Honey - known to some as the nectar of the gods - is a delicious, thick golden liquid that’s made by honeybees and savoured by people around the world. Honey’s one of the sweetest substances you can find on the planet, making it a favourite for children with a sweet tooth!
Honey makes a great alternative to processed sugar. It’s certainly sweet enough to replace it, and it also has a more intricate flavour. Not only does it have a richer flavour, but it has a lot of health benefits that you won’t find in your everyday processed table sugar.
Honey’s typically imagined as gold but it actually comes in a variety of colours from amber to white to brown and black. It depends on which flower was used to provide the nectar the honey was made from. This means that the nutritional impact of different types of honeys can be slightly different.
There is only a couple differences between honeys in terms of nutritional benefit. There is, however, a huge difference in the health benefit of honeys that have been processed and packaged. You’ll want to buy raw honey as often as possible because its nutrients won’t be damaged. The main types of honey you’ll want to look out for are table honey (the typical variety you’ll find for sale at your grocery store) and manuka honey.
Table honey is processed, inconsistent in terms of quality, and generally nowhere near as healthy for you as an unprocessed honey or manuka honey.
Raw honey can be made from any plant, just like table honey, but this variety has undergone minimal processing and hasn’t been treated with heat. The raw product has most of its bioactive compounds intact, making it much healthier for you than table honey.
Manuka honey is made from the manuka tree. This tree is only found in New Zealand. In particular, manuka honey is known for being high in methylglyoxal, an antibacterial compound. For much of this article, we’ll be referring to manuka honey.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey is made by bees harvesting nectar with their mouths, which is then mixed with enzymes in the bee spit which turns the nectar into honey. The honey is carried back to the hive where it’s deposited in the walls for storage.
Considering honey is the bees’ main food supply, it makes sense that it would be highly nutritious. It doesn’t contain a whole lot of vitamins and minerals, per se, but honey’s certainly got a lot of antioxidants. Here’s a look at its nutritional profile in terms of vitamins and minerals, per ounce.
Carbohydrates - 11.54% of your daily recommended intake (D.R.I.)
Being practically made of sugar, honey is naturally quite high in carbohydrates.
Vitamin B2 - 1.18% of your D.R.I.Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, plays a role in energy production and tissue maintenance.
Copper - 1% of your D.R.I.
Copper helps your body grow strong tissues and bones, much like the more well-known mineral magnesium.
Manganese - 1.5% of your D.R.I.
Manganese also helps your body’s bones grow strong, as well as helping to regulate the growth of strong skin.
Iron - 1% of your D.R.I.
Iron helps your body produce blood cells and can lead to anemia if you don’t get a regular supply.
Honey also contains between 0.01% and 0.99% of your D.R.I. for zinc, sodium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, folate, choline, and vitamin B6. That’s a huge variety of vitamins and minerals for any one food to contain, even if they’re in trace amounts.
These aren’t the only nutrients present in honey, either. There are a fair number of phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) and antioxidants found in the stuff. It’s difficult to create a comprehensive list of all these micronutrients and plant-based nutrients, though - in part because we don’t even know if we’ve identified them all.
What we are sure of, though, is that honey has been studied again and again. It demonstrates a huge number of health benefits when consumed in healthy amounts of one to two teaspoons daily. Here are some of the benefits that consuming honey on a regular basis can provide - remember, manuka honey will provide the strongest benefits when compared to raw honey. Raw honey provides better benefits than typical store-bought honey.
Honey Boosts The Immune System
The immune system is a complex combination of mechanisms in the human body that's responsible for fighting of infections and diseases. Having a properly functioning immune system is crucial to avoid getting seriously ill – without a healthy immune system, even a common flu can reach a deadly seriousness.
The lifestyle lived by most westerners is not good for the immune system. We rely on antibiotics to cure illnesses and we eat a lot of junk food. Fortunately things like honey can help boost the immune system.
