Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS October 26, 2015
Honey! It’s sticky, sweet, and yummy. Is it a confection, or is it a powerful medicine? It’s both.
Interestingly, the anecdotal health reports over the centuries are now supported by clinical trials. The peer-reviewed articles I researched were not sensational; they very well may have been understated. Read the facts; then you decide.
It all started a long time ago. Recorded history about honey’s medicinal and antimicrobial properties for wound healing goes back about 5000 years. However, the use of honey as a food and as a medicine probably goes back to the beginning of primal societies who discovered this luscious, nutrient-dense food of the bees.
Honey is a supersaturated nectar collected by honeybees from a wide variety of plants. The actual composition of honey depends on the composition of the nectar collected from specific flowers around the world. The highest percentages of components are fructose (about 38%) and glucose (about 31%).
It is surprising that such a sweet, sugar-laden food could offer so many medicinal properties. While these biological processes are still not well understood, honey’s benefits have been demonstrated in many recently published, peer-reviewed studies.
In addition to fructose and glucose, there are over 180 substances that have been identified in raw honey. No doubt, many have yet to be discovered. Some of the compounds contained in honey include sugars (other than fructose and glucose), phenolic acids, flavonoids, amino acids, proteins, vitamins and enzymes – all of which synergistically account for honey’s biological effects. The benefits include antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antithrombotic, and vasodilatory actions.
Honey also stimulates wound healing even in wounds that have not responded to other treatments. Some of the unique qualities of honey that may be at work here are its acidic level (pH of 3.2 to 4.5), its activation of the immune system, and its promotion of cell growth.
Eating honey can improve cardiovascular risk. Consuming honey has been shown to increase HDL-cholesterol, reduce LDL-cholesterol, and reduce triglycerides. (Here, Here)
Even type 1 and type 2 diabetics have benefited from the inclusion of honey in their diets. (Here, Here)
With all the sugar, one would think that honey would cause gum disease and dental decay. But, the facts are just the opposite.
In this randomized, controlled study, patients were given three different sweeteners to eat – honey or sorbitol or sucrose. The results were surprising. Eating honey actually decreased the bacteria that caused gum disease and tooth decay, while consuming sorbitol or sucrose did not.
In this intervention, patients were studied who had their normal saliva flow compromised because of radiation treatment for head and neck cancers. Individuals with no or little natural saliva are at greater risk of tooth decay. The results of this clinical trial clearly demonstrated that participants who had compromised salivary function and who ate natural honey had a significantly lower amount of Strep Mutans (a bacterium that causes tooth decay) than the control group.
There is good honey and bad honey. Processed or heated honey has lost most of its medicinal benefits. Honey that had anything added to it would not be my choice. The best honey to consume is locally collected, unfiltered, raw honey.
So, how much honey should you consume?
Many studies on humans suggest that the ideal amount of honey to consume per day for a 150-pound person is approximately 3-4 tablespoons. (Here, Here) Some beneficial results have been recorded within an hour or two of ingestion.