by Joseph M. Mercola
October 20, 2014
Honey has been valued as a natural sweetener long before sugar
became widely available in the 16th century.
Honey production flourished in ancient Greece and
Sicily, for instance, while animals other than humans - bears,
badgers, and more - have long raided honeybee hives, risking stings
for the sweet reward.1
Honey is truly a remarkable substance, made even more extraordinary
by the process with which it is made. This blend of sugar, trace
enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids is quite unlike any
other sweetener on the planet.
And while honey is high in fructose, it has many health benefits
when used in moderation (assuming you’re healthy).
Before I delve into those, here’s a brief "lesson" on
how honey is made...
How Honey Is Made
It takes about 60,000 bees, collectively traveling up to 55,000
miles and visiting more than 2 million flowers, to gather enough
nectar to make one pound of honey.2
Once the nectar is gathered, the bee stores it in its extra stomach
where it mixes with enzymes, and then passes it (via regurgitation)
to another bee’s mouth. This process is repeated until the nectar
becomes partially digested and is then deposited into a honeycomb.
Once there, the honeybees fan the liquid nectar with their wings,
helping the water to evaporate and create the thick substance you
know as "honey." This honeycomb is then sealed with a liquid
secretion from the bee’s abdomen, which hardens into beeswax.
As Live Science reported:3
"Away from air and water, honey can be stored
indefinitely, providing bees with the perfect food source for
cold winter months."
There are more than 300 kinds of honey in the US,
each with a unique color and flavor that is dependent upon the
Lighter colored honeys, such as those made from
orange blossoms, tend to be milder in flavor while darker-colored
honeys, like those made from wildflowers, tend to have a more robust
Honey Facts You Might Not Know
Honey, particularly in its raw form, offers unique health benefits
that you might not be aware of. Among them…
1. Honey Makes Excellent Cough "Medicine"
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists honey as a demulcent,
which is a substance that relieves irritation in your mouth or
throat by forming a protective film.5
Research shows honey works as well as dextromethorphan, a common
ingredient in over the counter cough medications, to soothe
cough and related sleeping difficulties due to upper respiratory
tract infections in children.6
2. Honey Can Treat Wounds
Honey was a conventional therapy in fighting infection up until
the early 20th century, at which time its use
slowly vanished with the advent of penicillin.
Now the use of honey in wound care is regaining
popularity, as researchers are determining exactly how honey can
help fight serious skin infections.
Honey has antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidants activities
that make it ideal for treating wounds. In the US, Derma
Sciences uses Manuka honey for their Medihoney wound and burn
Manuka honey is made with pollen gathered from the flowers of
the Manuka bush (a medicinal plant), and clinical trials have
found this type of honey can effectively eradicate more than 250
clinical strains of bacteria, including resistant varieties such
VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)
Compared to other types of honey, Manuka has an
extra ingredient with antimicrobial qualities, called the Unique
Manuka Factor (UMF). It is so called because no one has yet been
able to discover the unique substance involved that gives it its
extraordinary antibacterial activity.
Honey releases hydrogen peroxide through an enzymatic process,
which explains its general antiseptic qualities, but active
Manuka honey contains "something else" that makes it far
superior to other types of honey when it comes to killing off
That being said, research shows that any type of unprocessed
honey helped wounds and ulcers heal.
In one study, 58 of 59 wounds showed,
"remarkable improvement following topical
application of honey."8
3. Honey Improves Your Scalp
Honey diluted with a bit of warm water was shown to
significantly improve seborrheic dermatitis, which is a scalp
condition that causes dandruff and itching. After applying the
solution every other day for four weeks, "all of the patients
According to the researchers:9
"Itching was relieved and scaling was
disappeared within one week. Skin lesions were healed and
disappeared completely within 2 weeks. In addition, patients
showed subjective improvement in hair loss."
4. Help Boost Your Energy
A healthy, whole-food diet and proper sleep is the best recipe
for boundless energy, but if you’re looking for a quick energy
boost, such as before or after a workout, honey can suffice.
This is particularly true for athletes looking
for a "time-released fuel" to provide energy over a longer
5. Reduce Allergy Symptoms
Locally produced honey, which will contain pollen spores picked
up by the bees from local plants, introduces a small amount of
allergen into your system.
Theoretically, this can activate your immune
system and over time can build up your natural immunity against
The typical recommendation is to take about a teaspoon-full of
locally produced honey per day, starting a few months PRIOR to
the pollen season, to allow your system to build up immunity.
And the key here is local.
This approach only works because it has pollen of local plants
you may be allergic to. Honey from other parts of the country
simply won’t work.
While research on this has yielded conflicting
results, one study found that, during birch pollen season,
compared to the control group, the patients using birch pollen
60 percent reduction in symptoms
Twice as many asymptomatic days
70 percent fewer days with severe
50 percent decrease in usage of
Interestingly enough, there were few differences
between the two honey groups (those who took regular honey,
versus those who took honey that contained birch pollen.)
