The healing powers of honey
In any given beehive, 60,000 busy bees may travel as many as 55,000 miles to gather the nectar it takes to collect a single pound of honey, according to the National Honey Board. That’s determination.
The taste and appearance of honey can vary widely depending on the flower it comes from and whether it is raw or processed and pasteurized.
Most agree that raw honey retains health benefits and a natural flavor, while commercially produced pasteurized honey is a less-desirable version. Just like wine, the darker the color, the more robust the flavor.
Honey for Healing
Raw honey is power-packed with antioxidants, minerals and vitamins and has been used since Egyptian times for hair and facial treatments and for wound healing. The Manuka Tree in New Zealand produces a higher acidic honey and is well-known for its antibacterial properties, treatment for wound care and certain antibiotic-resistant infections.
The medicinal benefit of honey is taught in universities and is a part of the wound care certification curriculum.
Isabel Baker is a registered nurse at the Wound Care Center at Advocate Condell Medical Center, in Libertyville, Ill. “The effects gained include a reduction of the pH level in the wound bed, which provides an antimicrobial benefit. The products also have an osmotic effect to draw fluid away from the bed which serves as an autolytic debridement to the wound,” she says.
In simple terms, honey can help wounds heal without pain.
Is honey a good alternative for sugar? If you prefer the flavor, absolutely! For diabetics and weight control? Maybe not.
Lisa Osowski, a registered dietitian at Condell Medical Center, urges caution in this common misconception. “In general, it is wise to limit total intake of sweetened foods, both naturally and artificially sweetened, as a strategy to control weight and reduce the chance of developing diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”
Cough and Cold
Nagging cough keeping your kids awake at night? A study by Penn State College of Medicine found that a small dose of buckwheat honey provided better relief of cough and sleeplessness in children than dextromethorphan (DM) cough syrup.
Be careful – honey is not recommended for babies under one year of age because of their developing systems. Botulism bacteria are found in soil and can get into honey. Osowski warns that infants are not yet armed to defend against infections of this type. “Honey should not be given to infants because the pH of their digestive system may promote blooming of botulism spores.”
Does honey help with allergies? Many allergy sufferers maintain that a daily spoonful of locally produced, raw honey helps to relieve the sneezing and itching throat that comes with seasonal allergies. The idea is that local honey contains local pollen, which in turn can help to build an immunity to allergens specific to the area you live in.
Studies do not support this since most seasonal allergies are caused by grass and ragweed pollens that are not usually found in honey. A 2002 study by the UConn Health Center concluded that locally produced honey does not promote significant relief from seasonal allergies.
About the Author
LeeAnn Atwood, health enews contributor, is public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. She has more than 20 years of communications and public relations experience centered on nonprofit health care and media publishing throughout the greater-Chicagoland area. LeeAnn is active in the community and sits on several boards, including the McHenry County Community Foundation and the City of Crystal Lake’s Historic Preservation Commission. She is an avid reader, enjoys international travel and spending quality time with friends and family.