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Manuka Honey Health Benefits
Honey is a sweet liquid that bees produce using nectar from flowers. People throughout the world have hailed the health benefits of honey for thousands of years. Modern science is finding evidence to support many of the historical uses of honey. In this article, we explore the many uses of honey, including its nutritional properties and some risks to consider.
What is Honey?
Honey is available raw or pasteurized and in a variety of color grades. On average, it contains about sugar. People remove honey from the hive and bottle it directly, so it may also contain trace amounts of yeast, wax, and pollen.
The Health Benefits of Honey
Studies have found that consuming raw honey may help with seasonal allergies, and have concluded that honey can help wounds heal. A study found that honey may help heal burns, and a study found that the defensin-1 protein in honey promoted wound healing. An older study found that applying medical grade honey to the site of infections had no advantage over the administration of antibiotics — and applying honey actually increased the risk of infection in people with diabetes.
Honey for Acid Reflux
Honey might help ward off acid reflux. A theory of honey’s health effects proposed that honey may help line the esophagus and stomach, possibly reducing the upward flow of stomach acid and undigested food. This suggestion, however, was not supported by clinical research. The upward flow of stomach acid can lead to acid reflux, which can involve heartburn, regurgitation, and indigestion.
A study found that Manuka honey can kill bacteria because it contains properties such as hydrogen peroxide and defensin-1 proteins. The authors concluded that Manuka honey could have greater antibacterial activity than other types of honey. A 2016 in vitro study likewise confirmed Manuka honey’s antibacterial effects.
Honey for Coughs
A study found that honey was more effective than a placebo at reducing children’s coughs during the night. Two years later, another study evaluated whether a honey and milk solution could treat acute coughs in children. The authors concluded that the solution appeared to be at least as effective as two over-the-counter products marketed for this purpose.
Ayurvedic Uses of Honey
Ayurvedic medicine utilizes honey to treat a wide array of illnesses, ailments, and injuries — whether it is mixed with other remedies and consumed or applied to the skin. Clinical trials have not confirmed many of these uses. However, a review recommended honey as a treatment for various skin ailments, citing honey’s antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Environmental Impact of Beekeeping
Beekeeping can have a negative environmental effect. Studies show that beekeeping can introduce large populations of honeybees into areas where they are not indigenous, and this can suppress pollination by native bee species. Further research highlights negative subsequent effects on entire ecosystems, including plant life. Industrial beekeeping practices may also contribute to colony breakdowns and an overall decline in bee populations.
Nutritional Properties of Honey
One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, 17.2 grams (g) of sugar, and no fiber, fat, or protein. Honey has a slightly acidic average pH level of 3.9, and research indicates that this acidity may help prevent the growth of bacteria. It is worth noting that the exact physical properties of honey depend on the flora used to make it. When stored in an airtight container, honey has no expiration date.
Risks and Precautions
Honey’s sweetness can make it an ideal substitute for sugar, and research indicates that using honey instead of adding sugar may benefit people with diabetes. However, it is crucial to note that honey qualifies as an added sugar and provides excess calories with no nutritional benefit. Having a diet high in added sugars can lead to increased weight gain, which carries risks of obesity and related health conditions. Another risk is infant botulism. According to research, the bacteria that causes this serious illness can contaminate honey, and approximately 10% of infant botulism cases in the U.S. stem from raw honey.
Honey has been a mainstay in medicinal practices throughout the world. Practitioners of traditional Ayurvedic medicine, for example, found honey to be effective in treating wounds and various imbalances in the body. Some clinical research shows that honey may help heal wounds and burns, fight infections, and alleviate cold and flu symptoms. A person may also benefit from using honey as a sugar substitute, in moderation. It is important to keep in mind that healthy overall eating patterns are key in preventing illness and supporting well-being. While individual foods can have certain effects, it is important to focus on consuming a varied, balanced diet.