Health benefits of raw honey have been valued for ages. It has been used to heal topical wounds, to soothe burns and abrasions, fight against illnesses and is also considered a probiotic. Unfortunately, most of the honey we get from the supermarkets is heated and processed, which destroys many of its beneficial bacteria and antioxidants.
Raw honey, on the other hand, is useful and versatile. Let us learn more about raw honey benefits.
What is raw honey?
Raw honey is pure, unheated, unpasteurized and unprocessed sweetener made by bees from the nectar of flowers. It preserves all the natural vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients and other elements of the honey.
Raw honey can be liquid or semi-solid (crystallized) when you buy it. It can be transparent, opaque or milky. Its color can vary from different shades or yellow to brown. These different characters of honey depend on the kind of flower from which the bees collect their nectar.
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Depending on the source of the raw honey, it may contain particles of the bee pollen, the honeycomb, and propolis. These add to the health benefits of raw honey.
The primary raw honey benefits come from its unique combination of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
Raw honey contains bee pollen which adds proteins, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, carotenoids and bioflavonoids to raw honey.
Bee propolis is the resinous material that bees gather from trees and use to line the hive to keep it healthy. Bee propolis also adds to the raw honey benefits.
History of raw honey
Raw honey has been used as a medicine since ancient times. The earliest evidence of honey dates back to 8000 years ago, seen on ancient rock paintings. The Bible mentions Israel as the land of milk and honey.
Apiculture, the practice of beekeeping dates back to 4000 BC, when the Egyptians started using mud pots to keep bees. The Greeks later redesigned the mud pots into baked terracotta pots.
The Greeks called honey, the nectar from God. Honey was used by the runners in the Olympic games as a source of energy in ancient Greece.
Health benefits of raw honey
Switching from processed store-bought honey to raw honey can have many health benefits. These are some of the most well-known benefits of raw honey –
1. Rich in antioxidants
Raw honey contains polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants which help in preventing heart disease and cancer (1). These antioxidants block disease-causing free radicals in the body. They also help boost the immune system.
During one study 25 people consumed four tablespoons of raw honey per day for 29 days. When researchers tested their blood at the end of the study, they found an increased level of polyphenols in their blood.
2. Provides relief from allergies
Raw honey benefits include its ability to alleviate allergy symptoms. Raw honey acts like a vaccine because it contains small amounts of the same pollen that may have triggered your allergies in the first place.
Once your body gets a tiny bit of the pollen, it produces antibodies against it. So, your body builds up its defense against the allergy over time. Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies have found raw honey helpful in treating their allergies.
It is essential that you source your raw honey from the local region. Only then will it contain spores of the pollen of local flowers.
During one study, 40 patients suffering from allergic rhinitis were divided into two groups and given one gram per kilogram (of their weight) of raw honey or corn syrup placebo for four weeks.
The group that took raw honey showed significant improvements in their allergic rhinitis symptoms (2).
3. Energy booster
If you ever feel low on energy, a spoonful of honey can give you the boost you need. Because of its high carbohydrate load, raw honey is an excellent source of sugar energy (3).
Around 70 percent of honey’s sugar content is made up of glucose and fructose. The glucose and fructose hit the bloodstream quickly, giving you a swift energy boost.
One tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of carbohydrates. So, having two or three tablespoons before physical activity can keep your glycogen stores up.
According to the studies at the University of Memphis Sports and Nutrition Laboratory, honey is one of the best forms of carbohydrate to eat just before exercise.
In fact, the energy-boosting benefits of raw honey were known to the Greeks. The runners also used honey in the Olympic Games in ancient Greece as a source of energy.
4. Heals Wounds
One of the best health benefits of raw honey is its ability to heal wounds naturally. Whether it is a burn, an injury, a cut, a scrape or ulcer, raw honey can aid healing of them all.
According to Dr. Charles Molan at the University Of Waikato, New Zealand, honey is a natural anti-bacterial with wound healing properties.
The antibacterial qualities of raw honey and its viscosity provide a barrier to cross-infection of wounds. Raw honey also contains a supply of glucose to leucocytes, which is essential for the production of hydrogen peroxide, a dominant component of its antibacterial activity (4).
For treatment of burns, honey is applied directly to the problem area or in a dressing.
