Winnie the Pooh said it best when he said, “Eating honey is a very good thing to do.” This liquid gold has been a staple in my home for many, many years, and for good reason. The benefits of honey are seemingly endless. Everywhere I have lived, I have sought out raw local sources of honey for use in my kitchen, as well as for other medicinal purposes. I am also beginning to do my own research on keeping bees — partially because I use so much honey and partially because I find it absolutely amazing that bees provide us with this wonderful gift that I want to watch them work up close and personal.
I am not alone in my awe of honey. Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Romans, and Greeks used honey for treating wounds and to heal conditions of the gut. Hippocrates himself used honey and vinegar for pain, honey and water for thirst, and honey mixed with water and other substances for fever.
Medicinal properties of honey
Honey is truly a healing gift from nature, and is rich in medicinal properties:
- Hygroscopic property
In its natural state, honey has very low water content, but it absorbs moisture when exposed to air. This hygroscopic property makes honey highly beneficial to dry skin by allowing it to better retain moisture. It also helps to speed up wound healing time.
- Antibacterial property
One especially vital component in honey, glucose oxidase, is an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide. Research indicates that this is one of the main reasons why honey seems to have such powerful antibacterial and wound-healing capabilities. The production of hydrogen peroxide is just one of the remarkable ways that honey helps to kill bacteria and heal wounds.
- Antioxidant property
Although darker honey generally contains more antioxidant power than light-colored, both are still a rich source of valuable antioxidants. Antioxidants go to work against free radicals and encourage new tissue growth. This, in turn, helps expedite the healing of damaged tissue and also helps skin appear younger and more radiant.
- Honey is a nutritional powerhouse
Honey is also a nutritional powerhouse, containing glucose, fructose, and numerous minerals including calcium, iron, copper, phosphate, sodium chlorine, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Vitamins in honey include B6, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and a number of amino acids. It is also quite acidic, with a pH of 3.2. and 4.5. This helps prevent the growth of bacteria. It is also loaded with protective antioxidants.
Ways to use honey
There are literally hundreds of ways to use honey — here are 35 of my favorite. I hope you give some of these a try. You will be amazed at what you find.
1. Wound cleaner
Dab honey onto a minor burn or cut, lightly covering the wound like an antibiotic ointment. Research published in The FASEB Journal shows how honey kills off bacteria and helps speed healing time.
2. Diaper rash and nipple cream
A New Zealand study investigated using topical pharmaceutical-grade manuka honey in place of traditional barrier cream for the treatment of redness, itching, and inflammation. Researchers found that symptoms improved in a similar fashion to using a traditional barrier cream. To help prevent diaper rash, try adding equal parts of honey to your usual diaper cream and use it daily. In the same manner that honey provides relief and healing for diaper rash, it is also a fantastic remedy for sore and inflamed nipples!
3. Hair conditioner
Honey makes for a great natural conditioner. Mix together 1/2 cup honey with 1/4 cup olive oil and warm slightly on the stove. Apply to your hair and then allow it to soak in by wrapping your hair in a towel. Once it is soaked in, rinse out your hair, preferably with cool water.
4. Natural hair remover
Mix one tablespoon of honey with one tablespoon of lemon juice and three tablespoons of brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm slightly in the microwave and allow the mixture to cool, then apply to facial hair using a popsicle stick. Place a small piece of muslin cloth over the area and rub slightly. Apply a small amount of tea tree oil to the area where you removed the hair.
5. Burn treatment
The Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery published a paper based on an analysis comparing the use of medicated dressings (silver sulfadiazine) with honey dressings over a five-year period. When burn healing time was compared, those patients with the honey dressings healed in an average of 18.16 days, while those with the medicated bandages healed in 32.68 days.
Researchers concluded that the honey dressings made wounds sterile in a shorter time period and also improved healing time. Note: Only try this home treatment for minor burns. In the case of a serious burn, call the emergency room.
6. Makeup remover
Mix baking soda and honey together to make a paste and add a few drops of tea tree oil. Apply using a warm washcloth in a circular motion. Rinse with warm water.
7. Bad breath
If you suffer from bad breath, try a mixture of 1/4 cup water, one teaspoon raw honey, and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Gargle for three minutes and spit out for fresh breath all day long.
