Honey is a delicious, natural sweetener made by bees in one of the world’s most efficient facilities: the beehive. Each mature hive has around 60,000 bees; these bees may collectively travel as many as 55,000 miles and visit more than two...
Honey is a delicious, natural sweetener made by bees in one of the world’s most efficient facilities: the beehive. Each mature hive has around 60,000 bees; these bees may collectively travel as many as 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a pound of honey.
After the bees collect the nectar in their mouths, it mixes with special enzymes in their saliva to turn into honey. The bees carry the honey back to the hive in their mouths and place it in the cells. They then hover over the cells with their wings fluttering to reduce the moisture content and ventilate the hive. This causes evaporation and thickens the honey.
Bees produce honey in a wide range of colours: white, amber, red, brown and almost black, depending on which flower’s nectar was used. There are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in North America. The most common honeys available come from clover, alfalfa, heather and acacia flowers, thyme and/or lavender. In general, lighter coloured honeys are milder in flavour, while darker honeys have a more robust flavour.
People have been taking advantage of this natural sweetener since ancient times. Although not dense in nutrients, honey offers some nutritional value, unlike refined white sugar. Honey contains Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, iron and manganese.
Honey is not just a natural sweetener, though. Historically, people have successfully used honey to treat a variety of ailments due to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which have only recently been chemically explained. Different honeys have different healing properties.
Honey is considered safe for everyone except infants less than one year of age. Since their immature digestive systems cannot fight the Clostridium botulinum spore, which is often found in honey, infants are susceptive to botulism poisoning.
If used to treat illness, honey is considered an alternative medicine. Medical grade honey is recommended for treating medical conditions, since it has been filtered and sterilized, making it free of impurities. In contrast, ordinary honey sold in grocery stores may contain pollen, bacterial spores, and other impurities.
When buying medicinal honeys, look for RevamilH (RS) honey and medical-grade manuka honey. RS honey is produced in the Netherlands in a controlled greenhouse environment. Manuka honey is produced from bees that feed on the manuka bush from New Zealand and Australia. Both types of medicinal honeys are effective in fighting infections in wounds as described below.
The chemicals in diluted honey create hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a natural antibacterial, when in an oxygen-available environment. Diluted honey slowly releases the enzyme glucose oxidase, which chemically reacts with external oxygen to form hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). For this reaction to occur, both external oxygen and water must be present; for this reason, honey is not as effective under sealed dressings or within the body.
Undiluted honey hinders the growth of microorganism. Since honey is composed of two monosaccharides that have very low water activity, when its few water molecules become associated with its sugar molecules, the environment becomes too dry to support microorganism growth.
As well, a protein found in the royal jelly bees produce to feed their queen, bee defensin-1, kills many antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Another potent antibacterial, methylglyoxal (MGO), is found in especially high levels in manuka honey.
With these antibacterial qualities, honey can be useful for a variety of conditions.
Topically, honey is excellent for treating wounds. It promotes rapid healing by deodorizing and debriding dead tissue. In particular, honey works well for wounds that take a long time to heal, such as mild to moderate burns, postoperative wounds and chronic ulcers, particularly for diabetics who are unable to use topical antibiotics.
The packaged sterile dressings containing medical grade honey to treat wounds and burns are quite versatile. They can be applied on wounds in all stages of healing – wounds that are dry or wet with blood and/or lymph.
You can use honey to maintain your skin’s quality. As a skin soother, honey can be found in natural lotions and lip balms, often paired beeswax. Honey’s antibacterial activity can be effective for treating mild acne. A simple and gentle, natural facial scrub can be created by just combining oatmeal, water and honey.
Ingested, honey is easily absorbed and quickly used to boost your immune system, aid digestion, soothe a sore throat and even stop a cough. A study showed that two teaspoons of honey before bed can stop a cough as effectively as typical dose of dextromethorphan, an over-the-counter cough suppressant.
Eating honey can also prevent periodontal disease, including gingivitis, since it reduces the buildup of plaque. Honey soothes the digestive tract by reducing inflammation. Manuka honey is recommended to treat inflammation of the esophagus caused by chemotherapy treatments.
Becoming healthier with honey – that’s a sweet deal. No wonder honey is considered the nectar of the gods.