Evidence Based

18 Proven Health Benefits of Honey + Raw Honey

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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Honey contains a treasure chest of hidden nutritional and medicinal values. Raw, unprocessed honey is most rich in beneficial bioactive compounds. The Bible itself quotes “Eat Thou Honey because it is Good”. But what does the science say? Read this post to understand all the proven incredible benefits of honey.

What is Honey?

Honey is a sweet food made by bees taking nectar from flowers. There are different types of honey, but the most common kind comes from the genus Apis, which are honeybees. Honeybees convert the nectar to honey by a regurgitation process and evaporation [1].

As you can imagine, depending on the available plants, the taste, constituents, and benefits of honey are different [2].

Depending on the type, honey is a pain reliever, antibacterial, or pure sugar (like artificial honey).

Raw vs. Heated Honey

Raw honey retains more of its beneficial bioactive compounds. It is especially rich in flavonoids and other polyphenol antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, protect the brain, fight viruses and bacteria, and boost cognition [3, 4].

The concentration of honey is also very important. The bacteria-fighting potency among the different kinds of honey can vary up to 100-fold, depending on its geographical, seasonal and plant source as well as harvesting, processing and storage conditions [3].

Manuka honey has been widely researched and it’s renowned worldwide for its antibacterial effects. Mountain, tualang, Capilano, and eco-honeys also have high bacteria-fighting potency [3].

However, commercial honey available is often heat-processed. Higher temperatures can reduce the quality of honey and cause it to lose many beneficial enzymes, nutrients, and antioxidants. In fact, heating honey together with ghee doesn’t reduce the concentration of beneficial substances but can even cause harmful products to build up [5].

For this reason, we recommend using high-quality, natural, raw honey.

Honey Snapshot

  • Good for skin
  • Great Antioxidant
  • Boosts Energy
  • Regulates blood sugar
  • Protects the heart
  • Good for wounds
  • Excess consumption might cause stomach upset
  • Honey loses nutrients when heated or commercially processed

Health Benefits of Honey

1) Fights Microbes (Antimicrobial)

In rats, infected skin wounds treated daily with honey for 7 days had a better outcome than saltwater treatments.

After 7 days, the bacteria culture showed that honey was effective in the management of infected skin wounds by significantly inhibiting bacterial growth and having a positive influence on wound repair [6].

When the concentrations of honey were increased, the antibacterial effects against Staph bacteria and E.Coli were enhanced [7].

Various kinds of honey show antimicrobial effects against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria as well as multidrug-resistant strains [8].

Melaleuca honey is capable of inhibiting MRSA [9].

A literature review found that honey is a great antimicrobial because of its high viscosity that provides a barrier to prevent infections. The antimicrobial property comes from the enzymatic production of hydrogen peroxide [10].

2) Improves Blood Levels of Vitamins, Minerals, and Enzymes

A pilot study was performed in 10 healthy people consuming multi-floral honey daily for two weeks (1.2 g/kg BW). Honey consumption increased blood antioxidants, Vitamin C, beta-carotene (Vitamin A), uric acid, glutathione reductase, iron, white blood cells, zinc, magnesium, hemoglobin, and copper. On the other hand, honey decreased blood ferritin, IgE, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, lactic acid dehydrogenase, creatine kinase, and fasting blood sugar [11].

3) Improves Wound Healing

Honey was more effective as a wound dressing than silver as measured by the number of days the wound needed to heal [12].

In patients with diabetic foot ulcers, honey was able to reduce the rate of amputation.

172 patients with non-healing diabetic foot ulcers received a thick layer of honey on their wound. Wounds became healthy within 7-35 days. Of those 172 patients, only 3 had to get their big toe amputated and 2 had below the knee amputations. This study concluded that when using honey in chronic diabetic foot ulcers, the rate of amputation greatly decreases [13].

Skin grafts are used to cover burn injuries and honey has been shown to increase the adherence of skin grafts to wound beds. In a clinical trial, 30 patients used honey as their graft and 30 used a regular dressing or suturing.

The patients treated with honey reported a significantly reduced infection rate on day 5 and had reduced pain. They also had a shorter mean hospital stay. This study concluded that medical honey can be used for the fixation of a split-thickness skin graft [14].

In rats, honey (combined with milk and aloe vera) induced cell proliferation which increased the wound closure rate, blood vessel count and the collagen fiber density [15].

Honey works, in part, by increasing TNF-α, IL1b, Il-6 on wounds [6].

Honey stimulates inflammatory cytokines from monocytic cells, which play an important role in wound healing and tissue repair [16].

However, over 19 trials it was found that for burns, compression bands alone were just as effective as honey [17].

4) May Help with Diabetes

In a clinical trial of 48 people, honey decreased weight, total cholesterol, LDL, and blood fats. Also, it increased HDL and hemoglobin A1C [18].

A study of 7 diabetic patients showed that honey decreased glucose rise compared with dextrose. Honey caused greater elevation of insulin than sucrose [19].

In pancreatic hamster cells, pretreating the cells with gelam honey and quercetin reduced the expression of proinflammatory cytokines. There was also an increase in the phosphorylated Akt, which showed the protective effects against insulin resistance and inflammation, contributing factors to type 2 diabetes.

This study concluded that the use of gelam honey and quercetin may help regulate the inflammation-induced insulin signaling pathways [20].

