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What are the Health-Promoting Properties of Honey?

By Bronwyn Harris
Updated May 17, 2024
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In the ancient world, honey was used for medicinal reasons as well as a sweetener. In fact, until antibiotics came onto the scene in the 1930s, honey still had a place in treating a variety of ailments. Now, as more bacteria are becoming drug-resistant, some doctors are again making use of the healing properties of honey.

Raw honey contains an enzyme, glucose oxidase, that produces hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water. Hydrogen peroxide is a mild antiseptic and can be used to treat and clean superficial cuts and wounds. Glucose oxidase is destroyed by pasteurization, or by intense heat, so most commercial honeys do not have this benefit. However, if you buy raw or unheated honey, you can take advantage of the antiseptic properties of honey.

Other healing components are present in raw honey. Before pasteurization, it contains propolis, enzymes, and bee pollen, which can all stimulate new tissue growth. Other healing properties of honey exist in the essential oils, polyphenols, and flavonoids, which may be present in raw honey, depending upon the plant that the pollen comes from.

Exfoliation is another use for honey. Honey contains many organic acids, which are very mild. When used on skin, these acids can loosen the bonds of the dead skin cells, allowing for easier exfoliation. Gluconic acid is one of the other properties of honey that can be beneficial to skin. Gluconic acid is one of the mildest alpha hydroxy acids, and can minimize wrinkles and lines, balance oily skin, increase elasticity, and stimulate collagen production.

Honey also contains amino acids, which can help the skin retain moisture. Applying honey to the skin lets these moisturizing properties of honey go to work, as well as stimulating collagen and elastin production. This leads to smoother skin. The high sugar content of honey also contributes to moisturizing, as it is a good humectant. In addition, honey contains bioflavonoids, which are anti-inflammatory, anti-histamic, and anti-viral. These properties of honey help prevent breakouts, reduce puffiness, and calm pores.

Finally, honey is often called a "free-radical scavenger." Raw honey has a very high antioxidant content, and can reduce and reverse the damage that free radicals cause on your skin. It can do so without overly drying out your skin, unlike many soaps.

The health-promoting properties of honey depend, of course, on where the bees get the pollen and how it is processed. Honey is actually a natural preservative and doesn't need additives to keep from spoiling. Amazingly, honey pots found in ancient Egyptian tombs contained honey that was unspoiled!

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Discussion Comments
By angelica — On Jan 05, 2009

Are wild and raw honey the same thing?

By mexicana — On Apr 19, 2008

Honey is the greatest, most versatile stuff ever! I also like the taste of it much better than sugar. Maybe I'll be a beekeeper in my next life.

By ivanka — On Apr 12, 2008

Honey has low moisture content. Once the jar is opened it will keep at room temperature for up to two years. It is best kept at room temperature in a tightly closed container. In refrigerator honey will crystallize.

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