We perceive honey as a health-booster – but is it really that healthy? How much should we eat and when shouldn’t we overdo it?
Honey is a common folk remedy for colds, and may help soothe sore throats. But is honey really that healthy?
Nutritionally, honey is a controversial food. Many people, especially among medical professionals including dietitians, claim that honey has no medical benefit or added value compared to a sugar solution, while others, especially from the field of alternative medicine, think of honey as a health food, due to its mineral content and anecdotal benefits.
In China, Greece, and ancient Egypt it was tradition to put a jar of honey next to the dead, believing it would feed them when they came back to life; in Morocco, the belief is that honey increases men’s libido; and around the world, it is believed that eating honey 30 days after getting married will ensure a sweet marriage. There are those who claim honey has antiseptic abilities, and that it treats wounds, both increasing the damaged tissue’s growth pace and yielding enzymes that inhibit bacterial multiplication. Further, honey is believed to possess immunological and cold-curing properties.
There are two facts that everyone agrees upon: honey is a solution consisting of about 20% water and 80% sugar, from glucose and fructose – the two components of sucrose. Glucose raises the body’s blood sugar levels, and fructose can affect the blood lipid composition, elevate the level of triglycerides, and cause insulin resistance. Therefore, sugar does not yield a significant advantage over regular sugar for people with impaired glucose tolerance – including diabetes – or high levels of triglycerides.
In addition, honey is dangerous when fed to babies less than one year old, due to a toxin called Botulinum that can damage the immature nerve system.
The toxicologist Dr. Daryo Vratnick emphasizes that due to the fact that honey comes from the bee’s body it also contains negative components such as pesticides that can be found in the flower. It can contain leftover antibiotics, and there were cases of deaths in New Zealand as a result of eating honey made from honeydew that contained a toxin called totin, found in wild flowers.
But whether you think honey is no more than just candy or you’re among its advocates, you can find interesting traditional or popular remedies based on honey, shared through generations or cyberspace:
1. For mosquito bites, burns, and wounds
Mix 2 tsp. of honey, ½ cup lukewarm water, 1 tsp. olive oil, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Rub the solution over the affected area. Belief: honey has antiseptic properties, and olive oil and cinnamon have anesthetic and analgesic (anti-pain) properties.
2. For bad breath
To a glass of lukewarm water, add 2 tsp. honey, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. Satureja herb (“savory”), with or without 2-4 mint leaves. Gargle the solution every morning and spit it out. Belief: the antiseptic components in the solution help kill the bacteria in the mouth and throat area that cause bad breath, and the mint covers the odor itself.
3. For a sore throat
Make the same solution for bad breath, but swallow it. It is also advised to add the juice of a freshly-squeezed lemon into the solution to boost the purported antibacterial benefits.
4. For an earache
Dissolve a tsp. of honey, wait for it to cool, and drip a few drops cautiously into the ear. Afterwards plug the ear with a cotton ball for 5 minutes. Belief: honey applies and maintains warmth closer to the source of pain than the usual hot compress on the outside of the ear.
5. For a headache
If you have a headache caused by weakness or a hangover, mix a glass of cold water with the freshly-squeezed juice of 1 lemon, a bit of grated ginger, and 1 tsp. of honey. Belief: drinking this solution will give the body energy.
6. For gastrointestinal problems (especially ulcers)
If you have a tendency toward upset stomach after eating, swallow 1 Tbsp. of honey before a meal. Belief: honey pads the stomach and lessens the effect of the stomach’s acidity. Please note: consuming too much honey will cause diarrhea.
7. For constipation
Mix 4 dried plums, which contain a lot of fiber that help in expediting digestion, 1 tsp. of honey to treat gastrointestinal contaminants and works as a mild laxative, 1 tsp. cinnamon that helps with the stomach aches that accompany constipation, flaxseed that contains fibers to drive the digestive system and 1 tsp. olive oil – soak the components in water, wait for 2 hours and drink the liquid.
8. For hair care
To provide shine and vitality to your hair mix 1 egg, 2 Tbsp. honey, and 1 tsp. olive oil and apply on wet hair. Leave on for approximately 15 minutes, then rinse. Belief: honey provides minerals and seals in other beneficial compounds in the solution – including protein, oil, and antioxidants – to moisturize and protect the hair.
9. For skin care
Mix 2 tsp. of honey, the freshly-squeezed juice of several lemons, and 2 tsp. of tahini. Apply the mixture to your face as a mask, and wash after 15 minutes. Belief: honey provides minerals and seals in the beneficial compounds in the solution – including fruit acids and sesame oil – to nourish, gently slough, and moisturize the skin for a vital, youthful look.