Interestingly, honey has been with us since time immemorial as a remarkable natural sweetener that also boasts numerous medicinal benefits some of which are discussed in this article. It is mostly produced by honey bees of the genus Apis although bumblebees, stingless bees and honey wasps also produce a sort of honey. These honey bees convert the nectar of flowers into honey by a sequential process of swallowing, regurgitation and evaporation before proceeding to store the formed honey in honeycombs as a primary food source. You may have wondered why honey is so deliciously sweet. It is essentially a blend of sugar (especially monosaccharides fructose and glucose), vitamins, amino acids, minerals and some trace enzymes. Understandably, because of its alluring flavour and sweetness, honey has found a wide application in the food and beverage industry where it is used as a sweetener. Moreover, with its extremely acidic nature, honey is a prohibited area for most bacteria and microorganisms.
Broadly, the health benefits of honey which can be traced to its antibacterial, antifungal, hygroscopic and antioxidant properties are discussed below:
1. Treats cough and throat irritation
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends honey as an effective cough medication with comparable efficacy to dextromethorphan, a popular over-the-counter medication used in the treatment of cough and its associated sleeping difficulty in children. Also, health authorities in the United Kingdom recommend a warm drink of lemon and honey in the treatment of cough or throat irritation in children except those who are under 1 year of age since they stand the risk of developing infant botulism from honey consumption.
2. Treats wounds
Honey has been extensively applied in the treatment of skin wounds by virtue of its antibacterial, antifungal and hygroscopic properties. It helps to absorb excess moisture from wounds (hygroscopy) and effectively fights off infectious agents in most wounds. In addition, honey has debriding properties hence, it helps to remove dead or necrotic tissues from wounds, keeping them clean and promoting wound healing. All these properties are in keeping with the findings of the National Institutes of Health. Furthermore, honey encourages the production of hydrogen peroxide in the wound through the activity of an enzyme glucose oxidase which helps to fend off infection by obligate anaerobes, particularly Clostridium tetani that is responsible for tetanus, a feared complication of improperly treated wounds.
3. Treats ulcers and bacterial gastroenteritis
Honey has also been found useful in the management of ulcers and bacterial infections of the gut. Helicobacter pylori is a common culprit in the pathophysiology of Peptic Ulcer Disease and honey, through its antimicrobial activity may play a role in the eradication of this microorganism. Similarly, its antibacterial activity accounts for its potential usefulness in treating bacterial gastroenteritis. In clinical studies, honey has been shown to kill Salmonella and Escherichia coli which are common causative agents of food poisoning.
4. Treats seasonal allergies
Because honey contains traces of flower pollen, exposure to these allergens while eating honey may lead to immune responses that reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions. However, this potential benefit has not been adequately proven and is still being researched.
5. Good for athletes
Honey has been shown to boost the performance of athletes. Honey is calorie-dense and a tablespoon of it contains about 17g of carbohydrates apart from additional nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. According to the National Honey Board, it’s rewarding for athletes to add honey to their bottle of water to boost energy during workouts. More still, modern studies revealed that athletes that eat honey have improved recovery time and sustained glycemic levels when compared to their counterparts who consume other sweeteners.
6. Treats dandruff and other scalp disorders
By virtue of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, honey has been applied in the treatment of dandruff and similar scalp conditions. A study was done on patients with chronic seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. In all the patients, considerable resolution of symptoms and disease was obtained within 2 weeks of honey treatment.
7. Boosts memory
According to Reuters, honey may show some benefit in boosting memory. A research conducted on some healthy post-menopausal women found that those who ate honey performed better on short-term memory tests than others.