7 Unique Health Benefits of Honey
By SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD — Medically reviewed by Ayana Habtemariam, MSW, RDN, LDN — Updated on November 19, 2021
Honey has potential health benefits and plays a role in many home remedies and alternative medicine treatments. It contains small amounts of some nutrients, but most people typically don’t consume enough honey for it to be a significant dietary source of vitamins and minerals.
Honey is a syrupy liquid that honeybees make from plant nectar. Loved worldwide for its sweetness and depth of flavor, it’s used in many foods and recipes.
The smell, color, and taste of honey vary based on the type of flowers it’s made from, so there are countless varieties available.
Honey has a number of potential health benefits and plays a role in many home remedies and alternative medicine treatments.
Here are 7 unique health benefits of honey.
- Contains a variety of nutrients
Fat: 0 grams
Protein: 0 grams
Carbs: 17 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Riboflavin: 1% of the Daily Value (DV)
Copper: 1% of the DV
Honey is essentially pure sugar, with no fat and only trace amounts of protein and fiber. It contains small amounts of some nutrients, but most people typically don’t consume enough honey for it to be a significant dietary source of vitamins and minerals.
Still, it’s worth noting that honey is rich in health-promoting plant compounds known as polyphenols.
Honey is primarily composed of sugar, provides small amounts of several vitamins and minerals, and is rich in health-promoting plant compounds.
- Rich in antioxidants
High quality honey — which is minimally processed, unheated, and fresh — contains many important bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. Darker varieties tend to offer more antioxidants than lighter varieties (2Trusted Source).
Antioxidants help neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) in your body, which can build up in cells and cause damage. This damage can contribute to conditions like premature aging, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (2Trusted Source).
As such, many of honey’s health benefits are attributed to its antioxidant content.
Honey contains a number of antioxidants, including phenolic acids and flavonoids.
- Better for blood sugar levels than regular sugar
When it comes to blood sugar management, honey may offer some slight benefits over regular sugar.
Although honey raises your blood sugar level just like other types of sugar do, the antioxidants it contains may help protect against metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers have found that honey may increase levels of adiponectin, a hormone that reduces inflammation and improves blood sugar regulation (3Trusted Source).
There’s also some evidence that daily honey intake may improve fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (3Trusted Source)
However, while honey may be slightly better than refined sugar for people with diabetes, it should still be consumed in moderation (4Trusted Source).
It’s also important to know that certain types of honey could be diluted with plain syrup. Although honey adulteration is illegal in most countries, it remains a widespread problem (5Trusted Source).
Honey may offer some protective effects related to blood sugar management, but it should still be consumed in moderation, especially by people with type 2 diabetes.
- May improve heart health
Honey may also help prevent heart disease.
According to one review, honey may help lower blood pressure, improve blood fat levels, regulate your heartbeat, and prevent the death of healthy cells — all factors that can improve your heart function and health (6Trusted Source).
One observational study including over 4,500 people over age 40 associated a moderate honey intake with a lower risk of high blood pressure among women (7Trusted Source).
Plus, a study in rats promisingly showed that honey helped protect the heart from oxidative stress (8Trusted Source).
Additionally, raw honey typically contains propolis, a type of resin that bees produce from sap-producing trees and similar plants. Propolis may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels (9Trusted Source).
All told, there’s no long-term human study available on honey and heart health. More research is needed to better understand honey’s effects on heart health.
Honey has been linked to beneficial effects on heart health, including reduced blood pressure and blood fat levels. Still, more human research is needed on the topic.
- Promotes burn and wound healing
Topical honey treatment has been used to heal wounds and burns since ancient Egypt. The practice is still common today.
A review of 26 studies on honey and wound care found it most effective at healing partial-thickness burns and wounds that have become infected after surgery (10Trusted Source).
Honey is also an effective treatment for diabetes-related foot ulcers, which are serious complications that can lead to amputation.
One study including people with diabetes-related foot ulcers reported a 43.3% success rate with honey as a wound treatment. In another study, topical honey healed an impressive 97% of participants’ diabetes-related ulcers (11Trusted Source).
Researchers theorize that honey’s healing powers come from its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects (12Trusted Source).
What’s more, it may help treat other skin conditions including psoriasis and herpes lesions (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Manuka honey is considered especially effective at treating burns. However, if you have a severe burn, you should seek medical attention immediately (15Trusted Source).
When applied to the skin, honey can be part of an effective treatment plan for burns, wounds, and many other skin conditions. It’s particularly effective for diabetes-related foot ulcers.
- May help suppress coughing in children
Coughing is a common problem for children with upper respiratory infections. These infections can affect sleep and quality of life for both children and parents.
However, common cough medications are not always effective and can have side effects. Interestingly, honey may be a good alternative, with evidence indicating that it’s an effective treatment option (16Trusted Source).
One review of several studies on honey and cough in children found that honey appears to be more effective than diphenhydramine for cough symptoms. It may also help reduce cough duration (17Trusted Source).
Another review noted that it may also improve sleep quality among children with coughs, as well as their parents. Further, unlike some cough medicines, honey doesn’t have any side effects (18Trusted Source).
However, never give honey to children under 1 year of age due to the risk of botulism (19Trusted Source).
For children over 1 year of age, honey can act as a natural and safe cough suppressant. Some studies show that it’s even more effective than certain cough medicines.
- Easy to add to your diet
Honey is easy to add to your diet.
To get a small boost of antioxidants from honey, you can use it any way that you’d typically use sugar. It’s excellent for sweetening plain yogurt, coffee, or tea. You can also use it in cooking and baking.
As a home remedy, it can be applied directly to minor burns or wounds or given orally for coughs.
Remember that you shouldn’t give honey to infants under 1 year of age due to the risk of botulism.
Also, keep in mind that honey is a type of sugar, so consuming it will cause your blood sugar levels to rise (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).
Plus, eating large quantities of honey, especially consistently over a long period, can contribute to weight gain and increase your risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Therefore, stick to a low-to-moderate intake (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).
You can use honey to sweeten yogurt or beverages, as an ingredient in many recipes, or as a home remedy for minor wounds and coughing. Because honey is sugar, try to limit your intake.
The bottom line
Honey offers several potential health benefits thanks to the beneficial compounds it contains, such as antioxidants and propolis.
It’s a great alternative to sugar, but only consume it in moderation, as it still behaves like sugar in your body.
Also, know that children under 1 year of age shouldn’t eat honey, as it’s associated with a risk of botulism.
Just one thing
Try this today: Manuka honey is a unique type of honey that bees make from the Manuka plant, which is native to New Zealand. This honey is rich in a potent compound called methylglyoxal (MGO), which provides many of its health benefits.
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