Ghee and honey treatment have also been advocated and used as dressing for infected wounds in four Mumbai hospitals since 1991 (5).
Raw honey can also treat skin ulcers and help in reducing their size, pain, and odor.
5. Cough suppressant
Raw honey is a traditional remedy for coughs. According to research, raw honey benefits the throat as effectively as dextromethorphan during coughs (6).
Half a teaspoon of raw honey at bedtime can work wonders.
6. Helps with sleep
If you have trouble falling asleep, take a spoon full of honey. This benefit of raw honey is quite useful and safe.
When you take honey, its sweetness causes your insulin levels to rise, which lead to the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Your body then converts serotonin into melatonin, which helps you to sleep better.
Raw honey also contains amino acids which lead to the production of tryptophan. When tryptophan gets to the brain, it converts to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin.
7. Weight loss
Raw honey benefits also include weight loss. Many studies have linked honey with weight loss. According to a study that compared the effect of raw honey and sucrose on rats, raw honey may reduce weight gain and adiposity because of low food intake and honey’s ability to promote lower serum triglycerides.
As compared to sucrose, raw honey also suppresses appetite-regulating hormones and postmeal thermogenesis (8).
People who have diabetes can also enjoy the health benefits of raw honey. Several studies have found that consuming raw honey can increase insulin levels and lower blood sugar.
A small study in Dubai looked at how honey and sugar can affect blood sugar. The study observed that honey lowers the elevation of plasma glucose levels in people with diabetes when compared to dextrose and sucrose (9).
Honey, when combined with the insulin boosting powers of cinnamon, can counteract the glucose elevation in honey. This combination of glucose and cinnamon is a great low glycemic index food.
9. Improves memory
Honey is a powerful source of energy for our brains. It contains fructose and glucose in the ratio of 1:1 which can be changed into glycogen immediately. Glycogen is a multibranched polysaccharide of glucose that serves as brain fuel.
Honey also improves our brain function by aiding the body’s absorption of calcium. Each brain cell needs calcium for brain signals to work
Not only do the health benefits of raw honey include providing energy to our brains, but it also improves and protects our brain function. According to one study, when two-month-old rats were fed raw honey for over a year, it improved their spatial memory and reduced anxiety (10).
10. Helps sooth acid reflux
Around 20 percent of Americans deal with the symptoms of acid reflux regularly. Raw honey benefits the digestive system and helps ease the symptoms of acid reflux.
According to an article published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, raw honey works by reducing the inflammation of the esophagus. When honey coats the mucous membrane of the esophagus, it provides relief from acid reflux.
11. Helps treat acne
If you are suffering from acne, you must add raw honey to your diet and apply it on the affected areas. The benefits of raw honey include treating acne on the face chest and back.
Raw honey has an osmotic effect on the skin; it helps by drawing out excess fluid and reduces inflammation. Honey is also a calming agent, so it helps reduce inflammation.
Adding cinnamon to honey makes it even more effective. You can drink this mixture or apply it directly on the skin.
Side effects of raw honey
Though there are many benefits of raw honey, it should be used in moderation. You can develop some mild side effects like nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, and weakness if you consume too much of raw honey. Some other side effects of raw honey include –
1. Clostridium botulinum
Raw honey contains C. botulinum bacteria which is perfectly safe for adults with healthy immune systems. However, babies are at risk if they are exposed to these bacteria.
For the same reasons, pregnant women and adults with a compromised immune system should also avoid raw honey. Never give raw honey to children under one year of age.
2. May trigger allergies
Raw honey many trigger allergies in people who are sensitive to pollen or have any other bee-related allergies. The symptoms of these allergies include wheezing, dizziness, and irregular heart rhythms.
3. Grayanotoxin contamination
Grayanotoxins are neurotoxins that are naturally found in raw honey. Bees produce honey from a variety of different plants, and some honey can contain more significant amounts of these neurotoxins.
Thought processing takes care of most of these toxins, raw, unprocessed honey can lead to poisoning from grayanotoxins. Always make sure you source your honey from a safe source.
Final thoughts on raw honey benefits
Raw honey is unpasteurized and unprocessed honey which is highly beneficial for our health. The health benefits of raw honey include weight loss, improved memory, and its cough suppressant, and wound healing properties.
Raw honey is a rich source of natural vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients, and other nutritional elements.