10 Health Benefits of Honey (Backed by Science)

It’s quite hard to imagine how something so sweet and delicious can be good for the health. But that’s what the golden liquid is widely recognized for.

Honey has been considered a potent remedy for a wide array of health problems since the ancient times. Historically, Egyptians made use of honey to treat wounds and embalm bodies [1].

Today, holistic healers rely on it for various bacterial infections and inflammatory diseases [1].

These include such as cough, allergies and irritable bowel syndrome, among others.

Key Nutrient Facts

Known for being a highly functional sweetener, honey is packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants. Some of the nutrients that can be found in honey are iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

One tablespoon contains 64 calories and a glycemic load of 10. So you can expect that it won’t elevate sugar levels or insulin release the way white sugar does.

The list below contains nutritional information based on a 100-gram serving of honey.

  • Calories 304
  • Fat 0
  • Cholesterol 0
  • Protein 3 g
  • Sugar 82 g
  • Sodium 4 mg
  • Carbs 82 g
  • Potassium 52 mg
  • Iron 2%

Below, you’ll find an extensive list of the uses and health benefits of honey, and whether these are backed by scientific evidence or not.

1. Honey Reduces the Risk of Cancer

Anyone can become a victim of cancer.

Whether you’re male or female, young or old, rich or poor, you can be at risk of this deadly disease that is characterized by an abnormal growth of cells in the body.

The good news is, cancer can be prevented.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 30 percent of cancer cases can be prevented with immunizations against infections, as well as a healthy lifestyle.

Eating foods that demonstrate anti-cancer activities such as honey can also help.

Several studies have confirmed that honey can help reduce the risk of many forms of cancer, which include bladder, breast, cervical, prostate and endometrial [2, 3, 4].

A clinical trial involving animal subjects published in the International Journal of Urology shows that honey has the ability to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells [2].

Honey’s anti-cancer properties can be attributed to the presence of polyphenols and other antioxidants [4].

Antioxidants fight cancer by neutralizing cellular damage caused by free radicals. They can also prevent cancerous cells from invading healthy tissues in the body.

Key Takeaway:

  • Honey, which is loaded with antioxidants such as polyphenols, can help prevent and treat cancer by stopping cancer cells from growing and spreading to other parts of the body.

2. Honey Can Help Treat Cough

One of the most popular uses of honey is for treating cough, particularly among children.

Coughing is the body’s natural reflex action to get rid of mucus or any other foreign irritant. It can also be a sign of a viral or bacterial infection [5].

The most common cause of cough is asthma, a condition that involves narrowing of the bronchial tubes or airways [5].

Scientists have conducted numerous clinical trials to investigate honey’s efficacy as a cough treatment [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].

In an experiment involving 300 children ages 1 to 5 years, it was found that honey was effective in reducing the frequency and severity of cough, as well as in improving sleep quality of both parents and children [9].

In fact, it works even better than commonly prescribed cough medications [10].

However, parents should take note that honey can be a choking hazard for very young kids, and can cause botulism among infants, so utmost caution should be given when using this as treatment [11].

Key Takeaways:

  • Honey is an effective way to relieve cough and reduce its frequency and severity.
  • But do take note that honey can cause botulism in infants, and choking in very young kids.

3. Honey Can Ward Off Diabetes

If you have diabetes, a condition characterized by abnormally high blood sugar levels, you will be advised to stay away from your favorite sweet pastries and desserts [12].

But the good news is, diabetics don’t have to avoid honey.

In 1985, a group of researchers investigated the effects of honey on 14 participants with diabetes and 12 without diabetes. It was found that honey can in fact lower blood glucose levels in both groups, indicating that honey is a viable substitute for sugar for those who have this condition [13].

Similar positive results were obtained but this time from a study involving rat subjects [14].

Moreover, according to a 2006 study, a combination of honey, myrrh and bee propolis can help treat wounds in diabetics. This is very useful, as diabetes slows down the healing of wounds [15].

Key Takeaway:

  • Honey can help in the management of diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels.
  • It can also speed up healing of wounds among diabetics.

4. Honey Can Tone Down Inflammation

Did you know that inflammation is the body’s defensive mechanism against pathogens such as viruses and bacteria? This process causes the skin or tissue to swell to get rid of the harmful invader [16].

The only problem is that inflammation usually comes with pain. And it can be quite difficult to tolerate the discomfort it causes.

What you can do while letting inflammation take its course is to minimize it a little so you can get relief from pain. You can do this with the use of honey.

Research suggests that honey can get rid of inflammation-causing bacteria. It also exerts anti-inflammatory properties by reducing the number of white blood cells in the area of infection [17].

At the same time, it helps relieve pain by alleviating the pressure on the nerve endings [17].

Active compounds in honey such as flavonoids, ellagic acid and phenolic acids are pointed out responsible for this mode of action [18].

The ability of honey to tone down inflammation has also been confirmed in other studies [19, 20, 21].

