Honey is a sweet, viscous food substance produced by bees and some related insects. It is made primarily of sugars, including fructose and glucose, and also contains enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Honey is used as a sweetener and a natural remedy for various ailments, and has been valued for its medicinal properties for centuries. It can be consumed by itself or used as an ingredient in a variety of foods and drinks. Additionally, honey is known to have antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It is a versatile and nutritious food that has many potential health benefits.
Brief History of Honey
Honey has a long history of use as a sweetener and medicine. It was likely first used by humans in prehistoric times, as evidence of honey hunting has been found in cave paintings dating back to 15,000 BC. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all kept bees and used honey in cooking, as medicine, and in religious ceremonies. Honey was also a valuable commodity in medieval Europe, where it was used as a form of currency and as a sweetener in cooking (1). Today, honey is still widely used as a sweetener and in traditional medicine, and it is also used in cosmetics and as an ingredient in some alcoholic beverages.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey has a variety of potential health benefits, due to its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Some of the potential benefits of consuming honey include:
Acting as a cough suppressant:
Honey has been found to be an effective treatment for soothing sore throats and relieving coughs. Honey has been used as a natural remedy for coughs for centuries. Studies have shown that honey may be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of coughing, especially in children. In one study, a single dose of honey was found to be as effective as a single dose of dextromethorphan, a common over-the-counter cough suppressant, in reducing coughing and improving sleep. Additionally, honey has been found to have antimicrobial properties, which may help to reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds and the flu, which can lead to coughing. Honey has also been found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce inflammation in the throat and airways, further reducing coughing (2).
Improving cardiovascular health:
Honey contains antioxidants that may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Honey may have potential benefits for cardiovascular health due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties may help to reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and lower the risk of heart disease. Some studies have found that consuming honey may help to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which are risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, honey has been found to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels, which may help to reduce the risk of diabetes and improve cardiovascular health (3).
Helping to regulate blood sugar
Due to its lower glycemic index, honey may be a good sweetener choice for people with diabetes. Honey may help regulate blood sugar levels due to its natural sugars, including glucose and fructose. Some studies have found that consuming honey may help to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. For example, one study found that consuming honey before a meal helped to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (4).
Some people believe that consuming honey can help to ease digestive issues such as acid reflux and constipation. Honey has been traditionally used as a natural remedy for digestive issues, such as indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation. Some studies have suggested that honey may have potential benefits for digestion due to its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Honey contains enzymes that can help to break down food and improve digestion. Additionally, it has been found to have antimicrobial properties, which may help to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut and improve gut health. Honey also has prebiotic properties, which means that it can help to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and improve gut health (5).
It's essential to remember that more research is needed to determine the true health benefits of honey. It's also important to note that consuming too much honey can lead to weight gain, and for people with diabetes it's essential to be mindful of the overall sugar intake.
How to use Honey
Honey can be used in a variety of ways, both as a sweetener and a natural remedy. Some ways to use honey include:
As a sweetener: Honey can be used as a sweetener in place of sugar in many recipes, such as in baking, marinades, and dressings.
In drinks: You can add honey to tea, coffee, or lemon water to make it sweeter.
As a spread: Honey can be spread on toast, pancakes, waffles or mixed with peanut butter for sandwiches.
In skin care: Honey has antibacterial and moisturizing properties, so it can be used as a face mask or added to a bath for skin benefits.
As a sore throat remedy: Honey can be mixed with warm water and lemon to soothe a sore throat.
As a natural remedy for coughs: Mix honey with a bit of cinnamon, it can help soothe a cough.
Written by: Alia Adrina Asri
Love Earth Nutritionist
BSc Nutrition (Hons)