Winnie the Pooh said it best when he said, “Eating honey is a very good thing to do.” This liquid gold has been a staple in my home for many, many years, and for good reason. The benefits of honey are seemingly endless.
Everywhere I have lived, I have sought out raw local sources of honey for use in my kitchen, as well as for other medicinal purposes. I am also beginning to do my own research on keeping bees—partially because I use so much honey and partially because I find it absolutely amazing that bees provide us with this wonderful gift that I want to watch them work up close and personal.
I am not alone in my awe of honey. Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Romans and Greeks used honey for treating wounds and to heal conditions of the gut. Hippocrates himself used honey and vinegar for pain, honey and water for thirst, and honey mixed with water and other substances for fever.
Honey is truly a healing gift from nature, and is rich in medicinal properties:
Hygroscopic property: In its natural state, honey has a very low water content, but it absorbs moisture when exposed to air. This hygroscopic property makes honey highly beneficial to dry skin by allowing it to better retain moisture. It also helps to speed up wound healing time.
Antibacterial property: One especially vital component in honey, glucose oxidase, is an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide. Research indicates that this is one of the main reasons why honey seems to have such powerful antibacterial and wound-healing capabilities. The production of hydrogen peroxide is just one of the remarkable ways that honey helps to kill bacteria and heal wounds.
Antioxidant property: Although darker honey generally contains more antioxidant power than light colored, both are still a rich source of valuable antioxidants. Antioxidants go to work against free radicals and encourage new tissue growth. This, in turn, helps expedite healing of damaged tissue and also helps skin appear younger and more radiant.
Honey is also a nutritional powerhouse, containing glucose, fructose, and numerous minerals including calcium, iron, copper, phosphate, sodium chlorine, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Vitamins in honey include B6, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid and a number of amino acids. It is also quite acidic, with a pH between 3.2. and 4.5. This helps prevent the growth of bacteria. It is also loaded with protective antioxidants.
Ways to use honey
There are literally hundreds of ways to use honey—here are just 39 of my favorite. I hope you give some of these a try. You will be amazed at what you find.
Wound cleaner: Dab honey onto a minor burn or cut, lightly covering the wound like an antibiotic ointment. Research published in The FASEB Journal shows how honey kills off bacteria and helps speed healing time.
Diaper rash cream: A New Zealand study investigated using topical pharmaceutical-grade manuka honey in place of traditional barrier cream for treatment of redness, itching and inflammation. Researchers found that symptoms were improved in a similar fashion to using a traditional barrier cream. To help prevent diaper rash, try adding equal parts of honey to your usual diaper cream and use daily.
Hair conditioner: Honey makes for a great natural conditioner. Mix together one-half cup with one-quarter cup olive oil and warm slightly on the stove. Apply to your hair and then allow it to soak in by wrapping your hair in a towel, and then rinse, preferably with cool water.
Natural hair remover: Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm slightly in the microwave and allow mixture to cool, and apply to facial hair using a popsicle stick. Place a small piece of muslin cloth over the area and rub slightly. Apply a small amount of tea tree oil to the area where you removed the hair.
Burn treatment: The Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery published a paper based on an analysis comparing the use of medicated dressings (silver sulfadiazine) with honey dressings over a five-year period.
When burn healing time was compared, those patients with the honey dressings healed in an average of 18.16 days, while those with the medicated bandages healed in 32.68 days.
Researchers concluded that the honey dressings made wounds sterile in a shorter time period and also improved healing time. Note: Only try this home treatment for minor burns. In case of a serious burn, call the emergency room.
Makeup remover: Mix baking soda and honey together to make a paste and add a few drops of tea tree oil. Apply using a warm washcloth in a circular motion. Rinse with warm water.
Bad breath: If you suffer from bad breath, try a mixture of ¼ cup water, I teaspoon raw honey, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Gargle for 3 minutes and spit out for fresh breath all day long.
Face mask: Honey can effectively treat conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema, while coconut oil is great for relieving dry or irritated skin, as well as for reducing wrinkles. Combining them leads to super soft, clear, hydrated skin! Mix 1 tablespoon coconut oil and 1 tablespoon raw honey in a small bowl with a spoon until it’s well combined.
Apply the mixture to your face and neck with your fingertips—gently—as sometimes honey can crystalize and be rough on your skin. Let it sink in for up to 20 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Simple, easy and effective!
Strengthen nails: If you have weak, brittle nails, try mixing 1 tablespoon of honey with ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar in a shallow dish. Soak your nails for 10 minutes and rinse. Repeat weekly for strong and healthy cuticles and nails.