Honey, being an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, can take a lot of stress off the immune system. This allows it to work more effectively, instead of being overworked. Consuming a lot of foods that help detoxify your body and improve its metabolism and digestion is very important for taking strain off the immune system.
Honey can also be used as part of a daily cleansing regimen. Mix a teaspoon of honey with a teaspoon of lemon juice. The lemon juice should be acidic enough to dissolve the honey - if not, simply stir it in some hot water and then add the mixture to a glass of cool water. This powerful, yet simple concoction will help your body clear itself of toxins. This will allow your immune system to get stronger and more efficient at fighting off disease.
Conclusion: The immune system operates by many mechanisms which protect the body and fight off disease. Honey can bolster the immune system by taking some of the strain off its different systems. This allows the immune system to work more effectively on important tasks, and become stronger and more efficient.
2. Honey Is Comparable To Pharmaceutical Cough Medicine
If you're susceptible to coughs and colds, you've probably shelled out a lot of money on pharmaceutical cough medicine. Dextromethorphan, the common ingredient shared in most over-the-counter cough syrups, is pretty effective at inhibiting coughs. This doesn't particularly help your body develop its own defenses against coughs, though.
First off, honey soothes the nerve endings in the throat. This is why it's such a popular home remedy for sore throats and coughs – it keeps the tissues calm and relieves itching.
The World Health Organization has even credited honey as being an effective anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant that can eliminate coughs with startling efficacy. Honey has even rivaled traditional over-the-counter medicines with its ability to fight coughs.
To make an awesome cough syrup out of natural ingredients, try this simple recipe:
You will need:
Some raw manuka honey
Heat up a pint of honey in a small saucepan on low heat. Don't heat it for too long or too much, or you can damage the antioxidants and other compounds that are beneficial for your health. In a separate pan, boil enough water to cover your lemon. Put the lemon in once it’s boiling and let it sit for a few minutes to kill any bacteria on the skin.
Let it cool, then slice it and add it to the warm honey. Simmer on a very low temperature for an hour so the lemon juice infuses with the honey, and then try and strain any solids out from the mixture (this can be tricky if the mixture turns out thick. Ultimately, it's not necessary.)
This can be kept in the fridge and should store for a couple months. Try not to take more than four tablespoons a day, and space them out evenly.
Conclusion: Honey has shown itself to be very effective as a cough suppressant. Not only does it suppress coughs, but it eases the pain and soreness associated with having a cough. It can be easily made into a simple syrup and statistically been shown to be as effective as over the counter medicine.
3. Honey Helps The Body Heal Its Wounds Faster
Honey's a great antibiotic. This means that if you apply it to wounds, your body can focus more on closing and repairing the actual wound instead of having to deal with fighting off bacteria and infections.
Honey used to be a popular wound dressing in the early 1900s. Penicillin became extremely popular and honey less so, but in recent years, natural medicines have been making a comeback. Manuka honey has been shown to fight off hundreds of different strains of bacteria.
The “Unique Manuka Factor” is sometimes considered to be responsible for these anti-bacterial properties. Researchers aren't sure whether this is a single enzyme, a group of antioxidants, or what – but it's proof that manuka honey differs from regular honey in some powerful ways.
As an extra bonus, honey doesn't sting like other disinfecting agents like hydrogen peroxide. If anything, it feels slightly cooling – a much nicer alternative.
Conclusion: Manuka honey's “Unique Manuka Factor,” a compound or compounds yet to be identified by researchers, is very useful when applied to wounds on the human body. The honey helps fight infections and allows the body to repair itself quicker.
4. Honey Can Improve Your Cognitive Function
Maintaining a healthy cognitive function - the activity of your brain - is a priority for pretty much everyone. Considering our brain’s the control panel that guides us through our entire lives, it’s pretty vital that we keep our brain in good condition.
Antioxidants are particularly useful for preventing oxidative damage in the brain. Oxidation is a natural process, but it can occur too quickly or too fast, leading to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Antioxidants also help the brain absorb the nutrients it needs to function properly.
