People have been keeping bees and eating their honey for thousands of years.
Eating honeycomb is one way you can enjoy the fruit of bees’ labor. Doing so may offer health benefits, ranging from a lower risk of infection to a healthier heart and liver.
However, eating honey directly from the comb may also pose some risks.
This article examines honeycomb’s uses, benefits, and dangers.
Honeycomb is a natural product made by honey bees to store honey and pollen or house their larvae.
It consists of a series of hexagonal cells constructed from beeswax which generally contain raw honey.
Raw honey differs from commercial honey because it’s not pasteurized or filtered.
Honeycomb may also contain some bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly — additional bee products with potential health benefits of their own. However, these are likely to be found only in small amounts (1,
You can eat the whole honeycomb, including the honey and waxy cells surrounding it.
The raw honey has a more textured consistency than filtered honey. In addition, the waxy cells can be chewed as a gum.
Summary Honeycomb is a natural product made by bees to store their larvae, honey, and pollen. All of the honeycomb can be eaten — including the waxy cells and raw honey they contain.
Honeycomb is rich in carbohydrates and antioxidants. It also contains trace amounts of several other nutrients.
Because it hasn’t been processed, raw honey contains enzymes like glucose oxidase, which give honey antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Such enzymes are destroyed by the heating and filtering used to process most commercial honey (
Antioxidants are beneficial plant compounds that promote health, reduce inflammation, and protect your body against disease. Their levels may be up to 4.3 times higher in raw than in processed honey (8,
Polyphenols are honey’s main type of antioxidant. Research suggests that they may help reduce your risk of diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer (
Summary Raw honey and beeswax are the two main components of honeycomb. Raw honey is rich in enzymes and antioxidants, while beeswax contains long-chain fatty acids and alcohols — all of which may benefit your well-being.
Honeycomb may boost your heart health.
Research shows that the long-chain fatty acids and alcohols found in beeswax may reduce high blood cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease.
For instance, one review notes that beeswax alcohols may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by up to 29% while raising “good” HDL cholesterol by 8–15% (
However, the studies in this review used high levels of isolated alcohols derived from beeswax, making it difficult to know whether the small amounts of beeswax in honeycomb would produce the same effects.
One small study gave participants either 70 grams of sugar or honey per day. After 30 days, those in the honey group raised their “good” HDL cholesterol by 3.3% and lowered their “bad” LDL cholesterol by 5.8% (
Furthermore, honey’s antioxidants may help dilate the arteries leading to your heart. In turn, this may increase blood flow and lower blood pressure, potentially reducing your risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke (
Summary Honeycomb may benefit your heart by increasing blood flow and “good” HDL cholesterol levels while lowering blood pressure, triglycerides, and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Honeycomb may boost your body’s ability to fight certain bacteria and fungi.
For instance, test-tube studies show that beeswax extracts may offer protection against fungi and disease-causing bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans, Salmonella enterica,and E. coli (21, 22,
However, human studies are needed to confirm these effects.
Summary Honeycomb may strengthen your body’s defenses against fungi and some types of disease-causing bacteria. It may also help protect your gut against certain parasites. However, more human research is needed.
Honeycomb may also help reduce coughing in children.
Children are prone to upper respiratory tract infections which can cause coughing. Research suggests that honey may help suppress this cough (
In one study, eating as little as 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of buckwheat honey 30 minutes before bedtime was more effective than cough syrup at reducing children’s coughing-related discomfort.
Honeycomb likely provides the same benefits, since it is rich in honey.
Summary Honeycomb is rich in honey, which may help reduce coughing in children. However, it shouldn’t be given to children under one year old due to the risk of botulism.
Honeycomb may be a good alternative to sugar for people with diabetes.
That’s in part because honey is much sweeter than sugar, so smaller quantities are needed to attain the same level of sweetness. Additionally, honey appears to raise blood sugar levels less than refined sugar (
That said, honey still elevates blood sugar levels — so people with diabetes shouldn’t consume too much.
What’s more, the alcohols found in beeswax may help reduce insulin resistance, a condition that contributes to high blood sugar levels.
One small study in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) — a medical condition in which fat accumulates in your liver, often accompanied by insulin resistance — found that beeswax alcohol extracts reduced insulin levels by 37% (
These lower insulin levels may indicate reduced insulin resistance, which could also benefit people with diabetes.
Keep in mind that higher-quality studies are needed.
Summary Honeycomb tends to raise blood sugar levels less than refined sugar. What’s more, compounds found in honeycomb may help lower insulin resistance — but more studies are needed.
Honeycomb may also contribute to a healthier liver.
In one 24-week study, a mixture of beeswax alcohols was given daily to people with liver disease. Notably, 48% of those in the beeswax group reported a decrease in symptoms — such as abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea — versus only 8% in the placebo group.
Moreover, liver function returned to normal in 28% of those given beeswax alcohols — compared to none in the placebo group (
Although these results seem promising, it’s unclear how much honeycomb you’d need to consume to achieve the same benefits. Therefore, more studies in humans are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Summary Beeswax alcohols found in honeycomb may improve liver function and reduce symptoms in people with liver disease. However, more studies are needed.
Honeycomb can be consumed in a variety of ways.
While you can eat it as-is, it makes for an excellent spread for warm bread or English muffins. Honeycomb may also be used as a sweetener in homemade desserts — or on top of pancakes, oatmeal, or yogurt.
Some people may likewise enjoy a piece of honeycomb atop salad or alongside fruit, charcuterie, or aged cheeses.
You’re likely to find honeycomb at your local health food store or farmers market, though you can also buy it online.
Honeycomb will keep for extended periods at room temperature. The longer you keep it, the likelier it is to crystallize — but its crystallized form remains edible.
Summary Honeycomb can be used as a sweetener or served as a side to a variety of dishes. You’re most likely to find honeycomb at your local farmers market and should store it at room temperature.
Honeycomb is generally considered safe to eat.
In some cases, eating large amounts of honeycomb may cause stomach obstructions (
To minimize the risk of this happening, it may be best to avoid eating large amounts of honeycomb daily — or simply spit out the waxy cells.
Moreover, people with allergies to bee venom or pollen may want to use caution when eating honeycomb, as it may cause an allergic reaction (
It’s also important to note that despite its many potential benefits, honeycomb remains very high in sugar — so it’s best to eat it in moderation.
Summary Eating small amounts of honeycomb is generally considered safe. However, you shouldn’t give it to your infant or eat it if you are pregnant due to the risk of botulism. Because honey is high in sugar, it’s also best not to overeat honeycomb.
Honeycomb is a natural bee product consisting of waxy, hexagonal cells which contain raw honey.
Honey and its comb are edible and offer numerous health benefits, such as fighting infections and improving heart health. Honeycomb may also boost liver function and serve as a sugar alternative for people with diabetes.
That said, honeycomb remains rich in sugars, so should be consumed with moderation.