Relieve acid reflux: Raw honey coats the lining of the esophagus and provides relief to the burning caused by acid reflux. In a report posted in the British Medical Journal by Professor Mahantayya V Math, Math found relief from reflux when he ingested 5 ml of honey.
Balance blood sugar: Although honey is sweet, it has a fairly low glycemic index. The natural sugars in honey have a “slow-release” effect, which means it does not cause the sharp peak in blood sugar that other sweet substances (like refined sugar) do. The sugars in honey are therefore more slowly absorbed and metabolized. Despite its sweetness, honey will not cause blood sugar levels to spike as high or as fast as other high-sugar foods.
Natural cough syrup: You can make a very effective, tasty, natural cough syrup using the following ingredients: 1 cup of filtered water, ¼ cup fresh ginger root, ¼ cup marshmallow root, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 cup honey. Pour the water into a saucepan and add the dried herbs.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. Pour through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove herbs. While the liquid is still warm, but not boiling, mix in the lemon juice and honey. Stir well and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Dark circle remover: Mix 1 teaspoon of honey with 1 teaspoon of sweet almond oil and spread the mixture under the eyes. After about 20 minutes, wash the mixture off and follow up with a light layer of organic coconut oil. Repeat this treatment a few times a week to keep your skin looking great.
Lip moisturizer: A very easy way to heal and prevent chapped lips can be made with honey. Mix one part of warm, recently-melted beeswax to three parts olive oil. Then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey to the mixture. Once the mixture has set, it’s ready to use.
Healthy sports drink: Commercial sports drinks are loaded with sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients. However, it is very easy to make your own homemade sports drink using honey. Simply combine the following ingredients in a Vitamix and blend until the honey dissolves: ¼ cup fresh lime juice, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 2 cups water, ⅛ teaspoon of sea salt and 2 ½ tablespoons of raw honey. Take some of this mixture in a water bottle when going out on a long hike and you’ll feel hydrated and energized.
Improves healthy gut bacteria: Bees have a very diverse population of beneficial acid bacteria. A unique characteristic of raw honey is its ability to feed good gut bacteria and fight off bad bacteria. Good bacteria is essential for overall health and wellness, and forms a main defense against outside threats.
Relieve morning sickness: Organic honey is also effective in relieving morning sickness for pregnant mothers. A warm tea made with honey and ginger is highly effective at calming a pregnant mother’s tummy.
Fruit preserver: Preserving your fruits with raw honey makes them so much healthier. Simply use one part honey to ten parts water and cover your berries in the mixture. So much better than sugar!
Weight-loss aid: Hands down, honey is a better and far healthier sweetener than sugar. The body knows just what to do with this natural gift from the bees, and our cells can use it for energy. If you are looking to drop a few pounds, replace your sugar with honey. It will boost your metabolism and give you energy.
Just remember, all in moderation, and you must eat a healthy diet and exercise for any permanent weight loss to occur. For an added boost, mix half a teaspoon of organic ground cinnamon in a cup of boiling water, let it steep for 10 minutes. Add one teaspoon of raw honey and enjoy!
Infections in the mouth: Bacteria and viruses can cause oral infections that impact the teeth, gums, palate, tongue, lips and the inside of the cheeks. Oral infections are very common. In fact, infections that cause tooth decay are the second most common infectious conditions after the common cold.
Researchers in India have found that manuka honey worked just as well as commercial mouthwash, and better than chewing gum with xylitol, for reducing plaque levels. This they attribute to its outstanding antibacterial qualities. Manuka honey, taken orally, can help reduce gingivitis and keep the mouth healthy and free from harmful bacteria.
Insect bites: Mixing some lemon juice with honey makes a natural antiseptic solution; the natural sugar in honey kills the microorganisms, while the lemon partners with it to prevent bacteria from taking over. The combination will also reduce the swelling associated with insect bites, and decrease itchiness.
For best results, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into 2 tablespoons of raw honey and spread on the infected area. Allow the mixture to remain on the skin until the swelling goes down and you’ll notice a decrease in itchiness.
Fertility issues: Raw honey is also an effective natural remedy for fertility issues. It can be combined with raw goat milk to increase sperm counts in men. In women, it can increase chances of successful fertilization.
Caramel sauce: If you love a sweet treat from time to time, consider this amazingly healthy caramel sauce that uses honey. Check out the recipe here. I tried it, and it is so tasty you won’t believe it!
