Honey Health Benefits and Medicinal Uses

Honey is used as food and medicine for centuries. It is added in many recipes as substitute for sugar. It gives energy, boosts immunity and gives relief in variety of diseases.

Honey health benefits and medicinal use

Honey is a sweet, viscid fluid produced by bees (Apis mellifera) from the nectar (sugar-rich liquid produced by flowers) and stored in hives as food. Bees make honey as food reservoir that will be used during the months when flowers aren’t blooming. Bee collects the nectar from the flower using its long tube-like tongue and then store it in extra honey stomach/nectar storage pouch (not the real stomach) while hovering over the flowers. In honey-stomach the nectar is mixed with enzymes and changes chemically.

Honey bee visits about 150-1500 flowers to full its honey-stomach. The hardworking bees visit a million flower to produce just 100 grams of honey. When the honey-stomach is full the working-bee returns to its hive. The nectar and enzyme mix is regurgitated into the mouth of house-bee (the bee present in hive). The house-bee regurgitate and swallow it some 120-240 times and when it is partially digested it is deposited in empty hexagonal hive cell. Nectar is about 40-80% water and to remove this extra water it is moved from one cell to another several times till all the extra moisture is removed. The fanning by wings of the bee also aid in removal of moisture. The honey prepared from the nectar contains 18-20 percent moisture. When the cells are filled with honey, bees seal the honeycomb with a secretion of liquid from its abdomen. This eventually hardens into beeswax.

Honey is used as food and medicine for centuries. It is added in many recipes as substitute for sugar. It gives energy, boosts immunity and gives relief in variety of diseases.

Nutrition Facts and Composition of Honey

Honey contain mainly invert sugar, several amino acids and minerals such as iron, copper, sodium, potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. The mixture of glucose and fructose is Inverted or invert sugar and it is obtained by hydrolysis of sucrose. Sweetness of honey is due to formation of invert sugar in large quantity.

Honey also contain vitamin C and B vitamin. It is an antioxidant due to the presence of flavonoids and other polyphenols. In one tablespoon of honey (about 21 grams) there is about 60 calories and 17 grams sugar. It does not contain fiber, fat, cholesterol and saturated fat.

Honey contains glucose oxidase, which produces hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid, which gives the honey an acidic pH of 3.2-4.5.

The composition of honey is highly variable depending on the season, flower type, location, etc.

The average composition is given below.

Fructose, %38.3830.91 – 44.26
Glucose, %30.3122.89 – 40.75
Minerals (Ash), %0.1690.020 – 1.028
Moisture, %17.213.4 – 22.9
Reducing Sugars, %76.7561.39 – 83.72
Sucrose, %1.310.25 – 7.57
pH3.913.42 – 6.10
True Protein, mg/100g.168.657.7 – 567

Ayurvedic Properties of Honey

In Ayurveda, honey is considered tonic and Yogvahi (enhances the therapeutic effect of other drugs). It improves intellect and strength. It is cold in potency or Virya. Vipaka (post-digestive effect) is sweet. It is dry, rough and light in Guna. Honey is excellent in Kapha and Vata dosha.

Ayurvedic name of Honey: Madhu, Pushpasava, Pushparsas, Maksika

Rasa (Taste): Madhura/Sweet

Guna (Characteristics): Laghu/Light, Ruksha/Dry, Snigdha/Unctuous

Virya (Potency): Sheet/ Cool

Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Madhura/Sweet

Action : Digestive stimulant, aphrodisiac, promoter of eyesight, intellect and appetite, Yogvahi, slightly aggravates Vata, pacifies Pitta, and Kapha.

Therapeutic uses: Kushtha (skin diseases), arsh/piles, kasa/bronchitis, rakt-pitta/bleeding disorders, meha/urinary disorders including diabetes, mada/intoxication, trishna/excess thirst, hridya rog/diseases of heart, hikka/hiccups, atsaar/diarrhea, coughing.

Naya Makshik/New honey: Laxative, reduces Kapha/phlegm.

Purana Makshik/Perserved honey: Constipative;reduces fat.

Ayurveda says honey should never be heated. It should not be taken with hot substances and in diseases that occur due to excess heat.

But in obesity it is given with warm water. It is the only case where honey is mixed with hot drink.

Actually, the intake of heated honey is not prohibited in diseases that are caused by excess Ama. Ama is toxic product produced by improper digestion and metabolism.

Honey and Ghee should not be mixed in equal quantity. Old honey is especially useful in diabetes and cough.

Difference between Digestion of Honey and Sugar

Sugar which we get from the beets or cane, is Sucrose (glucose and fructose bound together). Sucrose is a disaccharide (a sugar composed of two monosaccharides) and it is not digested in stomach. It moves from the stomach to small intestine. Few enzymes from the liver, convert the sugar molecules into glucose for further use.

