The Evidence-Based Health Benefits Of Honey

Honey is one of the most valued natural foods with a long traditional history of medicinal usage.

Onсе thоught оf аѕ a “fоlklоrе rеmеdу”, wе are nоw ѕееing inсrеаѕеd intеrеѕt from ѕсiеntiѕtѕ аnd hеаlthсаrе рrасtitiоnеrѕ аѕ tо thе potential therapeutic аnd medicinal аррliсаtiоnѕ оf honey.

Clinical research has found honey to have many health benefits including accelerating wound healing, antimicrobial effects, immune boosting, anti-inflammatory properties and even potentially acting as an anti-cancer agent.

Honey is mainly composed of sugars and water together with minor constituents such as vitamins(b-complex, Vitamin C), minerals, amino acids, organic acids, flavonoids and other phenolic compounds and aromatic substances. Composition can slightly vary depending on botanical source and geographical origin.

Let’s take a look at some of the evidence-based health benefits of honey.

  1. Wound Healing
    Traditionally Honey has been used for thousands of years as a topical treatment for a wide range of wounds including skin burns, diabetic foot injuries, ulcers and many other skin conditions.

Of all the potential medicinal benefits of honey, the strongest scientific evidence is for honeys use as as a wound treatment and aiding wound healing.

Honey’s main role in wound healing is preventing and inhibiting the spread of bacterial infection. However, honey also has multiple other effects when it comes to treating wounds including anti-inflammatory effect, speeding wound healing and more.

A systematic review published 2020 investigated randomized controlled trials to evaluate the place of honey in wound treatment.

In the results of the study, it was reported that honey in acute and chronic wounds provided rapid epithelization and wound contraction in wound healing, had anti-inflammatory and debridement effect, decreased the pain, ensured infection control, shortened the time of wound healing and was cost-effective. [1]
Another systematic review published in 2008 evaluated the evidence regarding honey’s role in health care and to identify whether this evidence applies more specifically to cancer care.

The systematic review concluded:

Honey was found to be a suitable alternative for wound healing, burns and various skin conditions and to potentially have a role within cancer care. [2]
In the cancer setting, honey may be used for radiation-induced mucositis, radiotherapy-induced skin reactions, hand and foot skin reactions in chemotherapy patients and for oral cavity and external surgical wounds.

  1. Anti-Microbial
    Clinical studies have found honey to exert broad-spectrum anti-microbial effect(antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antimycobacterial).

The current and growing antibiotic resistance is a huge driver for the recent re-emergence in the interest of natural antibiotics such as medicinal honey.

Honey’s anti-microbial and anti-bacterial effect is thought to be due to a number of different mechanisms:

The broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties of honey may be attributed to the acidity (low pH), osmotic effect, high sugar concentration, presence of bacteriostatic and bactericidal factors (hydrogen peroxide, antioxidants, lysozyme, polyphenols, phenolic acids, flavonoids, methylglyoxal, and bee peptides), and increase in cytokine release, and to immune modulating and anti-inflammatory properties of honey. [3]

Manuka Honey is a popular dark monofloral honey from New Zealand, rich in phenolic content that research has found to have potent anti-bacterial properties. Studies describe manuka honey as a safe and natural antibiotic.

The anti-bacterial potency of Manuka Honey is related to the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating, which is correlated with the methylglyoxal and total phenols content. [4]

  1. Honey Has A Beneficial Effect On Lipid Risk Factors
    With Honey being a rich source of naturally occurring sugars there is much controversy as to its effect on lipid risk factors.

However, research has found that honey actually has a potential beneficial effect improving cardiovascular risk factors such as LDL-C, triglycerides and HDL-C.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials published 2017 assessed the effects of honey intake on lipid risk factors.

Pooled analyses show a beneficial effect of honey intake on lipid risk factors including LDL-C, triglycerides, and HDL-C in people from all health backgrounds. [5]

  1. Honey & Cancer
    Research has found that honey may have a role to play for both preventing cancer and as a potential adjunctive natural treastment.

The ingredients of honey have been reported to exert antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anticancer, and antimetastatic effects. [6]

Other reviews of the literature have found :

The review examines the role of honey in targeting key hallmarks of carcinogenesis, including uncontrolled proliferation, apoptosis evasion, angiogenesis, growth factor signalling, invasion, and inflammation. [7]

Some studies even refer to honey as a “natural cancer vaccine” due to its myriad of mechanisms for potentially addressing cancer.

There is now a sizeable evidence that honey is a natural immune booster, natural anti-inflammatory agent, natural antimicrobial agent, natural cancer “vaccine,” and natural promoter for healing chronic ulcers and wounds. [8]

Honey could well end up being an extremely useful adjunctive and preventative natural therapy for addressing many aspects of the pathophysiology of cancer from inflammation to oxidative stress to chronic microbial infections.

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