Honey has plenty of antioxidants in it! Adding as little as a teaspoon a day to your daily diet could be enough for you to reap the cognitive benefits of honey’s healing properties. This can also slow the onset of dementia and prevent cognitive diseases!
Conclusion: Honey has a bunch of antioxidants in it that are known to help improve the brain's function. These antioxidants help brain cells receive proper nourishment, allowing them to function better.
5. Honey Has Antibacterial Properties
But this doesn’t mean you should start lathering honey onto your open wounds. Or does it? Studies have shown that honey’s extremely effective at disinfecting wounds from certain bacteria, like those that cause staph infections - particularly Staphylococcus aureus, which has shown to be extremely resistant to lots of typical antibiotics.
Putting a pinch of honey on the underside of your band-aid might actually give you the upper hand in fighting infection. Using natural antibacterial compounds can give your body enough strength to fight off infections that it might not be able to on its own, giving an ultimate boost to the strength of your immune system.
Conclusion: Honey is a potent antibacterial compound. It's been shown to fight staph infections, which are notorious for resisting antibiotic treatments.
6. Honey Can Improve The Quality Of Your Sleep
Many people resort to over-the-counter medicines to help them fall asleep. These can be a short-term answer, but can often make the problem worse. There are lots of natural remedies to consider, but honey is not often talked about as a sleep aid.
Honey causes a release of serotonin. It does this by causing the body to release insulin – the hormone responsible for properly metabolizing glucose and maintaining blood sugar. Insulin is what diabetics are desensitized to, which causes them to have extreme blood sugar spikes.
High insulin levels are linked to high amounts of serotonin being present in the brain. Serotonin is one of the primary feel-good hormones, alongside dopamine and GABA. Serotonin is directly involved in the brain's development of melatonin – which is something that a lot of people tend to purchase over-the-counter at pharmacies.
Sure, taking honey might be a long route towards raising your melatonin levels: but at least you're helping your body produce it by itself. Instead of directly supplementing with the hormone, which continues to remind your body that it doesn't need to produce it itself, you're teaching it how to synthesize it from serotonin.
On top of the release of insulin, several of the amino acids in honey create even more serotonin. L-Tryptophan – another supplement that many people purchase over the counter – is present in honey.
Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which, as we've said, is turned into melatonin.
This means that a tablespoon of honey before bed can give you as much bang as a melatonin supplement and a tryptophan supplement. Sounds like you'll be saving money with this natural remedy!
Conclusion: Honey is very useful for those who struggle with sleep. It contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is directly used in the synthesis of serotonin. It also causes an insulin spike which releases more serotonin. Serotonin is used to create melatonin, which is a hormone available in over-the-counter sleep aids. Achieving a healthy balance of melatonin is important for sleep.
7. Honey Can Help Fight Dandruff
Honey treats the skin pretty well. It's been shown to eliminate dandruff when applied to the scalp. Hold on – don't go smearing honey all over your scalp, if you want to have any hair left afterwards. You'll need to dilute it in some warm water so it doesn't completely stick to your hair.
Honey's a great anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. Fungus, skin inflammation, and bacteria are things that can all lead to dandruff. These are also things that expensive shampoos aim to eliminate.
Again, it seems that you'll be able to save money on your bills if you use honey instead of going to the pharmacy to unload your wallet on different hair products.
Even those who don't struggle with dandruff might want to use honey on their scalps. It's a great moisturizer and will leave your hair nicely conditioned; its ability to fight oxidation will keep your hair and skin looking healthy and fresh.
Conclusion: Applying honey to your scalp can help deal with some annoying issues, including itching and dandruff. Making a simple paste with honey and water can compare to using anti-dandruff shampoo.
8. Honey Can Help Fight Herpes Infections
Not everyone has to deal with the irritating bumps and rash-like sores that occur during herpes outbreaks. Heck, not even everyone gets cold sores during their lives - cold sores are another type of herpes that create painful sores in the mouth.
Fortunately, there’s a remedy for these unpleasant situations that you might already have in your cabinet at home. Not the medicine cabinet in your bathroom, though - the cabinet in your kitchen.