But in honey, glucose and fructose are not bound because of the enzymes that are added to the nectar by bees. Fructose and glucose are two simple sugars. They are directly absorbed and are easier to digest.

Glycemic Index of Sugar and Honey

The glycemic index or glycaemic index (GI) is a number associated with a particular type of food that indicates the food’s effect on blood glucose/ blood sugar level. The number ranges between 50 and 100, where 100 represents the standard, an equivalent amount of pure glucose.

The glycemic index measures, how fast glucose from the food, gets into the bloodstream and how a food affects blood glucose levels following consumption of the food. Low GI means small increase in blood glucose, while high GI leads to a high blood glucose level.

The average glycemic index for honey is 55±5 and the glycemic index of sugar, is 68±5. Honey has lower GI than sugar.

Health Benefits of Honey

Honey is one of the oldest traditional medicines. It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It is a tonic. It heals wounds due to its antibacterial and hygroscopic properties (draws water from the bacteria). It makes a protective layer on the wounds and maintains a moist environment that help in faster wound healing. It speeds up the growth of new tissue. Honey is also helpful in promoting the repair of damaged intestinal mucosa.

Helpful in weight reduction:

Regular intake of honey, lemon juice in lukewarm water helps to reduce weight and removal of toxins from the body.

Protects from cancer:

Honey contain anti-oxidants that help to prevent cancer.

Immunity booster:

Honey has an antioxidantand antibacterial properties. It also helps in better functioning of digestive system.

Good to cure cough:

Honey is well-known for its cough cure.

According to Ayurveda in winter season it is recommended to take 1 tablespoon honey three times a day. It helps to give relief from cough. Also one spoon of honey at bedtime give relief from nocturnal cough and better sleep.

Good for the digestive system:

Honey is very good for the digestive system and helpful in treating diarrhea. For diarrhea treatment, honey (1/4 cup) mixed in water (1 cup) should be taken.

Good for the skin.

Honey is a good moisturizer. It prevents skin dryness. Topical application of honey with curd give smooth skin.

Cure for constipation:

Honey intake is helpful in curing and preventing constipation. Simple mix honey, lemon juice in lukewarm water and drink.

Improving male fertility:

Regular intake of honey (2 tablespoon) before sleep helps in improving male fertility.

Medicinal Properties of Honey

Honey is antimicrobial and antibacterial in action. The content that is responsible for antimicrobial action of honey is mainly hydrogen peroxide. Most types of honey generate H2O2on dilution, due to activation of the enzyme glucose oxidase that oxidizes glucose to gluconic acid and H2O2, giving honey its antimicrobial activity.

The peroxide activity in honey can be easily destroyed by heat or the presence of catalase. Therefore honey should never be heated.

Honey is acidic in nature with pH between 3.2 and 4.5. Acidic environment does not allow the growth of bacteria.

The antibacterial property of honey is also derived from the osmotic effect of its high sugar content and low moisture content, along with its acidic properties of gluconic acid and the antiseptic properties of its H2O2.

Antimicrobial:works against microbes.

Wound-healing: heals the wound.

Immunomodulatory: modifies the immune response or the functioning of the immune system.

Hygroscopic:draw moisture out of the environment and dehydrate.

Anti-inflammatory:reduces inflammation.

The bactericidal effect of honey is reported to be dependent on concentration of honey used and the nature of the bacteria. The concentration of honey has an impact on antibacterial activity;the higher the concentration of honey the greater its usefulness as an antibacterial agent.

Medicinal Uses of Honey

Honey is nutritive, Tonic, good for the heart and brain, promotes strength and treats variety of ailments. It balances Vata and Kapha. Use of honey in bronchitis, coughing, asthma, hiccups, nausea, excess thirst, bleeding, sore throat and wounds shows a beneficial effect. For reducing weight, it is taken with lemon juice and hot water.

Internal Uses

Sore throat, Coughing, Cold

Take one teaspoon of honey and put it inside mouth. Let it slowly flow down the throat.


Honey is an antioxidant. It is rich in potassium, calcium, amino acids and several other ingredients.

Drinking honey mixed in water helps to lower bad cholesterol LDL.


It is recommended to have One tablespoon of honey daily after meals.


Give one teaspoon of honey to the kid before going to bed. Make sure the child cleanses his/her mouth well to avoid cavities.


Mix one tablespoon of honey in one glass warm milk and drink before going to bed.

Digestive weakness, Obesity

Honey is good for the digestive system. Mix honey with an equal quantity of apple cider vinegar, dilute with water and drink.


Just rub honey on gums.

Excess thirst, reducing obesity

Mix honey in lemon water and give.


Daily take honey. This helps in better absorption of calcium.


Take one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder, twice a day.

Take one part honey to two parts of lukewarm water and add a small teaspoon cinnamon powder, make a paste and massage.

Take mixture of one tablespoon honey and half teaspoon cinnamon powder before breakfast regularly.


