Honey is a natural sweetener with many benefits that you can purchase in either a liquid, crystallised or creamed form. You can also use it medicinally, and we often find it in various beauty products.
Chemical composition of honey
Honey is a supersaturated substance produced by bees. It consists of mainly sugar, carbohydrates, and many vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, organic acids, pollen, fragrance, and flavour compounds.
Honey has a fascinating consistency; it has a thick viscous to solid texture and low water content.
Honey is mainly fructose and glucose, with the remaining sugars including maltose, sucrose, and other complex carbohydrates. Its glycaemic index ranges from 31 to 78, depending on the variety.
Glycaemic Index is a measurement tool that shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar level when you eat it.
Phytonutrients are chemicals that occur naturally in plants and have many health benefits for humans. Phytonutrients can be found in propolis, a component in raw honey.
The bees collect the sticky residue from buds and tree bark, creating the propolis, which is then used as a type of glue to protect the beehive from bacteria. This protection that propolis offers the beehive is the reason for the antibacterial properties found in honey.
Various strains of good bacteria are found in raw honey, which often contains a few different types of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium.
The good bacteria in honey can help improve your gut health and digestion.
Probiotics add to the good bacteria in your stomach, creating a healthy gut environment.
Enzymes are proteins that help speed up metabolism and the chemical reactions of food in our bodies. Our bodies naturally produce enzymes to help us break food down in our digestive tracts.
Honey contains several enzymes in small amounts. These enzymes are mostly:
- glucose oxidase
There are others present in even smaller amounts, as well.
Raw honey contains various micronutrients, such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
History of medicinal use and benefits of honey
The medicinal use of honey started long ago, and there are 6000-8000 years of recorded use of honey for various ailments.
Honey is also an essential medicinal product in Ayurveda, an ancient holistic medical practice.
In Ayurveda, honey is for both internal and external applications. Ayurvedic medicine uses honey to treat eye diseases, cough, thirst, phlegm, hiccups, blood in vomit, leprosy, diabetes, obesity, worm infestation, vomiting, asthma, diarrhoea and healing wounds.
Health benefits of raw honey
- Antimicrobial wound healing:
Honey is low in moisture and draws the fluid from wounds, which helps remove waste and speed up the healing process.
Honey also draws water out of the cells of invading bacteria. Bacteria need water to grow and survive, and drawing water out of bacteria will kill them.
Many studies prove that honey has broad-spectrum antibacterial activity against bacteria, although potency varies widely between different types of honey.
Honey such as New Zealand Manuka Honey and South African Blueberry Honey contains an active ingredient responsible for various antibacterial effects.
Both types of honey have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antioxidant properties.
- Contains antioxidants
- Boosts your immune system
- Can reduce the duration of diarrhoea
- Treats indigestion
- It prevents mild acid reflux
- Helps with stomach ulcers and vomiting
- Hangover relief
- Part of natural treatment for cold, flu and cough
- Soothes sore throat
Honey in skin and hair beauty formulations
- Treating acne and pimples
- Soothing, locking moisture and conditioning
- For brightening skin complexion
- Preventing dry lips
- For eczema and other minor skin issues
Types of monofloral honey and its health benefits:
Bees collect pollen from different flowers, resulting in various kinds of honey, each with a unique colour and flavour.
There are two distinct types of honey, namely monofloral and polyfloral honey.
Monofloral refers to honey cultivated from one type of flower or plant species. In contrast, polyfloral refers to honey made from various flowers or plants.
There are a variety of different monofloral types of honey:
Lavender honey comes from the sweet lavender flowers and naturally occurs in the South of France. The honey can be either dark or light in colour and has a potent smell and flavour. It is perfect for pregnant women who suffer from calcium deficiencies, as it promotes the absorption of calcium and iron.
It is one of the most significant healing types of honey around.
Avocado honey comes from the blossoms of the avocado tree. It has a smooth, creamy texture with a smokey, molasses flavour and is a rich, dark colour.
Avocado honey is renowned in the beauty industry as a natural product for skin softening. The antioxidants in the honey are revelled for giving a healthy, natural glow to the skin when used in a face mask.
Fynbos honey comes from the pollen of the Protea and Erica flowers.
It is dark in colour and has a rich perfume-type of taste. Its medicinal benefits include:
- boosting the immune system
- aiding indigestion
- soothing bleeding gums or mouth ulcers
- smoothing skin
Aloe honey is from the red-orange or yellow flowers of the aloe plant. It is most commonly from the Aalwyn aloe, which grows in the northern and northeastern parts of South Africa.
The honey is made during the winter months as this is when the aloe flowers are in bloom. Aloe honey is typically smooth and light in colour and crystallises rapidly.
Potential risks of honey
Raw honey is generally safe to use as long as a person is not allergic to bee pollen. Some people are allergic; even less than a spoonful of honey can cause a severe allergic reaction. This allergic reaction can range from swelling, wheezing, shortness of breath, a combination of all of these or even anaphylactic shock.
High-risk food for babies
Honey can contain bacteria that can produce toxins in a baby’s intestines, leading to infant botulism, which is a very serious illness. Do not give your child honey until they’re over 1 year old.
Honey is essentially a sugar, and can therefore be a risky food for diabetics to consume. Diabetes patients should generally not honey and must consult with their healthcare professionals.
We strongly recommend using and purchasing raw honey made locally as raw honey’s nutrients and health benefits outweigh that of processed honey.