(NaturalHealth365) Whether you dribble it over toast or spoon it into your tea, you probably appreciate raw honey as a tasty addition to food and beverages. But, this common kitchen staple is actually a functional food that is packed with micronutrients that boost your immune system and promote heart health.
As if that weren’t impressive enough, honey has been doing double duty for centuries as a potent, clinically-proven antibiotic and a safe cough suppressant.
However, all honey is not created equal. Natural healers and researchers alike report that raw honey has more potential health benefits than heat-treated, refined honey.
The type of nectar used to make the honey can make a difference, as well. Manuka honey, made from conifer trees in New Zealand, is routinely used in medical studies because it offers the highest antimicrobial activity of all.
It’s time to discover the healing properties of honey
Honey was historically used on the battlefields of ancient Greece and Assyria to treat the injuries of warriors. It turns out that the ancient Greeks must have known a thing or two; today, hospitals employ medical-grade honey as a surgical dressing to speed healing, sterilize wounds, reduce scarring and prevent infection.
According to recent medical research, honey has been used to successfully treat the ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria, as well as burns, chronic wounds and cataracts.
The University of Maryland Medical Center endorses honey as a natural cough suppressant, and cites a clinical 2007 study in which 2 teaspoons of honey were found to be more effective at reducing coughs in children than the pharmaceutical medication dextromethorphan.
In addition, animal research has shown honey to have anti-cancer effects. Although studies on animals don’t guarantee results in humans, the results are promising, and research is ongoing.
The therapeutic action of honey
Although numerous clinical studies confirm that honey works, researchers aren’t sure exactly how it does what it does. (yet)
Much of its healing powers probably can be attributed to its natural mild acidity, and the fact that it creates hydrogen peroxide, in conjunction with body fluids, to form a clinically effective broad-spectrum antibacterial and antifungal agent.
In a 2011 paper published in Scientific World Journal, researchers reported that honey also promotes healing by helping to lower levels of inflammation-causing substances called prostaglandins. However, researchers believe there are other as-yet-unidentified mechanisms at work.
The nutritional value of honey
Honey, manufactured from flower nectar by the hard-working Apis mellifica – or common honeybee – is rich in essential minerals and vitamins, including zinc, iron, magnesium, selenium and pantothenic acid. It also contains amino acids your body needs to make protein, along with flavonoids (natural antioxidants) that can help reduce the effects of cell-damaging free radicals.
Finally, honey helps to reduce levels of harmful homocysteine and support cardiovascular health.
Although honey contains a substantial 64 calories per tablespoon, natural health experts point out that its glycemic load is no higher than that of a banana. And, unlike refined white sugar, honey does not cause increases in insulin release.
When choosing honey – ‘the darker, the better’
The clear, light golden commercial honey that sparkles so attractively on the supermarket shelf has often been superheated and refined to the point that its micronutrients – and healing properties – have been drastically reduced. By contrast, raw honey has not been heated at all, while certified organic honey has been created without the use of antibiotics and pesticides. Darker, murkier-looking honey is a better bet than its paler cousin.
Sweet considerations and precautions
In rare instances, honey can contain botulism spores that are toxic to infants. If you are allergic to certain pollens, their presence in honey can cause an allergic reaction. So, obviously, be sure to check with an experienced healthcare provider – if necessary.
Honey made from poisonous plants, such as mountain laurel, azalea and jimson weed, is poisonous as well. Make sure you obtain your honey from a reputable source and enjoy!
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