Dissolve one tablespoon honey in half a glass of warm water and drink.


Taking honey in hangover, speeds up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver. Mix honey (15 ml) in orange juice and curd (each 80 ml). Blend well and drink.

Pollen allergy

Regular eating of honey is helpful.

External Uses


Dissolve honey in an equal quantity of warm water. Apply this as a lotion or use as eye bath.

Hair conditioner

Honey has excellent moisturizing qualities.

For hair conditioning, Mix honey with an equal quantity of olive oil. Apply his in hair, and cover head with a warm tower for half an hour. Then wash off.

Face Scrub

Mix curd, rice powder and honey and gently massage on the face. This will exfoliate and moisturize the skin.

Burns, infected wounds, ulcerations, open cuts, bed sores, other skin infections

Application of honey on burn injury gives relief in the burning sensation, pain and also helps in fast healing. It is a cooling, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

Honey is antibacterial and antiseptic. When applied on wounds, cuts, ulceration, etc. it helps in faster healing.

Taking honey to treat cold and cough

Honey is very good for cold and cough and it becomes more effective if infused with other herbs. This recipe is what we use for winter coughs. If you cannot get elecampane (pohakarmul), lomatium or osha, just try making ginger honey, which is soothing for sore throats and coughs along with upset stomachs.

Ingredients of honey for cough and cold

  • Chop equal parts of ginger root and elecampane root.
  • Grind up about ½ part osha and spritz with a little water to rehydrate it.
    Grind up 1/16 part lomatium seed.
  • Place all herbs in a double boiler and cover with honey.
  • Warm the honey, but do not let it boil.
  • Continue to heat the honey, turning it on and off for a couple of days, until it is thick when it cools down.
  • Warm the honey slightly then press it through a muslin cloth.
  • Bottle the honey in glass jars. It will last 1-2 years.
  • You can make tea from pressed herbs.

Raw honey is considered a medicine because of its nutritive and anti-bacterial qualities. Many herbs can be extracted in honey, especially aromatic and water-soluble plants.

Herbal honeys are a great way to get medicine to kids (or adults) who will not tolerate bad tasting teas and tinctures. They can be taken straight, added to tea spread on food.

How to use honey for the skincare

Honey has anti bacterial, anti-viral and anti- fungal properties. Honey also contain vitamin C and B vitamin. Because of these minerals and vitamins honey is very good for our external skincare.

In market there are many expensive skincare products claiming use of honey as key ingredients. As these products are very expensive so you can use raw honey for you skincare at home by making some pack, lotion by adding some other natural ingredient in your kitchen.

Here are are some tips to using honey for the skincare.

1- Make face pack by adding some milk and apply it for 30 min on your face and wash with fresh water. It is great moisturizer for your face and other body part.

2- You can use it on bacterial skin infection as it produces hydrogen peroxide. You can also use it on cut, wounds to avoid infection.

3- It is also anti-fungal and you can apply it on ringworm.

4- You can just use honey as skin cleanser just apply honey on the face by you palm on you face. You can also add some water in honey. After rubbing gently for some time just wash your face with water.

Using honey to heal all kind of wounds including chronic

Honey has many medicinal properties and in Ayurveda Sushruta has described sixty measures for wound healing. Honey is one of them and very effective in wound healing. Application of honey on wound is very helpful in the treatment of any kind of wounds even it can cure chronic wounds with support of other ayurvedic medicines.

Many research has been done on honey to examine benefits of honey topical uses and found effective because of following properties.

Honey is hygroscopic in nature, with a pH of 3.2~4.5. Due to it’s acidic nature it prevents colonization and bacterial growth in tissues. Most microorganisms do not grow in pure honey because of its low water activity. Presence of hydrogen peroxide in Honey makes it antibacterial and high osmotic pressure contribute to the antibacterial effect of honey.

Honey can be applied alone or it can be applied by mixing cow ghee(clarified butter of cow milk) into honey.

How to use honey on wounds?

Normal cases

For small wounds just apply honey after cleaning wounds or mix cow ghee in honey and apply it on wound and if required you can wrap soft bandage also.

Chronic Wounds

Many people suffering with disease like diabetes, people hypersensitive to ibuprofen and cotrimoxazole, ages people faces problem in wound healing. For these type of people ayurvedic medicines and honey is very effective to treat wounds. For these kind of people use following method and medicines along with honey application.

Every morning the wound was first cleaned with freshly prepared lukewarm Neem bark decoction then apply adequate quantity of honey to cover wounds and then cover it with loose bandage. Along with this these type of people should take following ayurvedic herbal preparation.

  • Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn.) 2 g
  • Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus Willd.) 2 g
  • Gokshura (Tribulus terrestris) 2 g
  • Guduchi (Giloy) 2 g

Take above herbs powder with lukewarm water 2 time daily.

Note: For chronic wounds treatment it may take 5-7 weeks or even more.

Ref: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3059452/


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