Studies have shown that honey can be more effective than acyclovir at fighting herpes outbreaks. Acyclovir is one of the most commonly used medicines for preventing herpes outbreaks, but can come with some nasty side effects like nausea and vomiting.
In that particular study, several of the patients treated with acyclovir experienced itching. Their sores crusted over more frequently. Those who used honey experienced no side effects and had fewer ores reach the crusting stage.
Conclusion: Honey has been studied for its efficacy as an agent to treat herpes outbreaks. It was shown to be more effective than acyclovir, which is one of the leading treatments. Using honey resulted in less sores, and the sores that emerged dwindled quicker.
9. Honey Is A Great Source Of Natural Energy
That’s right - honey’s one of the most delicious and effective natural sources of energy that our body can use.
Honey is unprocessed sugar, which means it’s filled with carbs and calories. Carbs and calories frighten a lot of people, but in natural foods like honey, the compounds aren’t nearly as bad as some would make them seem.
The positive benefits of honey’s massive antioxidant ability, combined with all the phytonutrients and other healthy surprises, vastly outweigh the fact that it’s very sugary. Besides - most benefits become apparent with only a teaspoon or two of honey consumed daily. Unless you’re eating entire jars of honey every day, you’ll be okay.
That said, some might actually suggest carrying a small jar of honey with you during the day instead of a thermos full of coffee. Or both. Coffee has enough benefits in its own right, and mixing the two together would be a surefire way to amp you up for a heavy day at work. At the very least, the added energy boost from the honey will allow you to cut back your caffeine consumption.
Conclusion: Honey is a great source of natural energy that doesn’t have as many drawbacks of more stimulating substances like coffee. While it can still be easy to overdue your honey intake, the risk is much lower. Honey can be used to reduce your intake of caffeinated products.
10. Honey Can Help Fight Allergies
If you're one of the folk who gets torn up with hay fever, then you might want to seek out honey as an alternative to Benadryl or other anti-allergy medicines.
It may seem strange that honey, made from pollen, can prevent against allergies – but you can consider this something like a vaccine. Vaccines contain small amounts of the disease that they fight, in manageable amounts. This trains your body to fight the disease.
When your body absorbs some of the honey's pollen, it begins producing antibodies to fight it. It's like your immune system kicking in to fight a full-fledged allergy, but since the amount of pollen is so small, it's much more likely to successfully beat it back. This helps your body build up a natural immunity to pollen related allergies.
Taking honey on a daily basis will improve your body's natural allergen defense. Taking just a teaspoon in the mornings is enough to bolster your ability to defend against allergies. It's recommended to start taking this a month or two before allergy season, to help build up a strong enough immunity.
Conclusion: Taking honey regularly before allergy season can help the body prepare for the pollen. It contains trace amounts, and ingesting it regularly allows your body to build an immunity - similar to taking vaccines for specific diseases.
11. Honey Can Help Fight Heartburn
Honey's a great weapon for fighting heartburn and other painful conditions related to acid reflux. Of course manuka honey is better at this than regular honey, but raw honey will do a good job as well.
Research suggests that the simple act of honey coating the esophagus is what eases the symptoms of acid reflux. It acts sort of like a mucus barrier would. In many cases, acid reflux is caused by a lack of mucus separating the tissues of the body from the harsh acids. Honey acts as a replacement shield!
Honey also helps maintain regular digestion. It has many enzymes and antioxidants that bolster the metabolism and the function of the digestive system. This can prevent outbreaks of acid reflux.
If you're prone to heartburn, eating a teaspoon of honey before a meal is a good way to protect yourself against acid reflux.
Conclusion: Honey is good for fighting acid reflux and combating the symptoms of heartburn. It coats the throat like a layer of mucus would, which can take away the burning sensation. It also helps promote fluid digestion.
