Health Benefits of Honey

By Bradley Burbaugh UF/IFAS Extension Director Clay County
Posted 9/19/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Honey is one of the most appreciated and valued natural products introduced to humankind since ancient times. In Clay County we have over 80 registered beekeepers who have …

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Health Benefits of Honey

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Honey is one of the most appreciated and valued natural products introduced to humankind since ancient times. In Clay County we have over 80 registered beekeepers who have approximately 180 hives. Florida continually ranks as one of the top five honey producing states. Last year, Florida beekeepers produced over 8 million pounds of honey, which is often referred to as “liquid gold.”

As a former beekeeper I was always happy to share the “liquid gold” the bees would produce with my dentist, dry cleaner and family members. As a beekeeper, I found there is no shortage of reported health benefits from honey, but as a researcher, I always disclosed that some honey benefit claims are more substantially supported with research than others.

For thousands of years, humans have been using honey for medicinal and health-related purposes. There is a now a growing body of scientific research, which is outlined below, that demonstrate the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of honey.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants scavenge and eliminate unstable molecules (i.e., free radicals) that can damage the cells in our bodies. Honey is a dietary antioxidant, which means it contains components that can help delay this damage to our cells or tissues.

There are over 300 types of honey and the amount and type of antioxidant properties varies for each type. However, honey in general, provides more antioxidants than white sugar, corn syrup, or agave. Some studies show that darker colored honeys contain more antioxidants than lighter colored honeys.

Anti-Inflammatory

While honey has been used as a health product for thousands of years, only recently have studies been conducted to confirm its potential to help reduce internal and external inflammation. After application of honey to wounds and infections, the number of inflammatory cells was shown to be reduced, suggesting honey’s benefits in wound treatment applications.

In addition, honey has also been found to reduce internal inflammatory response in recent clinical trials. Honey’s ability to reduce inflammation has not been attributed to one compound but to its overall composition and properties.

Antimicrobial

The antimicrobial capacity of honey has been attributed mainly to the presence of hydrogen peroxide, a compound that when used at low concentrations can induce wound healing. Hydrogen peroxide is produced from compounds found naturally in honey.

The high acidity in honey is also thought to influence the antimicrobial capacity, because many bacteria cannot survive in acidic environments. Honey makes an effective antimicrobial agent for treating sore throats and other bacterial infections too. Darker honeys generally have been shown to exhibit stronger antimicrobial capacities.

Allergies

Friends would often ask for some home honey because they believed it could help with common environmental allergies such as pollen, dust and grass allergies. There is no consensus in the scientific community as to whether honey does help reduce allergies. The theory is that the increased exposure of pollen in natural, unprocessed honey may help to reduce allergies to these specific pollens.

The composition and overall properties of honey make it a food that can provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits. It’s important to remember that color and varietal source play an influential role in the medicinal properties of honey.

If you have any horticultural, agricultural, 4-H, or family and consumer science questions, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Clay County Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.

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