When you have a sore throat or a cough, honey is one of the best, and tastiest, salves nature has to offer.
The first record of beekeeping dates back to 2400 B.C., in Cairo. For millennia, cultures around the world, including the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Chinese, have fallen for the sweet substance. All these cultures used it both in medicine and in the kitchen.
Honey is commonly used as a sweetener. It’s made up of 70–80 percent sugar; the rest is water, minerals, and protein. It’s also used to alleviate allergies. But honey has many other uses. Surprisingly, many of the conditions that honey is used to treat are far more serious than the simple sore throat.
This study compared honey to a silver sulfadiazene dressing for burns, and found that honey makes wounds sterile in less time, enhances healing, and doesn’t leave as much scarring as the other treatment.
Some say honey can improve both short- and long-term memory, especially in menopausal and postmenopausal women. In one study, postmenopausal women who were given tualang honey treatments for several weeks saw as much improvement in their immediate memory as women given hormone therapy of estrogen and progestin.
Research conducted in Dubai shows that honey is an effective topical treatment for both oral and genital herpes. Honey can heal lesions from herpes just as quickly as ointments you find at a pharmacy, and it’s even better at reducing itchiness.
Honey has a lower glycemic index than sugar, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar levels the way sugar will. Honey also has a sweeter taste than sugar and may help you use less sweetener on foods. This makes honey a better option than sugar. In one study, researchers found that swapping honey for pure sugar is an effective way to keep blood sugar levels steady.
Honey is celebrated for its antioxidant properties, which causes many to wonder if it can help prevent or treat cancer. A 2011 study from Iran looked at how honey affects renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer. The researchers found that honey is effective in stopping cancer cells from multiplying, and they concluded that it warrants further study as a cancer treatment.
Hemorrhoids cause itching and pain in the anus, as well as blood in the stool. They are never fun. If you’re looking for a home remedy, honey might fit the bill. A pilot study using a mixture of honey, olive oil, and beeswax as a topical treatment found that the mixture significantly reduced pain and itching, as well as bleeding.
Honey has been used to dress wounds for centuries, but does it work better than gels and compresses? The research is mixed, but certainly not against honey. The Mayo Clinic says that honey can sterilize wounds and promote healing, and also reduce pain, odor, and wound size. It can also treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and long-term ulcers and wounds after surgery and from burns.
Other researchers agree that it can be effective, or even superior, to other wound dressings, but it all depends on the wound. For deep cuts and wounds, it may delay healing time. You should only use honey after you’ve seen a doctor.
Honey has been lauded for its potential to boost fertility in both men and women, but the evidence is mixed. Two separate studies using rats, conducted in Nigeria in 2013, give very different results. While one showed that honey increases the sperm count of male rats, the other showed that too much honey can have a negative effect on fertility in rats. More research needs to be done.
Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes redness, blisters, itching, and even lesions. It’s usually treated with topical creams that contain corticosteroids or vitamin D, but honey may be more effective. This study once again uses a mixture of honey, olive oil, and beeswax, finding that most participants with psoriasis experienced a reduction in redness, scaling, and itching.
Honey can have some surprising uses. With a low glycemic index, it’s a good substitute for sugar and can help you monitor blood sugar. But if you want to use it medically, like applying it topically to wounds and irritated skin, make sure you speak to your doctor.