12. Honey Can Help Fight Acne
Acne can strike during teenagehood and adulthood, but either way, nobody likes to deal with it. Honey's well-known for its ability to fight acne. It's a powerful moisturizer, and also has a few methods of fighting acne.
It's an anti-bacterial. Some acne is caused by bacterial growth that can cause breakouts.
It's a good exfoliator that can help your body force dirt and grease out of clogged pores.
It helps eliminate excess oil, which is known to cause clogged pores which eventually break out as acne.
Making a face mask with raw honey and lemon juice is an effective way to fight acne. This can be applied gently on the face or anywhere that acne proliferates and left for a few minutes before being rinsed or wiped off. Another recipe involves mixing honey with cinnamon, which is another even more potent antibacterial. The mixture is very powerful at eliminating the root cause of several different types of acne, and has been a very popular home remedy for years.
Conclusion: Honey targets a number of different causes for acne and eliminates them. It can prevent bacterial acne, it can unclog pores filled with dirt and can stop the skin from producing excess oil, which can also clog pores.
13. Honey Can Be Used As An Aphrodisiac
That's right – honey can even help you in the bedroom!
Not a lot of people use honey for this reason, but it's been used for many years. The Vikings even realized that honey was an effective aphrodisiac and believed that it improved fertility. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, was known to recommend honey to his patients to improve their sex drive.
Modern research suggests that it boosts the amount of testosterone in men, and can help balance estrogen in women.
Conclusion: Honey has been used since ancient times as an aphrodisiac. It produces more testosterone in men, balances estrogen in women, and is said to improve fertility.
14. Honey Can Treat Sinus Issues And Colds
A lot of sinus infections are due in part to inflammation. This causes a lot of irritating symptoms, like stuffiness, difficulty breathing, and the like.
Honey's an anti-inflammatory and is used to eliminate some of the side effects caused by sinus inflammation. It's also an antibacterial and can help get rid of the bacteria that caused the cold in the first place.
Taking honey when you feel the first symptoms of a cold emerging can speed along the process of getting better. There's a reason that your parents recommend honey-lemon tea for colds: the honey synergizes with the lemon to fight bacteria, and both help bolster your immune system. The honey can soothe your throat and ease stuffy noses.
Conclusion: Honey is a good weapon to use against the common cold. Taking it when you think you might be at risk of catching a cold can help offset the illness.
15. Honey Can Treat Yeast Infections
Yeast infections can be tremendously uncomfortable for women. They can be caused by a number of things – menstruation, improper hygiene, allergy, exposure to different situations... the list goes on.
Unfortunately, the list of symptoms isn't any shorter. Itchiness and unpleasant discharge and smell are the most common.
Some of the flavonoids in honey are able to keep Candida albicans from proliferating. Candida albicans is the yeast fungus that thrives when the pH level of the genital region gets out of balance. The flavonoids responsible are what give honey its anti-fungal properties.
Honey can be used topically on the genital region to prevent the infection from spreading and growing. If you don't want to use straight honey – it can get quite sticky – you can mix it with yogurt. If you don't think using yogurt would be pleasant, raw honey will work fine – it'll just take a few minutes to rinse off – particularly any that actually enters the vaginal cavity.
Conclusion: Honey is a very effective antifungal agent. It can be used to prevent Candida from proliferating – effectively halting yeast infections in their tracks
16. Honey Can Help Slow The Onset Of Cancer
Honey possesses natural carcinogenic fighting properties. Carcinogens are compounds that are known to cause cancer.
Honey's an anti-metastatic. This means it can fight off cancer by shrinking the size of tumours. There are several phenolic compounds in honey that are responsible for its anti-cancer properties.
Gallic acid is a polyphenol found mostly in fruit and nuts. It can treat a variety of ailments and has been studied for its ability to fight cancer and diseases caused by inflammation.
Chrysin is a flavonoid that's also found in passionflower and geraniums. It's used for many things including treating anxiety, fighting inflammation, and curing erectile dysfunction. It's been studied for its use enhancing testosterone and can be attributed to the aphrodisiac effect of honey.