Key Takeaway:

  • To get relief from its unpleasant symptoms, one can use honey to tone down swelling and pain.

5. Honey Can Help Fight Acne

Honey has been used in dermatology since time immemorial, as it is a proven emollient, humectant, and moisturizer [22].

What do these fancy terms mean? To put it simply, honey can draw in moisture from the atmosphere and retain it in the skin [22].

A study that can be found in the BioMed Research International Journal reports that honey can control the bacteria that cause acne, namely Propionibacterium acnes [23].

This means that honey doesn’t only keep the skin soft and supple, it can also get to the bottom of the problem and end it once and for all.

Key Takeaways:

  • Honey is great for combating acne as it can kill pimple-causing bacteria.
  • And because it works as a humectant and emollient, it can keep the skin looking soft, smooth and radiant.

6. Honey Can Heal Wounds, Burns and Ulcers

Topical application of honey has long been proven to be an excellent remedy for various types of skin injuries including burns, scrapes, wounds and more.

In a clinical review performed by Iranian and Canadian researchers, it was found that honey’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities play a crucial role in its ability to speed up the healing of wounds [24].

Not only that, it also contains hydrogen peroxide as well as exhibits osmotic effects that further help relieve skin injuries [24].

Another study conducted by scientists from Ireland shows that Manuka honey treated venous ulcers after 12 weeks [25].

Venous ulcers refer to wounds that develop due to the “improper functioning of venous valve” or the valves located in the veins [26].

Like burns, these ulcers can also cause severe pain and distress.

Key Takeaways:

  • Honey has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and osmotic properties that work against wound infections.
  • It also has hydrogen peroxide that helps disinfect skin injuries.

7. Honey Promotes Oral Health

Honey for dental health?

Since you were a child, you’ve been told to stay away from sweets as this can damage your teeth over time. So it’s quite a surprise to find out that something as sweet as honey can help promote dental health.

But as you know, honey is no ordinary sweet. It’s packed with many potent pharmacological effects that benefit the health in various ways.

Various studies report of honey’s efficacy in reducing plaque and preventing gingivitis, a gum disease that causes redness, irritation and inflammation [27, 28, 29].

One of these studies reveals that honey reduced plaque and gum bleeding by up to 48 percent after 21 days [29].

Key Takeaway:

  • Fight dental plaque and gingivitis with honey, which can reduce these dental problems by up to 48 percent.

8. Honey Can Relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A common digestive ailment affecting the colon, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes unpleasant symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation [30].

Even though these symptoms can cause great anguish, it’s good to know that it doesn’t alter the bowel tissue or make you more prone to colorectal cancer [30].

But of course, you’d be better off getting relief from this problem.

Try using honey, which according to a 2008 study can significantly reduce inflammation in the colon. It can also be used on other inflammatory bowel disorders such as colitis [31].

Honey is a sweet and delicious way to treat this agonizing digestive problem.

Key Takeaways:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome causes many symptoms that can negatively affect your daily life.
  • Fortunately, this can be relieved with the use of honey, which has been found effective in toning down swelling of the colon.

9. Honey Can Improve Memory

Can’t remember where you put your keys or what the name of that familiar face is? Well, you can help boost your memory with honey.

Honey contains many active compounds such as polyphenols that have positive effects on how the brain functions [32].

An article by the Reuters features a study that involved 102 women who were asked to eat 20 grams of honey daily and take hormone supplements.

Findings reveal that those who consumed honey scored higher in the memory examinations compared to those who used hormonal therapy.

Not only would it make you remember things more clearly, it can also probably help improve cognitive performance and boost problem-solving skills.

Key Takeaway:

  • You can help improve your memory by consuming 20 grams of honey a day.

10. Honey Can Help Get Rid of Dandruff

Isn’t it embarrassing when there are tiny white flakes falling from your scalp?

Not only is dandruff unsightly, it can also cause itchiness of the scalp and make you feel uncomfortable. You don’t have to suffer for long. Use honey as a natural treatment for quick result.

Researchers from Dubai discover that honey is an effective solution for dandruff. And that’s because it has antibacterial and antifungal properties, along with a high nutritional content [33].

This study involved 30 patients who complain of scaling and itching of the scalp as well as hair loss due to seborrheic dermatitis [33].

Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that causes the appearance of dandruff, scaly patches and red swollen skin on different parts of the body, usually on the scalp. It can also develop on the face, back and chest [34].

Results show that the use of honey three hours a day for four weeks alleviated most of its symptoms including dandruff [33].

Key Takeaway:

  • Get rid of dandruff by using honey which has antifungal and antibacterial properties.

There are many uses and health benefits of honey that you should take advantage of. It can help you prevent, treat, and resolve different kinds of health-related issues that are bothering you.

In some cases, honey does more than relieve symptoms, it also gets to the source of the problem.

But of course, if symptoms persist, it’s wise to consult your doctor, especially for serious ailments like cancer, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory disease, and others.

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