Thick, golden honey is known for its natural sweetness, but this is not your typical sweetener. Wild and domesticated bees alike extract sugary substances from a wide range of plants. Through their hard work, they transform these natural substances into honey that is consumed in many foods and drinks in cultures around the world.
However, this gooey substance has more to offer than its rich, sticky goodness. There are more than 300 types of honey and each variety is derived from different plant species. This variation yields honey that has slightly different undertones or overtones of flavors, as well as colors that range from pale yellow to dark amber. The specific health benefits also vary based on the type of honey consumed.
Healing Properties Used Across Millennia
The uses of honey as a sweetener and for medicinal purposes are not new. In fact, a cave drawing found in Spain created more than 8,000 years ago shows people extracting honey from a hive. Ancient Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese used honey extensively for its healing properties. Historical uses include as a treatment for stomachaches, fevers, and wounds.
Modern research has shown that different types of honey may be effectively used for many additional health benefits. These are some of the proven uses of honey that you can take advantage of.
1. Use Honey To Fight Insomnia
Both chronic and acute insomnia are problematic, but many people shy away from using addictive sleeping pills. Honey combined with apple cider vinegar may improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Consuming honey causes blood sugar to rise moderately. Serotonin is then released and converted into natural melatonin. Apple cider vinegar creates tryptophan in the body, which is produced into serotonin as well. These two substances together promote quality sleep throughout the night.
2. Heal Wounds By Using Honey Topically
Honey has been applied as a salve directly to wounds for thousands of years and has proven healing properties. It has antimicrobial and antibiotic properties, so it can fight or prevent infection when applied topically. It also stimulates wounded tissue to improve healing time. The healing properties of honey extend to burns, psoriasis, herpes blisters, and other skin conditions.
3. Eat Honey To Improve Your Memory
Many post-menopausal women receive estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy, and one of the reasons is to combat memory loss. Studies have shown that consuming tualang honey daily for 16 weeks produced similar results as hormone therapy on memory.
4. Fight Local Allergies With Local Honey
Consumption of organic, locally-sourced honey is linked to decreased allergic responses to outdoor allergens in some cases. Local bees draw pollen from some native species. Consuming local honey provides a type of natural immunotherapy for those specific allergens. Keep in mind that some local allergens, such as those to local grasses, may not be impacted by the consumption of honey. This is because local bees do not gather pollen from these sources.
5. Relieve Coughs And Sore Throats with Honey
Some types of honey are known to alleviate the pain from a sore throat and to suppress coughing. These symptoms are often related to allergies, which may be another reason why honey is linked to a reduction in allergy symptoms. When using honey for sore throats and coughing, look for buckwheat, eucalyptus, wildflower, Labiatae, and citrus honey products.
6. Use Honey to Stabilize Your Blood Glucose Levels
Honey and table sugar are viewed similarly as sweeteners, but they are metabolized differently in the body. Table sugar creates a sharp spike in blood sugar. This is particularly problematic for those with diabetes and prediabetes. It can also lead to intense fatigue after your blood sugar level plummets. The glycemic index of honey is lower than that of sugar.
Therefore, this spike and subsequent drop in blood sugar level are much less severe with honey. Many types of honey are sweeter than table sugar, so you may be able to consume less and enjoy similar taste results. This also helps you to maintain a stable blood sugar level.
How to Maximize the Health Benefits of Honey
Before rushing out to pick up a bottle of honey from your local grocery store, understand that numerous factors affect the specific health benefits that you may enjoy. One of these factors is the type of flower pollen that it is produced with. A few examples include:
- Chestnut blossom honey boosts the immune system.
- Wildflower honey alleviates seasonal allergies, has anti-inflammatory properties and eases cold and flu symptoms.
- Linden honey fights infections through antibacterial properties.
- Manuka honey heals wounds and fights skin infections.
- Buckwheat honey contains antioxidants and iron.
- Acacia honey promotes restful sleep and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
With several hundred types of honey available, research types that offer the health benefits that are best-suited for your needs. Some products on the market are poly-floral, which means that they provide benefits from more than one type of flower.
The quality of honey also affects the benefits that you will enjoy. Some honey is produced with high heat, which alters its chemical composition and may strip away many health benefits. Raw and organic honey products have minimal processing and have not been heated. These are preferred because of their superior health benefits.
Honey may also be combined with water, but excessive water can result in fermentation. Some labels indicate the percentage of water versus natural honey. Look for water content below 19% to avoid fermentation-related alteration of the honey. If the label does not provide water content information, examine the honey’s viscosity. Free-flowing honey generally indicates that the honey has been heated, contains a lot of water or is affected by a combination of both of these.
Another factor that affects the quality of honey and the health benefits that you can derive from it is the filtration level. Clear honey is generally assumed to be pure and high-quality. However, clear honey generally indicates that it has been thoroughly filtered. This strips the honey from the pollen that may provide many of its health benefits.
This is How to Eat More Honey
Just as the health benefits of different types of honey vary, the flavors also vary slightly. Depending on the flavor of the honey that you select, you may prefer to combine it with a food or beverage rather than to simply swallow a spoonful or two each day. Try adding honey to tea, coffee, or milk as a sweetener.
Honey is commonly used on toast and biscuits in place of or alongside butter or peanut butter. It can be added to oatmeal, cottage cheese, and yogurt. To enjoy the full flavor of the honey, consider sucking on a honey lollipops or hard candies, available with many different types of honey offering various health benefits.
By choosing the right type of high-quality honey, you can enjoy the unique combination of undeniable health benefits and delicious sweetness. Spend time exploring honey types that offer the health benefits that you are looking for as a first step.
About the Author
Kara Brook is an artist with a lifelong fascination for beeswax who paints and sculpts with it. In 2010, she started beekeeping to produce her own encaustic medium and has developed a passion for the battle against the dangerous decline of the bee population and the precious healing properties of honey. Follow @waxingkara on Twitter to see what she shares next.