological conditions like blepharitis, keratitis, conjunctivitis, corneal injuries, chemical and thermal burns to the eyes . In one study, with topical application of honey as ointment, in 102 patients with non responsive eye disorders, improvement was seen in 85 per cent patients and in the remaining 15 per cent there was no disease progression. Application of honey in infective conjunctivitis reduced redness, swelling, pus discharge and time to bacterial eradication.
Helps for digestive issues
Honey is sometimes used to treat digestive issues such as diarrhoea, though there is not much research to show that it works. It is proven to be effective as a treatment for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, a common cause of stomach ulcers. It is also a potent prebiotic. Prebiotics are a special form of dietary fiber that acts as a fertiliser for the good bacteria in your gut.
Soothes sore throat
Have a cold? Try a spoonful of honey. Honey is an old sore throat remedy. Add it to hot tea with lemon when a cold virus hits you.
It also works as a cough suppressant. Research has suggested that honey is as effective as dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in over-the-counter cough medication. Just take one or two teaspoonfuls of honey straight.
Antiviral effect of honey
In addition to antibacterial and antifungal effects, natural honey has showed antiviral effect. Al-Waili (2004) investigated the effect of the topical application of honey on recurrent attacks of herpes lesions and concluded that topical honey application was safe and effective in the management of the signs and symptoms of recurrent lesions from labial and genital herpes compared to acyclovir cream. Honey has also been reported to have inhibitory effects on rubella virus activity .
Prevents acid reflux
Research has shown that honey can reduce the upward flow of stomach acid and undigested food by lining the esophagus and stomach. This has helped to reduce the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD can cause inflammation, acid reflux, and heartburn.
Now that you know the benefits of honey, how do you eat it? You can eat it raw, add it to water or different beverages, and you can also add it to several recipes.
Honey is natural and considered harmless for adults. But pediatricians strongly caution against feeding honey to children under one year old.This is because of the risk of botulism. The spores of the botulism bacteria are found in dust and soil that may make their way into honey. According to Jatinder Bhatia , MD , a Georgia neonatologist who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Nutrition, infants do not have a developed immune system to defend against infection.
For diabetics, they should consult their doctors before including honey in their diets.
The major problem is how to get pure honey; most of the honey you find in grocery stores are pasteurised. Many of the beneficial nutrients are destroyed in the process.
If you are interested in trying raw honey, buy it from a trusted local producer.
Let us look at ways to identify pure honey:
Take a teaspoon of honey, Put in a glass full of water. Adulterated honey will dissolve in water while pure honey will settle at the bottom of the glass as a lump.
Dip a dry match stick in honey, strike against the matchbox. If it lights, your honey is pure.
If you heat pure honey, it will caramelise quickly and will not become foamy. Impure honey will not caramelise.
When genuine honey is spread on a slice of bread, the bread hardens, fake honey will make the bread wet due to the moisture content.
Genuine honey does not get absorbed when poured on white blotting paper. Fake honey gets absorbed in blotting paper and leaves stains on a white piece of clothing. Honey is another gift of nature. Try to get a bottle.