Health benefits of honey

Humans have enjoyed the flavour and health benefits of honey since the Stone Age. The Ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese used it as a treatment for stomach ailments, fevers and even as a salve for wounds.

When you were feeling ill as a child, you were probably handed a warm mug of lemon and honey. If it seemed to sooth your throat and relieve cold symptoms, it wasn’t just placebo. Recent studies have shown the wide array of health benefits offered by honey.

Soothes sore throat
It’s not just an old wives’ tale, honey really does sooth a sore throat. One study of 139 children found that honey was more effective than popular cough suppressant dextromethorphan and antihistamine diphenhydramine.

Helps fight common cold
According to Mind Body Green, honey is helpful in reducing symptoms of the common cold. Registered celebrity dietician Titilayo Ayanwola told Mind Body Green, “The use of honey in various healing methodologies can be attributed to its antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.”

Honey is high in antioxidants, which reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals and has been shown to help protect the immune systems of healthy people. “Through this mechanism, honey can contribute to reinforcing our immune system and could potentially shorten the length of a cold,” Ms Ayanwola explained. Honey that is raw and dark in colour generally has a greater concentration of antioxidants.

Honey contains polyphenols, a type of powerful antioxidant, which are believed to have a number of health benefits including reducing your risks of developing cancer and heart disease. However, more research needs to be completed to confirm these benefits.

Antibacterial properties
It has been shown to help kill a wide variety of bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. Manuka and Tualang varieties of honey are commonly used in traditional medicine and have antibacterial properties. These types of honey have been shown to help fight staph and digestive bacteria that cause peptic ulcers

How to enjoy your honey
Honey can be enjoyed a variety of ways. On toast, crumpets, over muesli or in desserts. But when you’re feeling run down, it’s easiest to have with warm water.

Most people with cold symptoms will reach for a warm mug of honey and lemon. Just 28g of lemon juice contains 22 per cent of your recommended daily vitamin C intake. Vitamin C has been also shown to support the immune system and reduce your risk of getting a cold. When adding it to a warm honey drink, it’s important not to use boiling water, as this will likely denature the vitamin C in the lemon juice. 

There is a range of other ingredients you can add to warm honey water to add flavour and health benefits. A slice of fresh ginger can also help to relieve a sore throat, and thyme and rosemary have antiviral properties.

If you are currently following an Ayurveda practice, to avoid changing its chemical structure, honey should always be taken at room temperature.


Do you take honey when you’re feeling unwell? What other ‘old wives’ tales’ do you find really work?  

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Liv Gardiner
Liv Gardiner
Writer and editor with interests in travel, lifestyle, health, wellbeing, astrology and the enivornment.
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