What Are the Medicinal Uses of Honey?

Reviewed on 7/9/2021

Honey is a natural substance that has been used for several medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The medicinal uses of honey include that it boosts immunity, serotonin and antioxidants; it is antibacterial; it reduces stress and anxiety and it has many other uses.
Honey is a natural substance that has been used for several medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The medicinal uses of honey include that it boosts immunity, serotonin and antioxidants; it is antibacterial; it reduces stress and anxiety and it has many other uses.

Honey is a natural substance that has been used for several medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Traditional medicines describe many medicinal usages of honey. The composition of honey varies depending on the floral source, seasonal and environmental factors, as well as processing techniques used. Today, modern research confirms that the sticky, sweet stuff does indeed possess many unique nutritional and medicinal properties. Honey, however, should not be consumed by infants.

  • Honey has amazing power to kill bacteria because it contains propolis. Studies have shown that honey is effective against dozens of strains, including Salmonella and E coli. One variety can even fight staph bacteria. Honey is used to treat ulcers, bedsores, pimples, burns and can even heal wounds. The darker the honey, the better it works.
  • A teaspoon of honey will soothe the throat and help stop coughs. According to one study, honey worked better than two common cough medications and helped suppress nighttime cough in children.
  • High-quality natural honey contains important antioxidants including flavonoids and polyphenols that are found in propolis. Antioxidants can help reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and strokes, contributing to better heart health. Antioxidants may also reduce some cancer risks and promote eye health.
  • Honey can raise insulin levels and release serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter) that gets converted into melatonin (a chemical that regulates sleep); hence, honey may be used as a natural sleep aid.
  • Honey has been used for ages to soothe nervousness and relieve anxiety. Honey may help calm the mind.
  • Honey helps with seasonal allergies. The same allergens that trigger a reaction in people are present in the local, raw honey. By ingesting the honey regularly, a person is taking “shots” of the allergen in small, manageable doses. If, however, a person is allergic to honey, they must avoid eating it.
  • Honey helps tame the stomach flu. Because honey calms GI inflammation, it is a great pain reliever for the stomach flu.
  • Honey is considered an immune booster because it is also rich in amino acids, vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid, although amounts vary depending on the floral source and quality of the honey. Additionally, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc are abundant minerals in honey.
  • Honey contains many enzymes that aid digestion and it is a mild laxative. It enters the bloodstream within five hours of eating it. This relieves acidity and aids digestion.
  • Honey is hypothesized in improving memory. Because it is loaded with antioxidants, honey can prevent cell damage within the brain. It also helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential to the brain to process thought and make decisions.
  • Honey is a natural source of carbohydrates, providing 17 grams per tablespoon. This is ideal for fueling muscles. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel the body uses and honey can help maintain muscle glycogen. This is effectively stored energy for muscles, which gives athletes a boost in performance when they need it the most. Honey can also be used as part of exercise recovery meals and snacks to replenish tired muscles and energy stores following a workout.
  • Honey is remarkable in building hemoglobin in the body, which is largely due to the iron, copper and manganese content of honey. According to ancient Ayurvedic texts, it helps maintain the right balance of hemoglobin and red blood cells (RBCs).

What are the possible side effects of consuming excessive honey?

Honey has certain side effects, which range from mild to serious.

  • Honey may affect blood sugar levels. The sugar in honey gets absorbed faster by the body because it does not contain any fiber. This results in an insulin spike since the sugar levels in the blood increase.
  • Honey should be strictly avoided in infants. There is a risk of botulism poisoning because an infant’s digestive system is not mature enough to handle the botulinum spores, which are present in honey. Therefore, honey is not recommended for children, especially those who are younger than 12 months of age.
  • Overindulgence in honey can erode the tooth enamel and cause various dental cavities to form.
  • Honey can cause allergic reactions in some people, especially because of the presence of bee pollen. This may result in difficulty breathing, wheezing, stinging (if applied on the skin), irregular heartbeat and fainting.

From the perspective of Ayurveda, it’s best to favor raw, unheated honey and to avoid cooking and baking with it. However, remember anything consumed in excess would only lead to health problems.

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References
Ayu: "Medicinal and Cosmetic Uses of Bee's Honey - A Review." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3611628/

WebMD: "Honey." https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-738/honey

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