One of the positive effects of honey that's been studied is its role in the relief of allergies. The basis for this idea is that honey contains traces of pollen from the flowers the bees visit. Exposing a person to a small amount of a substance they're allergic to can give their body a chance to muster antibodies in defense. Although clinical testing results have been inconclusive so far, many allergy sufferers say that it works for them. For the best effect, the honey should be made by local bees that use pollen from the area, and the farmer's market is a good place to look for it.
Honey has been scientifically shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, in part because it inhibits bacteria, fungi and viruses. It was used to treat intestinal diseases in ancient times, and modern physicians have prescribed as part of the treatment for colitis. Because of the antioxidants in honey, it prevents damage from reactive oxygen molecules in the human body. Studies have indicated that it also has a preventative effect against the bacteria that cause gastritis and ulcers.
The anti-bacterial properties of honey are part of the reason that it's also been mentioned as a wound dressing since the beginning of recorded history. The list of wounds that have been healed using honey is long, and it includes burns, abrasions, bed sores and cracked nipples. Manuka honey has been found to be especially effective for wounds that are resistant to healing. This type of honey is made with pollen from the manuka bush, and there's clinical evidence that it speeds healing and suppresses inflammation. Manuka honey has been approved by the FDA and the British Health Service as a wound treatment.
Blood Sugar Regulation
One of the worst effects of white, refined sugar is the glucose spike and subsequent blood sugar deficit that people experience after ingesting it. This is less likely to happen with honey for a couple of reasons. Honey is an unrefined sweetener with other ingredients in it like amino acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Because of this, it's broken down into energy more slowly than refined sugar. It also has a particular combination of glucose and fructose that gives it a lower glycemic index. That means it doesn't rapidly release sugar into the bloodstream when it's digested.
Cough and Sore Throat Relief
It turns out that grandma was right when she told you to drink honey and lemon tea for a sore throat. Honey coats the throat and calms the nerve endings that cause pain. It's also been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a demulcent, a substance that reduces inflammation and irritation. Lemon is an acidic fruit, and because of this it's good at killing bacteria. Besides drinking it in tea, you can also slice a lemon into raw honey and let it simmer on the stove, using it as homemade cough syrup.
Varieties of Honey
There are different kinds of honey, in part because of the type of pollen that's used to make it, and there's a big difference between raw and processed honey. Raw honey is the original product produced by bees. It's strained through a cloth to remove any beeswax or dead bees, leaving just the honey. It can be dark in color, and it's full of beneficial nutrients and enzymes, fatty acids, antioxidants and traces of pollen.
Processed honey, the kind you find at the grocery store, has been pasteurized and more heavily filtered than raw honey. Unfortunately, this process can remove most of the nutritional properties. Heating the honey extends its shelf life, but it also eliminates the pollen and can destroy the enzymes that give honey its wonderful healing properties.
For intact honey with all its health and nutrition benefits, raw, local honey that's been grown organically is your best option. Organically grown honey is made from bees and flowers that have no contact with pesticides or chemicals. One caveat about raw honey is that it shouldn't be eaten by children under one year old or pregnant women. That's because it can contain botulism spores. However, once the gut is fully developed it's capable of killing the spores before they do any damage.
Honey for Good Health
Since honey is packed with vitamins and nutrients, it's much better for you than white sugar, which has none of the amino acids, antioxidants and other healthy ingredients found in raw honey. Antibacterial properties also make it useful for many things, from wound care to healing a sore throat. Experts agree that raw honey is a nutritious and delicious addition to a healthy diet.