However, the birch pollen honey group used less
histamines than those who used regular honey.
The authors concluded:
"Patients who pre-seasonally used birch
pollen honey had significantly better control of their
symptoms than did those on conventional medication only, and
they had marginally better control compared to those on
The results should be regarded as
preliminary, but they indicate that birch pollen honey could
serve as a complementary therapy for birch pollen allergy."
Honey for Herpes
Good-quality honey offers several topical wound-care benefits that
can explain some of its success as a remedy for
It draws fluid away from your wound
The high sugar content suppresses
Worker bees secrete an enzyme (glucose
oxidase) into the nectar, which then releases low levels of
hydrogen peroxide when the honey makes contact with your
In one study, 16 adult subjects with a history of
recurrent labial and genital herpes attacks used honey to treat one
attack, and a commonly prescribed antiviral drug,
(It's important to realize that neither the drug nor
the honey will actually cure genital herpes. They only treat the
Interestingly, honey provided significantly better treatment
results. For labial herpes, the mean healing time was 43 percent
better, and for genital herpes, 59 percent better than acyclovir.
Pain and crusting was also significantly reduced with the honey,
compared to the drug.
Two cases of labial herpes and one case of genital
herpes remitted completely with the honey treatment, whereas none
remitted while using acyclovir.12
Three Do It Yourself Honey Home Remedies
Honey is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture,
making it an ideal addition to moisturizers, shampoos, and
Along with its antimicrobial properties, honey makes
a wonderful addition to homemade personal care products.
The National Honey Board has a few you can try out
Honey Hair Conditioner: Mix ½ cup honey with
¼ cup olive oil. Work a small amount through your hair until
coated. Cover your hair with a shower cap and let sit for 30
minutes. Shampoo as normal and rinse.
Honey Body Moisturizer: Mix 5 tablespoons
honey, 2 tablespoons rose oil, and 2 cups almond oil in a
medium-sized bottle. Apply as needed onto wet skin.
Honey Almond Scrub: Mix 3 teaspoons honey, 1
teaspoon olive oil, and 6 ½ tablespoons of finely crushed
almonds. Rub the exfoliating scrub onto your face gently and
rinse with warm water.
The Organic Consumers Association has also published
this simple honey lemon cough syrup that’s useful to keep on hand
during the winter months:14
Honey Lemon Cough Syrup
Lemon helps promote health by quickly alkalinizing your body,
and honey will kill most bacteria while soothing your throat.
This is a perfect choice for a quick cough
Put a pint of raw honey in a pan on the
stove on VERY low heat (Do not boil honey as this
changes its medicinal properties).
Take a whole lemon and boil in some water
in a separate pan for 2-3 minutes to both soften the
lemon and kill any bacteria that may be on the lemon
Let the lemon cool enough to handle then
cut it in slices and add it to the pint of honey on the
Let mixture cook on warm heat for about
Then strain the lemon from the honey
making sure all lemon seeds are removed.
Let cool, then bottle in a jar with a lid
and store in the refrigerator.
This syrup will keep for 2 months in the
refrigerator. To soothe a cough, take 1/2 teaspoon for a 25 lb.
child and 1 teaspoon for a 50 lb. child, about 4 times a day, or
as often as needed.
Adults can take 1-tablespoon doses.
Is Honey a Healthy Natural
How to Avoid Fake Honey
As far as natural sweeteners go, honey does have a place.
The main thing to remember when it comes to honey is
that not all honey is created equal. The antibacterial activity in
some honeys is 100 times more potent than in others, while processed
refined honey will lack many of these beneficial properties
Your average domestic "Grade A" type honey found in
the grocery store is likely highly processed.
It’s also been found that more than 75 percent of the honey on
American supermarket shelves may be ultra-processed - to the point
that all inherent medicinal properties are completely gone - and
then smuggled into the country by the barrel drum. Nearly all of
this "fake" honey is made in China. Some of these brokers will even
create bogus country of origin papers.
All 60 jars of "honey" tested by Food Safety News (FSN)
came back negative for pollen, which is a clear sign of
According to FSN:
"The removal of these microscopic particles from
deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality
standards set by most of the world's food safety agencies.
food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the
European Commission and dozens of others have also ruled that
without pollen, there is no way to determine whether the honey
came from legitimate and safe sources."
In their investigation, FSN discovered the following:
76 percent of honey samples bought at grocery
stores (such as TOP Food, Safeway, QFC, Kroger, Harris
Teeter, etc.) were absent of pollen
77 percent of the honey from big box stores
(like Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, and Target) were absent
100 percent of the honey sampled from drug
stores (like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS Pharmacy) were
absent of pollen
The good news is all of the samples from farmers
markets, co-ops, and natural stores like Trader Joe's had the full,
proper compliment of pollen, as did organic brands from common
When choosing honey, be sure it is raw,
and 100% pure, from a trusted source.
Sources and References