9 Unexpected Uses for Honey

When you have a sore throat or cough, it’s common knowledge that honey is the best natural relief that you’ll find — not to mention the tastiest.

The first record of beekeeping dates back to 2400 B.C. in Cairo. For millennia, cultures around the world have fallen for this sweet substance — everyone from the Egyptians to the Greeks, the Romans to the Chinese — and have used it both in medicine and in the kitchen.  …

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Honey is commonly used as a sweetener — it’s made up of 70-80 percent sugar and the rest is water, minerals, and protein — and helps to alleviate allergies. But this nectar has many additional usages. Surprisingly, many of them are for more serious conditions than those aforementioned sore throats.

1. Burns

In some studies, using honey as a salve for burns has proven very effective. In one clinical trial, burn victims treated with honey saw swelling subside earlier, a better control of infection, and faster overall healing.

2. Memory

Some say that honey can improve both short- and long-term memory, especially in menopausal and postmenopausal women. In one study, postmenopausal women who were given honey treatments for several weeks saw as much improvement in their immediate memory as women given hormone therapy.

3. Herpes

Honey has proven to be an effective topical treatment for both oral and genital herpes. Research conducted in Dubai shows that honey can heal these lesions just as quickly as ointments you find at a pharmacy, and was even better at reducing itchiness.  

4. Diabetes

Honey has a lower glycemic index than sugar—which means that it won’t spike blood sugar levels the way sugar will. Honey also has a sweeter taste than sugar, and may help you use less sweetener on your foods. This can make honey a better option than sugar. In one experiment, researchers found that swapping honey for pure sugar is an effective way to keep blood sugar levels steady.  

9 Unexpected Uses for Honey

5. Cancer

Honey is celebrated for its antioxidant properties, which has caused many to wonder whether it might have a future in preventing or treating cancer. A 2011 study from Iran looked at how honey affects renal cell carcinoma, which is a type of kidney cancer. Researchers found that honey was in fact effective in stopping cancer cells from multiplying, and concluded that honey definitely warrants further study as a cancer treatment.

6. Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids cause itching and pain in the anus, as well as blood in the stool. In short, they are never fun. But if you’re looking for a home remedy, honey might fit the bill. An experiment that used 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.

7. Wounds and Ulcers

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 anti-honey. One study found that honey is fast and effective when it comes to sterilizing wounds and removing dead tissue. 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 can actually cause infection, so only use honey after you’ve seen a doctor.  

The Takeaway:
  • Honey can be applied topically to wounds and irritated skin, but only use it after speaking to your doctor.
  • With a low glycemic index, it’s a good substitute for sugar and can help you monitor blood sugar.

8. Fertility

Honey has been lauded for its potential to boost fertility, both in men and women. However, the evidence is somewhat mixed. In fact, two separate 2013 studies — both conducted in Nigeria, using rats — gave very different results. While one showed that honey increased the male rats’ sperm counts, the other showed quite the opposite. Can honey help you start a family? For now, all we really have is anecdotal evidence.

9. Psoriasis

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 could honey blow them out of the water? One study once again used a mixture of honey, olive oil, and beeswax, and found that in most participants there was a reduction in redness, scaling, and itching.