Ellagic acid is also found in blackberries and raspberries. It's a cancer-fighting compound that also fights bacterial infections. Despite its usefulness, this compound is quickly excreted by the body.
Ferulic acid might be another contributing factor into honey's potential as an aphrodisiac. It helps the health of a man's sperm and can improve fertility.
Caffeic acid is primarily found in coffee, but is also present in other foods – including honey. It improves athletic performance, can help with weight loss, and fight against negative health conditions like cancer and herpes. It does most of this by exerting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
This is all in addition to the rest of the antioxidants present in honey, which generally inhibit oxidative damage. Oxidation is one of the leading causes of cancer.
Storing And Using Honey For Maximum Health
We’ve already discussed how to choose honey, but there are some tips you’ll want to keep in mind for storing it.
Keep honey stored at room temperature. Refrigerating it accelerates the crystallization process, which makes it hard to deal with.
If your honey does crystallize, you can keep it in the container and put it in some warm water. Stir it until the crystals dissolve. If it’s resilient, you can put it in a double-boiler.
When substituting honey for sugar in recipes, it’s good to start with half the suggested volume of sugar.
For each cup of honey you use, you’ll want to reduce the liquids in the recipe by about a quarter and add a half teaspoon of baking soda.
2 Amazing Recipes For You To Try
Now that you know how amazing honey is for you, here are a couple quick recipes you can whip up at home. Honey can be used in a lot more ways than just an ingredient in dessert - it can also make a main course transform from a tasty meal into something imaginative and delectable. Honey can also be used in a lot of non-culinary recipes, like face masks and hair shampoos. We’ve included a couple recipes like this earlier in the article, though, so the next couple are solely for the benefit of your taste buds.
This recipe is a great twist on salmon. There’s a perfect contrast of flavours; sweetness blends into spice which harmonizes with the richness of the salmon to create a blend of taste that’s unforgettable. It doesn’t take long to make, either!
You will need:
A quarter cup of red pepper
A quarter cup of onion
Two tablespoons of cilantro
Two tablespoons of lime juice
A tablespoon of honey
A third a cup of honey
A small jalapeno
Two tablespoons of Mexican hot sauce
Four salmon fillets between 4 and 6 ounces
First, make the salsa. Peel and chop your mango, chop your pepper, finely chop your onion and cilantro, seed and mince your jalapeno.
Mix the mango, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, half your lime juice, a tablespoon of your honey and your jalapeno together. This can sit in the fridge until the salmonès ready.
Mix together the rest of your honey with your hot sauce and the rest of your lime juice. Rinse your salmon steaks and then pat them dry, then brush them with this mixture. Place them on an oiled grill with their skin facing up. With the coals on medium heat, it should take only a couple minutes for them to char lightly. Flip them and cook for another ten minutes or so, continually dressing them with more sauce.
When they’re cooked, serve with your salsa.
Just because honey can be used in more than just desserts doesn’t mean we won’t include some awesome dessert recipes.
You will need:
A stick of butter
A cup of water
A tablespoon of sugar
A quarter teaspoon of salt
A cup of flour
Oil to fry
Half a cup of honey
A tablespoon of rosewater
A quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom
Combine butter, water, sugar and salt in a pan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir and melt the butter. Take it off the heat and whisk the flour in, then put the pan back on medium heat. Cook while stirring until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
You’ll have a ball of dough after about two minutes. Transfer this to a big bowl and use a mixer on a slow speed to beat it for a minute or so, just to cool it. After it’s cooled, beat the eggs in one after another, then transfer the whole thing to a pastry bag with a star tip.
Heat up your oil in a pot to 350 degrees, or medium-high. Deep fryer temperature. Mix the honey and rosewater with your cardamom and microwave for half a minute.
Squeeze inch-long slices of dough into the oil, using a pair of scissors to slice them off. They will puff up in the oil, and when they’re golden brown (about 5 minutes in) you can transfer them to a baking rack.
When they’re cool, toss them with the syrup you made earlier.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.