Reduce the appearance of scars: Over time a mixture of honey and baking soda can reduce the appearance of scars. Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Apply the paste to a scar and let sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Do this daily until the scar begins to fade.
Yeast infections: There is evidence that applying raw honey in and around the vagina can help get rid of yeast infections. Apply the honey in and around the area, let it sit for 30 minutes, and then wash it off in the bath or shower.
Stockpile: Are you building up an emergency food supply for the apocalypse? Honey should be in it! This food never spoils—collections of it have actually been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. It also provides the perfect balance of glucose and fructose for energy, along with a ton of healthy vitamins and enzymes.
Natural sleep tonic: If you have problems sleeping, your stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are out of whack. Both sugar and salt help to prevent adrenaline spikes but it is best to use raw honey and sea salt. Just keep a little mixture of salted honey by your bedside and take a teaspoon if you find yourself waking up in the night.
Allover skin softener: The same qualities that make honey good for your hair also make it good for your skin. It’s a great way to keep your skin naturally soft and clean. Just add 2 tablespoons of honey to a cup of hot water and let it dissolve. Add 2 to 3 drops of lavender essential oil, and then pour the mixture into your bath.
Healthy peanut butter: I love peanut butter but hate sugar. This is quite simply the most delicious peanut butter I have ever tasted.
Parasites: If you have parasites, try using a mixture of raw honey and apple cider vinegar. Simply add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey to a glass of water and drink it down!
Relieve a hangover: Because of its antioxidant properties, honey is said to neutralize the toxins created by consuming alcohol. The fructose in honey is thought to be the essential compound that helps the body break down alcohol into harmless by-products.
Antibiotic resistant superbugs: Antibiotic resistance is, according to the CDC, a leading world health problem. Doctors first began to notice resistance problems almost a decade ago, when kids with middle-ear infections stopped responding to the drugs they were being given.
Phenols found in manuka honey inhibit bacterial growth and promote healing. These antioxidants are not like synthetic antibiotics that promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Clearly raw honey is an impressive antimicrobial agent against a broad spectrum of bacteria and other infectious organisms.
Simple energy boost: If you start to feel a little lethargic towards the end of your day, a tablespoon of raw honey is just what you need. According to the American College of Nutrition, honey, unlike sugar, provides a nutritious carbohydrate that the body can use for immediate energy. When you are feeling low, take a teaspoon in a cup of warm water mixed with lemon or a scoop right from the jar!
Salad dressing: Ditch commercial salad dressing and try this delicious and healthy option instead. Combine equal parts raw honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a jar and shake lightly. Add herbs, pepper and sea salt to taste.
Allergies: Research contends that locally produced honey helps greatly with seasonal allergies. Try adding a tablespoon of local honey (produced during the season you have your allergy problem) to a tea made with nettle leaf for extra allergy relief benefits.
Topical antibiotic: Raw organic honey has been used as an antibiotic and topical treatment for abrasions and cuts for hundreds of years. For people with diabetic ulcers, it can be an effective treatment when many other topical treatments are unsuccessful.
Homemade dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is a delicious and healthy treat, in moderation. Make your own using honey (much better than sugar). Visit this site for an amazingly good recipe for some delicious little treats.
Protects against gastric lesions: Research shows that honey can prevent lesions caused by alcohol, NSAID pain killers and aspirin. If you take NSAID pain killers or aspirin, include a teaspoon or two of honey in your diet daily.
Breast cancer treatment: There is some laboratory and animal research suggesting that tualang honey (from Malaysia) can suppress the growth of breast cancer cells. Although there is no reliable evidence demonstrating that this effect remains true in human clinical trials, it is reasonable to include honey as the sweetener of choice in patients with breast cancer.
Choose the best
Raw honey is honey in its purest state. According to the National Honey Board, there is no exact definition for raw honey. A honey label that says “untreated” or “unpasteurized” may be an indication, but not a guarantee that the honey is raw. Obviously, any honey labelled pasteurized is not raw. Don’t be fooled by words like “natural” or “pure”—they mean nothing in regards to honey processing.
To be sure that the honey you are purchasing is raw, it is best to get it from a local beekeeper who will tell you how the honey was obtained. The very best raw honey will also be organic—beekeepers must adhere to very strict regulations in order to be certified organic. Now go out and get some honey!
– Susan Patterson
Susan is the Content Director at The Alternative Daily, a Certified Health Coach, Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor and Master Gardener. With an extensive knowledge of whole foods and wellness, Susan enjoys educating others on how to live healthy and sustainable lives. She presently lives off the grid in the middle of the New Mexican high desert with her three children and numerous animals.