Health Benefits of Honey

My son’s recurring common cold problem, again sparked the usual family debate – whether to give him honey on a regular basis or not. My father insists that a little bit of honey, tulasi leaves, ginger etc. are essential on a regular basis, to help build immunity in a child. My uncle is a Chwanprash guy. Others including me hold no position. Plus over the last few weeks there has been a lot of biased debate on Baba Ramdev’s Ayurveda products. This got me thinking and I decided to do some research on the health benefits of honey.

Honey contains a treasure chest of hidden nutritional and medicinal value for centuries. (1) Over four thousand years ago, honey was used as a traditional Ayurveda medicine, where it was thought to be effective at treating material imbalances in the body. (4) Honey was considered to be nature’s gift to mankind and was prescribed as an essential ingredient of every kitchen. It was seen as an important part of the diet for anyone over 12 months of age. Almost 30% of the Sumerians’ medical treatments included honey. (7)

Honey is a natural cough remedy. (4) Honey’s scientific super powers contribute to its vastly touted health benefits for the whole body. Honey acts like a natural vaccine. (1) A tablespoon of raw honey contains 64 calories, is fat-free, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free, says the National Honey Board. (2) Honey is believed to be as effective as the common cough suppressant ingredient dextromethorphan. It can be used in treating upper respiratory tract infections. Honey is a natural antibiotic that can act both internally and externally. Honey has been utilized for its medicinal properties for over 2,000 years and continues its legacy as a multipurpose health aid. (1)

The United States National Honey Board recommends consumption of honey because it contains many vitamins and minerals in small amounts. A list of these include: niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. (7)

List of Health Benefits of Honey

  1. Anti-allergy
    Honey’s anti-inflammatory effects and ability to soothe coughs can also reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. (1) One placebo-controlled study which included 36 people with ocular allergies, found that participants responded better to treatment with honey compared to placebo. (4)
  2. Energy Drink
    Honey is an excellent source of all-natural energy, and this natural unprocessed sugar — fructose and glucose — directly enter the bloodstream and can deliver a quick boost of energy. (1) This is particularly true for athletes looking for a “time-released fuel” to provide energy over a longer duration. (5)
  3. Boosts Memory
    Honey has antioxidants that may help prevent cellular damage and loss within the brain. (1)
  4. Cough Suppressant
    A persistent cough that won’t go away can easily be remedied with two teaspoons of honey, according to a 2012 study published in the journal Pediatrics. (1) (3) According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, which compared honey to placebo in helping children with cough during night time, it was found that honey was superior and that parents rated the honey products higher than the silan date extract for symptomatic relief of their children’s nocturnal cough and sleep difficulty due to URI (upper respiratory infection). (4)
  5. Sleep Aid
    honey can cause a rise in insulin and release serotonin — a neurotransmitter that improves mood and happiness. The body converts serotonin into melatonin, a chemical compound that regulates the length and the quality of sleep. (1)
  6. Acid Reflux
    As honey is 125.9 more viscous than distilled water at 37 celsius (body temperature), honey may be helpful in preventing GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux). (4)
  7. Infantile gastroenteritis
    Honey shortens the duration of bacterial diarrhea in infants and young children, does not prolong non-bacterial diarrhea duration, and may safely be used as a substitute for glucose in oral rehydration solution containing electrolytes. (4)
  8. Honey can Treat Wounds
    Honey has antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidants activities that make it ideal for treating wounds. Honey releases hydrogen peroxide through an enzymatic process, which explains its general antiseptic qualities. (5) Honey helps in promoting autolytic debridement, deodorizes malodorous wounds, speeds up the healing process by stimulating wound tissues, helps in initiating the healing process in dormant wounds and helps in promoting moist wound healing. (6)
  9. Anti-Dandruff
    Honey diluted with a bit of warm water was shown to significantly improve seborrheic dermatitis, which is a scalp condition that causes dandruff and itching. (5)
  10. Cure for Herpes Symptoms
    A study concluded, that for labial herpes, the mean healing time was 43 percent better, and for genital herpes, 59 percent better than an antiviral drug. Pain and crusting was also significantly reduced with the honey, compared to the drug. (5)
  11. Weight Loss
    When honey is consumed with warm water, it helps in digesting the fat stored in your body. Similarly, honey and lemon juice as well as honey and cinnamon help in reducing weight.(6)
  12. Improves Immunity
    Honey contains nutraceuticals, which are very effective for the removal of free radicals from the body. As a result, our body immunity is improved against many conditions, even potentially fatal ones like cancer or heart disease. (6)
  13. Good for Yoga Practitioners
    For those doing yogic practices, consuming honey brings balance to the blood chemistry and is especially recommended. Regular intake of honey makes the system more vibrant. Taking tepid water mildly laced with honey in the morning before beginning the practice can open the system up. (7)

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References and Further Reading


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Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay

I am an independent Management Consultant. In my previous corporate career, I have worked in Banking, Private Equity and Software industry. I like doing equity research and financial analysis in my free time. I also enjoy reading and writing on history and current affairs related matters.

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