In rats, honey increased HDL cholesterol and reduced high blood sugar, triglycerides, VLDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol, and cardiovascular risk index [21].

Chrysin is a flavonoid found in honey that also benefits diabetic rats [22].

In rats, honey produced a hypoglycemic effect and showed a positive change in beta cells [23].

5) Lowers Cholesterol

In five people with high cholesterol, honey lowered LDL and C-reactive protein [19].

6) Is an Antioxidant

In healthy humans, buckwheat honey increased the plasma antioxidants and protected them from oxidative stress. The substitution of honey in some foods instead of sweeteners could result in an enhanced antioxidant defense system [24].

In a study of 25 healthy men, buckwheat honey was a stronger antioxidant, while clover honey had the widest range of antioxidant molecules [2].

7) May Protect the Heart

A traditional herbal medicine containing honey, Rehmannia glutinosa var. purpurae, Lycium chinense (goji), Aquillaria agallocha, Poria cocos, and Panax ginseng (KOK) has been used to improve blood circulation and showed a significant protective effect against thrombosis attack. The study concluded that KOK has remarkable antiplatelet and anti-thrombotic effects with a lower side effect of bleeding [25].

Rats treated with honey had protective effects on heart attacks [26].

8) May Help Heal Ulcers

In rats, manuka honey exhibited antiulcer effects [27].

In patients with diabetic foot ulcers, a regular saline dressing was compared to the effect of Beri-honey-impregnated dressings. 136 wounds out of 179 were completely healed when used with honey compared to the 97 out of 169 that healed with saline dressings. The mean healing time for honey was 18 days compared to the 29 days for the saline dressings. The study concluded that honey is an effective dressing [28].

9) Fights Yeast and Fungi (Antifungal)

In women with vaginal candidiasis, honey is similar to clotrimazole cream and is even better at relieving some symptoms than the cream. It was concluded that honey (and yogurt) can be used as an herbal remedy for this treatment [29].

Substituting sugars with honey in processed food can inhibit the harmful and genotoxic effects of mycotoxins, and improve the gut microflora. Honey increased colon bifidobacteria and lactobacilli count the mice [30].

10) A Probiotic and Anti-toxin

Honey enhances the probiotic bacteria, which leads to beneficial effects such as detoxification. The study recommended using honey instead of sugar in processed foods to prevent fungi growth and other toxins [30].

11) Use of Honey in Cosmetics (Skin and Hair)

In a review on honey, it was found that honey has used in rejuvenating the skin as well as slowing down the formation of wrinkles. It also helps make hair smooth and regulates the pH while also preventing pathogen infections [31].

Another article cited honey to be used as a face wash and facial cleansing scrub for pimples and dry skin [32].

A study in 30 volunteers showed that diluting honey in water and applying it to the scalp lowers hair loss, itching, and dandruff [33].

12) As an Anti-Inflammatory

In rats, Honey significantly reduced arthritis. This study concluded that honey has anti-inflammatory effects and can be used to treat acute conditions [34].

13) May Reduce Mouth Inflammation (Mucositis)

Honey can help oral mucositis.  A study was done on 28 patients in which 14 were given honey to rub on and the other half got water. Out of the patients who had honey, only 1 developed grade III oral mucositis compared to 9 patients with water treatment [35].

In a systematic review, it was found that honey significantly benefited patients with mucositis [36].

14) Suppresses Coughs

A double-blind, randomized clinical trial showed that honey significantly lowered frequency, severity, and annoyance of cough in 300 children. It also improved sleep quality for the children and their parents [37].

For acute coughs for children, it was found that the use of honey is better than no treatment, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and placebo for relief. Honey is not better than dextromethorphan though and there is no strong evidence either for or against the use of honey to treat an acute cough [38].

Another study found that a teaspoon or two of honey can help suppress a cough [39].

Honey can be used as an additional treatment for mucositis, childhood cough, persistent post-infectious cough and after tonsillectomy [40].

15) May Help Relieve Allergies

Patients with allergic rhinitis received honey as well as loratadine as a treatment plan. Half the patients received a placebo instead of the honey. After 8 weeks it was determined that honey was effective in relieving allergic rhinitis symptoms. The study concluded that honey could be used as a complementary therapy for allergic rhinitis [41].

16) Is Better Than Dextrose

Dextrose is a simple sugar made from corn. It’s similar to fructose and identical to glucose. A study of eight healthy volunteers showed that insulin and C-peptide elevation were higher after dextrose than after honey. Honey reduced cholesterol, LDL-C, and TG, and slightly elevated HDL-C [19].

17) May Fight Tumors

When tested on five types of rat and mice tumors, honey showed anti-metastatic and moderate anti-tumor effects [42].

18) Protects the Brain

Honey is a promising antioxidant-rich nutriceutical that may boost brain health and protect against mood and neurological diseases.

In rats, honey reduced anxiety, pain, seizures, and had antidepressant effects. It could enhance brain antioxidants while its polyphenols have nootropic and neuroprotective properties. These polyphenols neutralize free radicals that lead to neurotoxicity, aging, and the buildup of harmful brain proteins, including amyloid beta found in Alzheimer’s disease patients [4].

Raw honey specifically reduces inflammation in microglia, the brain’s supportive cells, which reduces toxins and brain damage from poor brain circulation [4].

The Lectin Avoidance Cookbook contains great recipes with honey and many more that make being healthy incredibly easy and delicious!

Buy Honey

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About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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