Health benefits of honey

Honey is the substance produced naturally by honey bees from plant nectar. The nectar is processed by bees by regurgitation and evaporation. The dehydration of the natural sugars contained within the nectar prevents fermentation and the enzymes added during regurgitation, results in a change in the chemical composition and pH value of the honey. The process of turning nectar into honey is called inversion.

Once the inversion process is complete, the honey is stored in the honey combs within the bee hive or nest. The bees seal the cells containing honey with a capping of wax to protect it.

Typically, honey will consist of 38% fructose, 31% glucose, 17% water and 7% maltose. The sweetness of honey comes from the simple carbohydrates, fructose and glucose which are produced by the breakdown of sucrose from nectar by the bees’ digestive enzymes. The other 7% consists of amino acids; the building blocks of protein which contribute to growth and body function and a range of vitamins and minerals.

Honey contains B vitamins which have many functions including facilitating the release of energy from food. In terms of minerals, honey contains calcium, iron, potassium and zinc for wound healing and the processing of macronutrients from our food.

Health benefits

There is a wide-range of well-known health benefits of honey. By mouth, it can be taken too ease a cough, hay fever, stomach ulcers and as a rich source of carbohydrates for exercise.

It can also be used topically for burns and wound healing. This has long been recognised by clinicians and it’s not uncommon to find dressings coated with honey in hospitals.


None of this is new, the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides used honey for sun burn and wound healing around AD50 and honey’s healing properties are mentioned in the Bible, Quran and other ancient scriptures.

How is honey taken?

For a cough, 0.5-2 teaspoons taken at bedtime should be sufficient.

For the treatment of burns and wounds, honey is applied directly, on a sterilised gauze covering, or it may come on a factory-produced dressing. Dressings are usually changed every 24-48 hours. Honey used to treat wounds should be medical grade (that is, irradiated) to avoid potentially introducing the the bacterium Clostridium botulinum to the wound even though this is only a theoretical risk.

Honey should not be given to children under 12 months or to people with compromised immunity without medical direction.

It is however perfectly safe to consume during pregnancy or when breast feeding, if taken in normal quantities.

How is honey produced?

From a beekeeping point of view, honey is produced quite simply in the hive. Frames with wax foundation are placed within the hive. The foundation acts as a blueprint for the bees to draw out their characteristic hexagonal-shaped cells.

Once the cells are completed, the bees store pollen (protein for their brood) and nectar (they collect from flowers) in these cells.

This frame’s been used by the bees to exclusively store the brightly-coloured pollen they’ve collected. More typically, a frame will contain a mixture of brood, pollen and nectar/honey.

Bees work very hard. They collect nectar and pollen from flowers within a three mile radius from their hive. As soon as the nectar has been turned into honey, the bees seal the honey within the cell with a wax lid.

A frame of capped honey

Bees don’t make honey for humans, it’s the food source which sees the colony through winter. A good beekeeper will always make sure the bees have sufficient honey to last through winter and only harvests any surplus.

Medical evidence

There is good, long-standing evidence that honey is good for coughs and colds. NHS.

There are some studies, perhaps counter-intuitively, that show daily honey consumption in small quantities can reduce blood sugars and cholesterol and help with weight loss.

Studies in people suffering from a sore mouth as a result of radiation treatment (mucositis) or those prone to ulcers, have shown honey to be very effective.

Meridian beekeepers were very fortunate a few years ago to hear a talk by Dr Rowena Jenkins of Cardiff University. Dr Jenkins was part of a team researching the medicinal uses of honey. Cardiff university. Theirs (and other studies) showed honey-soaked dressings were very effective in reducing infection, inflammation, pain and healing time particularly for post-operative wounds, chronic leg ulcers, abscesses and skin grafts. In fact, honey treatments often worked when all else had failed.

Another published study by Dr Oscar Tellecea MD PhD of the University of Coimbra, Portugal showed that 70% of elderly patients with leg ulcers were completely cured using honey dressings while the other 30% saw a significant reduction in wound size. The doctor concluded that honey dressings are an efficient and easy to use treatment for leg ulcers.

For more information on honey, click here.

Important: Always seek medical advice before trying any new health or medicinal product.

3 thoughts on “Health benefits of honey

  1. Thank you Howard.


    div>One spelling mistake – hay fever rather than hey fever. Also worth mentioning vitamins and minerals? Will hook th

    Liked by 1 person

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