8. Face mask
Honey can effectively treat conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema, while coconut oil is great for relieving dry or irritated skin, as well as for reducing wrinkles. Combining them leads to super-soft, clear, hydrated skin! Mix one tablespoon coconut oil and one tablespoon raw honey in a small bowl with a spoon until it’s well combined.
Apply the mixture to your face and neck with your fingertips — gently — as sometimes honey can crystalize and be rough on your skin. Let it sink in for up to 20 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Simple, easy, and effective!
9. Strengthen nails
If you have weak, brittle nails, try mixing one tablespoon of honey with a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar in a shallow dish. Soak your nails for 10 minutes and rinse. Repeat weekly for strong and healthy cuticles and nails.
10. Relieve acid reflux
Raw honey coats the lining of the esophagus and provides relief to the burning caused by acid reflux. In a report posted in the British Medical Journal, Professor Mahantayya V. Math found relief from reflux when he ingested five milliliters of honey.
11. Balance blood sugar
Although honey is sweet, it has a fairly low glycemic index. The natural sugars in honey have a “slow-release” effect, which means it does not cause the sharp peak in blood sugar that other sweet substances (like refined sugar) do. The sugars in honey are therefore more slowly absorbed and metabolized. Despite its sweetness, honey will not cause blood sugar levels to spike as high or as fast as other high-sugar foods.
12. Natural cough syrup
You can make a very effective, tasty, natural cough syrup using the following ingredients: one cup of filtered water, 1/4 cup fresh ginger root, 1/4 cup marshmallow root, one tablespoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, and one cup honey. Pour the water into a saucepan and add the dried herbs.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. Pour through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove herbs. While the liquid is still warm, but not boiling, mix in the lemon juice and honey. Stir well and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
13. Dark circle remover
Mix one teaspoon of honey with one teaspoon of sweet almond oil and spread the mixture under the eyes. After about 20 minutes, wash the mixture off and follow up with a light layer of organic coconut oil. Repeat this treatment a few times a week to keep your skin looking great.
14. Lip moisturizer
A very easy way to heal and prevent chapped lips can be made with honey. Mix one part of warm, recently-melted beeswax to three parts olive oil. Then add one to two tablespoons of honey to the mixture. Once the mixture has been set, it’s ready to use.
15. Healthy sports drink
Commercial sports drinks are loaded with sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients. However, it is very easy to make your own homemade sports drink using honey. Simply combine the following ingredients in a Vitamix and blend until the honey dissolves: 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, two cups water, 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt, and two tablespoons of raw honey. Take some of this mixture in a water bottle when going out on a long hike and you’ll feel hydrated and energized.
16. Improves healthy gut bacteria
Bees have a very diverse population of beneficial acid bacteria. A unique characteristic of raw honey is its ability to feed good gut bacteria and fight off bad bacteria. Good bacteria are essential for overall health and wellness. It forms the main defense against outside threats.
17. Relieve morning sickness
Organic honey works to relieve morning sickness for pregnant mothers. A warm tea made with honey and ginger is highly effective at calming a pregnant mother’s tummy.
Preserving your fruits with raw honey makes them so much healthier. Simply use one part honey to ten parts water and cover your berries in the mixture. Much better than sugar!
19. Weight-loss aid
Hands down, honey is a better and far healthier sweetener than sugar. The body knows just what to do with this natural gift from the bees, and our cells can use it for energy. If you are looking to drop a few pounds, replace your sugar with honey. It will boost your metabolism and give you energy.
Just remember, all in moderation. You must eat a healthy diet and exercise for any permanent weight loss to occur. For an added boost, mix half a teaspoon of organic ground cinnamon in a cup of boiling water, then let it steep for 10 minutes. Add one teaspoon of raw honey and enjoy!
20. Infections in the mouth
Bacteria and viruses can cause oral infections that impact the teeth, gums, palate, tongue, lips, and the inside of the cheeks. Oral infections are very common. In fact, infections that cause tooth decay are the second most common infectious condition after the common cold.
Researchers in India have found that manuka honey worked just as well as commercial mouthwash, and better than chewing gum with xylitol, for reducing plaque levels. This they attribute to its outstanding antibacterial qualities. Manuka honey, taken orally, can help reduce gingivitis and keep the mouth healthy and free from harmful bacteria.
