Honey is available in a variety of colors and flavors including white, brown, amber, red and almost black. The flavor of honey depends on the type of flower used. Acacia, alfalfa, clover and heather flowers are the flowers from which honey is most commonly derived.
While honey has many uses, the commonest one is as a sweetening agent. However, honey has many medicinal properties and has been used since ancient times as a cure for a wide range of illnesses. The health benefits of honey include its use as an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal agent.
To gain a better understanding of the curative powers of honey, one must have some knowledge of the compounds contained in raw honey. Raw honey has a number of phytonutrients which unfortunately get removed during processing. One of the compounds present in raw honey is propolis or “bee glue”. This complex mix of resins is used by bees to seal their hive, forming a barrier against bacteria and other microorganisms. Propolis is one of the phytonutrients that gives honey its anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties. Other phytonutrients found in honey may possess anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
Honey is an excellent food for children especially when they are unwell. Children, because of their immature immune systems are prone to developing coughs, colds and other illnesses. Honey has been shown to be very effective in providing symptomatic relief from cough, allowing your child to sleep better at night. In fact, some studies suggest that honey can be as effective if not more, in providing symptomatic relief from nocturnal cough as dextromethorphan. This is indeed good news for parents of younger children, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that over-the-counter cough and cold medications should not be given to children under the age of six. A word of caution – The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that children under the age of 1 should not be given honey, so you should consult your doctor before trying honey as a cure for cough.
Honey can be used for a number of home remedies. Honey and warm water make a very soothing mixture when drunk and can be used to provide relief from sore throat and upper respiratory tract infections. This is because honey possesses excellent anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
These properties of honey make it an excellent therapeutic agent for the treatment of ulcers, wounds and burns. Honey can be applied topically to burns or wounds to accelerate the healing process. The anti-bacterial properties of honey prevent wounds and burns from getting infected while the ant-inflammatory properties help to accelerate the healing process. Oral ulcers also respond well to the application of honey.
Another useful home remedy involves the use of honey for stomach upsets and gastric infections. Honey possesses large amounts of friendly bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Eating honey after having a course of antibiotics will help restore the balance of good bacteria within your gut.
Another area where honey shows great promise is in the control of blood sugar levels. Evidence gathered from experimental studies suggests that honey may improve insulin sensitivity in patients with diabetes. This makes it a far more effective sweetening agent than sucrose and other artificial sweeteners. In addition, the antioxidants in honey help protect the body, especially the cardiovascular system, from the damaging effect of free radicals. These two properties make honey an excellent therapeutic agent for diabetics who are also prone to developing cardiovascular disease. Of additional interest to diabetics and heart patients is the fact that honey may also have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels.