Our love affair with honey started thousands of years ago. What time has taught us is that besides being one of the finest natural sweeteners, honey has amazing health benefits that can improve our skin, fight infections and reduce inflammation. Here’s the scoop on the sweet stuff.
Honey's health benefits
Honey’s natural components make it an effective antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent. Studies show it contains a high level of polyphenols and flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that are also found in cocoa, berries and tea. It neutralizes disease-causing bacteria with a protein called defensin-1, and small amounts of hydrogen peroxide (really!). Honey is effective against viruses too, especially the virus that cause shingles and chickenpox. Adding to its superhero status is honey’s apalbumin 1 protein, which helps reduce inflammation.
All honeys are not the same
While all honeys may be sweet, the type of plant or tree nectar collected makes a difference in the taste and healing properties of the honey. For example, dandelion honey is rich in vitamins A and K, and beechwood honey is a good prebiotic, full of minerals including zinc, copper and magnesium. (Try Wedderspoon's Gold Organic Raw Dandelion Honey or their Organic Raw Beechwood Honey.)
Manuka. A super honey.
There’s been a big buzz (sorry!) lately on honey that comes from bees who get their nectar from New Zealand's manuka trees. Manuka honey has all the same health benefits as other honeys, but with a bonus: It’s high in methylglyoxal (MG), a natural antibacterial compound, which makes it a powerful treatment for wounds, stomach troubles and a variety of infections. The higher the MG concentration the more powerful the antibiotic effect. Flora's Manuka Health New Zealand MGO 550+ Manuka Honey Blend and Wedderspoon's Premium Raw Manuka Honey Active 16+ are two of the most potent. Try a tablespoon mixed with warm water for a healthy boost.
Honey's skin-saving properties
Cleopatra had the right idea with her legendary milk and honey baths—the special healing properties of honey make it a great treatment for skin. Honey is a natural humectant, drawing moisture to the skin, keeping it soft and supple. And honey’s antibacterial nature purifies the skin surface, making it particularly useful in treating acne. A few honey-infused skin care products to try:
- Sanitas' Milk & Honey Cleanser gently removes makeup and sebum, and naturally brightens facial skin.
- Honey and black seed oil combine in Nubian Heritage's Honey and Black Seed Body Wash, a comforting and calming body cleanser that’s especially soothing to irritated skin.
- Burt’s Bees' Milk and Honey Body Lotion is a non-greasy body balm that hydrates all day long with honey, beeswax, coconut oil and shea butter.
For an easy do-it-yourself facial mask, try mixing equal parts raw honey with yogurt (or coconut oil) and avocado to ease dry skin. Wedderspoon's Manuka Honey On the Go packets are just the right size to whip up a quick mask!
What's your favorite healthy way to use honey?