By Melissa Lim, Senior Wellness Consultant
What is Honey? Honey is a delicious viscous sweetener made naturally by bees for their own nourishment. The honey making process begins when the bees collect flower nectar in their mouths. The nectar is mixed with special enzymes in the bees' saliva which turns it into honey. The bees carry the honey back to the hive, and deposit it into the cells of the hive's walls. Honey is made ready for consumption by the fluttering of their wings which helps to reduce the honey's moisture content.
What is Honey’s Place in History? Honey has been used since ancient times both as a food and as a medicine. For many centuries, honey was regarded as sacred due to its wonderfully sweet properties as well as its rarity. Honey was also used for a variety of medicinal and cosmetic purposes. For a long time in history, its use in cooking was reserved only for the wealthy since it was so expensive that only they could afford it.
What is the Common Perception of Honey? This rich golden liquid is perceived by many to be the miraculous product of honey bees and a naturally delicious alternative to white sugar. Some think of honey as the healthiest sweetener and energy booster. In addition, honey also has a reputation of an antimicrobial agent and antioxidant and is used widely to boost the immune system.
Is All Honey the Same? The health benefits of honey -like all foods -depend on the quality of the honey. But in this case, the situation is even more extreme, because the pollen that collects on the bees' legs as they move from plant to plant is only as healthful and as diverse as those plants. In addition, the processing of honey often removes many of the phytonutrients found in raw honey as it exists in the hive.
What are the Key Benefits of Honey? Honey is an Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Viral, Anti-Fungal Substance which helps boost immunity. Research conducted in several hospitals in Israel found honey effective in decreasing the incidence of acute febrile neutropenia (when high fever reduces white blood cell count) in 64% of patients. The wound healing properties of honey is one of its most promising medicinal quality. Honey has been used topically as an antiseptic therapeutic agent for the treatment of ulcers, burns and wounds for centuries. One study in India compared the wound healing effects of honey to a conventional treatment (silver sulfadiazene) in 104 first-degree burn patients. After one week of treatment, 91 percent of honey treated burns were infection free compared with only 7 percent receiving the conventional treatment.
Is there a Dark Side to Honey? Honey contains one of the highest amounts of fructose, 40,000 mg of fructose per 100 grams of honey. This is even higher than banana (14,000 mg of Fructose per 100 grams) and grapes (7,300 mg of Fructose per 100 grams). High amounts of fructose can cause insulin resistance, increase LDL cholesterol levels, increase triglyceride levels in both Type II Diabetes Patients and healthy individuals. One should consume honey in restricted amounts.
Is All Honey Helpful for Healthy Individuals and Those with High Cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes? The answer is NO! A series of experiments involving healthy subjects and those with either high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes, For 15 days, 8 healthy subjects, 6 patients with high cholesterol, 5 patients with high cholesterol and high C-reactive protein (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease), and 7 patients with type 2 diabetes were given solutions containing comparable amounts of sugar, artificial honey or natural honey. In healthy subjects, while sugar and artificial honey had either negative or very small beneficial effects, natural honey reduced total cholesterol 7%, triglycerides 2%, C-reactive protein 7%, homocysteine 6% and blood sugar 6%, and increased HDL (good) cholesterol 2%. (Like C-reactive protein, homocysteine is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.) In patients with high cholesterol, artificial honey increased LDL (bad) cholesterol, while natural honey decreased total cholesterol 8%, LDL cholesterol 11%, and C-reactive protein 75%.
Is it Easy to Differentiate Between Natural and Artificial honey? No, it is not easy to differentiate natural (raw) honey from artificial honey by mere visual inspection. Laboratory testing is necessary.
Is the Therapeutic Potency of Honey the Same Among Different Honeys? No! The therapeutic potency of Honey varies among different Honeys. There is evidence that Manuka Honey (Leptospermum scoparium) from New Zealand may be the most potent Honey for therapeutic purposes. Honeydew Honey (from the conifer forests of mountain regions of central Europe) also has superior antimicrobial effects.
Tips on Honey Consumption
It is an unfortunate occurrence that the majority of people living in an industrialized country have only seen and tasted processed liquid honey. Honey is usually processed through pasteurization and usually sold in individual containers or in bulk. Raw honey is best found in farmer’s markets. Raw honey that has not been pasteurized, clarified, or filtered -provided it is of the highest organic quality -is your best choice.
Warning: Honey should not be fed to infants under the age of 1 or to people with sever immune system deficiencies. This is due to possibility of botulism spores being present. This level of botulism will have no ill effect on a healthy person.
Keep honey consumption to a minimum.
Efem, S. E. E., et al. Honey dressing effective treatment for wound infections. The antimicrobial spectrum of honey and its clinical significance. Infection. 20:227-229, 1992.
Bantle, J. P., et al. Effects of dietary fructose on plasma lipids in healthy subjects. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 72(5):1128-1134, 2000.
Tanzi MG, Gabay MP. Association between honey consumption and infant botulism. Pharmacotherapy. 2002 Nov;22(11):1479-83. 2002. PMID:12432974.
Article contributed by: OmniGreen Wellness