The origins of humans eating honey and using it to heal can be traced back thousands of years. Stone Age paintings depicted humans foraging for honey; ancient Egyptian artefacts show it being used as a skin ointment, while in Indian Ayurvedic medicine it is hailed as a saviour to those with poor digestion. Long employed as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, it is also a healthier alternative to sugar, but what does modern science say about honey today and how is it actually good for you?
Unadulterated honey has numerous health-promoting properties
Pure honey contains small amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals such as calcium and iron and antioxidants which help fight off free radicals that contribute to many serious diseases. It also has antimicrobial properties to help fight infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi. If you are looking for a sugar swap but still want to have some sweetness in your diet, then honey, consumed in moderation, is a great alternative.
It relieves upper respiratory tract infections
Since 2018, Public Health England has recommended people try using honey to ease a cough before seeking a GP appointment. This was backed further in 2020 with a British Medical Journal review which showed honey’s effectiveness at relieving upper respiratory tract infections with doctors ‘recommending it as a suitable alternative to antibiotics, which are often prescribed for these types of infection, even though they aren’t suitable’.
It helps to heal wounds
Medical grade honey is employed by doctors to reduce infection and inflammation in wounds. Table honey has been shown not to have the same effects, so it is important that you only use what your doctor has prescribed.
It is a natural energy source
The natural sugars of honey contain a higher proportion of fructose which means the blood sugar levels rise and fall more slowly unlike processed sugars. Research by the University of Memphis in 2001 demonstrated that honey is a carbohydrate option for athletes due to its low glycaemic index, positive metabolic response, and effective energy production.
It can help combat a hangover
You may not know this, but according to The Royal Society of Chemists honey on toast for breakfast is an ideal way to combat a hangover as it provides the body with sodium, potassium and fructose which it needs after a night on the alcohol.
But remember, some honeys are better than others
To ensure you enjoy the health benefits of honey, it is important you look at the provenance and traceability of the honey you are buying.
Honey from the British Honey Company is 100% raw, coming straight from the hive, to retain all its natural goodness. It is made by British bees who have gathered pollen from a wonderful mix of blossoms from all over Britain and is regularly tested in our own laboratories to guarantee its authenticity in the food and drink supply chain.
Some honey products stocked in supermarkets, however, could be adulterated and may contain cheap sugar syrups made from rice and corn to bulk out the product.
Find out more about how to add honey to your everyday meals here.