21. Treat insect bites
Mixing some lemon juice with honey makes a natural antiseptic solution; the natural sugar in honey kills the microorganisms, while the lemon partners with it to prevent bacteria from taking over. The combination will also reduce the swelling associated with insect bites, and decrease itchiness.
For best results, squeeze the juice of one lemon into two tablespoons of raw honey and spread on the infected area. Allow the mixture to remain on the skin until the swelling goes down. You’ll also notice a decrease in itchiness.
22. Fix fertility issues
Raw honey is also an effective natural remedy for fertility issues. It can be combined with raw goat milk to increase sperm counts in men. In women, it can increase the chances of successful fertilization.
23. Reduce the appearance of scars
Over time, a mixture of honey and baking soda can reduce the appearance of scars. Mix one tablespoon of honey with one tablespoon of baking soda. Apply the paste to a scar and let sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Do this daily until the scar begins to fade.
24. Treat yeast infections
There is evidence that applying raw honey in and around the vagina can help get rid of yeast infections. Apply the honey, let it sit for 30 minutes, then wash it off in the bath or shower.
25. Stockpile for emergency
Are you building up an emergency food supply for the apocalypse? Honey should be in it! This food never spoils — collections of it have actually been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. It also provides the perfect balance of glucose and fructose for energy, along with a ton of healthy vitamins and enzymes.
26. Soften skin
The same qualities that make honey good for your hair also make it good for your skin. It’s a great way to keep your skin naturally soft and clean. Just add two tablespoons of honey to a cup of hot water and let it dissolve. Add two to three drops of lavender essential oil, then pour the mixture into your bath.
27. Whip up healthy peanut butter
I love peanut butter but hate sugar. This is quite simply the most delicious peanut butter I have ever tasted, with natural sweetness from a healthy dose of honey.
28. Combat parasites
If you have parasites, try using a mixture of raw honey and apple cider vinegar. Simply add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon of honey to a glass of water and drink it down!
29. Relieve a hangover
Because of its antioxidant properties, honey is said to neutralize the toxins created by consuming alcohol. The fructose in honey is thought to be the essential compound that helps the body break down alcohol into harmless byproducts.
30. Treat antibiotic-resistant superbugs
Antibiotic resistance is, according to the CDC, a leading world health problem. Doctors first began to notice resistance problems almost a decade ago, when kids with middle-ear infections stopped responding to the drugs they were being given.
Phenols found in manuka honey inhibit bacterial growth and promote healing. These antioxidants are not like synthetic antibiotics that promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Clearly raw honey is an impressive antimicrobial agent against a broad spectrum of bacteria and other infectious organisms.
31. Create a simple energy boost
If you start to feel a little lethargic towards the end of your day, a tablespoon of raw honey is just what you need. According to the American College of Nutrition, honey (unlike sugar) provides a nutritious carbohydrate that the body can use for immediate energy. When you are feeling low, take a teaspoon in a cup of warm water mixed with lemon or a scoop right from the jar!
32. Make salad dressing
Ditch commercial salad dressing and try this delicious and healthy option instead. Combine equal parts raw honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a jar and shake lightly. Add herbs, pepper and sea salt to taste.
33. Treat allergies
Research contends that locally produced honey helps greatly with seasonal allergies. Try adding a tablespoon of local honey (produced during the season you have your allergy problem) to a tea made with nettle leaf for extra allergy relief benefits.
34. Topical antibiotic
Raw organic honey has been used as an antibiotic and topical treatment for abrasions and cuts for hundreds of years. For people with diabetic ulcers, it can be an effective treatment when many other topical treatments are unsuccessful.
35. Homemade dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a delicious and healthy treat, in moderation. Make your own using honey (much better than sugar). Visit this site for an amazingly good recipe for some delicious little treats.
How to choose the best honey
Raw honey is honey in its purest state. According to the National Honey Board, there is no exact definition for raw honey. A honey label that says “untreated” or “unpasteurized” may be an indication, but not a guarantee that the honey is raw. Obviously, any honey labeled pasteurized is not raw. Don’t be fooled by words like “natural” or “pure” — they mean nothing in regards to honey processing.
To be sure that the honey you are purchasing is raw, it is best to get it from a local beekeeper who will tell you how the honey was obtained. The very best raw honey will also be organic — beekeepers must adhere to very strict regulations in order to be certified organic. Now go out and get some honey!
-Susan Patterson, Certified Health Coach and Master Gardener