Therapeutic properties of honey: antiseptic, healing and anti-inflammatory

Known for its antiseptic, healing and anti-inflammatory properties, honey is used to treat wounds, burns, respiratory inflammations, and many others! Unquestionably the most famous product of the hive, honey is used for its gustatory virtues as well as for its health benefits. It has been used since the dawn of time, and it was a real nectar of the gods that the pharaohs used during weddings (hence the famous "honeymoon"!). According to the Egyptian mythology, bees are the tears of Ra, the god of the sun, and honey is thus a divine product used in many medicines, and not only as an excipient! We can note for example that during the first world war, honey was used in the trenches to heal the wounds of the soldiers in order to accelerate their healing. As Victor Hugo said "Life is a flower, love is the honey". And this maxim shows how honey is a food with multiple virtues, whether for health, cosmetics or food.

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The therapeutic properties of honey

Main properties

Anti-infectious and antibiotic properties:
Honey has been known since ancient times for its anti-infectious properties: honey prevents bacterial, viral or fungal proliferation thanks to an enzyme, glucose oxidase, producing hydrogen peroxide (as in hydrogen peroxide) which is a natural antiseptic. In addition, it has a low protein concentration which prevents bacteria from growing. Finally, its acidity hinders the multiplication of bacteria, completing its antibacterial action. It can be used in this objective as well at the cutaneous level as in ingestion for the respiratory or digestive sphere.

Healing properties:
Often used as an antiseptic to heal wounds, honey also has healing properties that again justify its cutaneous use. It then prevents the development of bacteria and regenerates the skin tissue to have a good healing. This action is due to its strong osmolarity, which makes that honey attracts water, drains lymph and plasma towards the outside, which eliminates the debris and cleans the wound. Honey is thus a very recognized antiseptic and antibacterial, which helps in the healing of the wounds.

Antioxidant properties:
Thanks to the presence of many flavonoids, honey has an important antioxidant power, as these neutralize free radicals, thus having a beneficial effect in the prevention of certain cancers or cardiovascular diseases. We can also note here that the "dark" honey, richer in flavonoids and fructose, would be more effective for these therapeutic properties.

Energetic and invigorating properties:
Honey is a general tonic of the body that strengthens the immune system in particular. Therefore, it allows you to better resist microbial infections and is an ally of choice when you feel tired and woozy. Moreover, as it is full of sugar, honey is a very good source of energy that can give you a boost when you need it. Be careful if you are diabetic or if you are watching your figure, because honey has a sweetening power superior to sugar and is very caloric. It also has a high cariogenic power, and all these carbohydrates are not necessarily good for your teeth!

Sedative and calming properties:
Honey allows the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that will promote sleep. So, rather than adding a sugar cube to your evening tea, dilute a spoonful of honey to get a good night's calm and soothed!

Respiratory properties:
For coughs or sore throats, honey will provide an immediate and lasting soothing effect. Thanks to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, it is effective in calming cold symptoms and soothing your respiratory system. It will calm the respiratory irritations and will allow to decrease the adhesion of the bacteria to the respiratory wall, thus preventing their proliferation.

Other uses

Digestive properties:
Honey acts directly on the digestive sphere, and is effective in treating infections of the stomach and intestine, reduce inflammation or gastric ulcers, as well as temporary constipation. Thanks to its enzymes "diastases", it helps digestion and stimulates the stomach. Finally, it has a light laxative power (variable according to the honey) and limits the intestinal fermentation.

Cardiovascular protective properties:
Thanks to B vitamins, which are antioxidants, honey will limit atherosclerosis, having a beneficial action on the heart and blood vessels.

Support of essential oils in ingestion:
This is something we don't necessarily think about at first, but which can be quite useful: and yes, honey is a very good solution to dilute essential oils and serve as a support for their ingestion. Moreover, if the mixtures are made in large quantities for a long term use, we can speak in this case of aromials, which are thus associations between honey and essential oil(s) (in quantity lower than 1%).

Gustatory properties:
If honey is so renowned, it is above all for its use in cooking! Whether it is to accompany food, in a sauce or on toast, this succulent sweet product is not left out, and, we must admit, it would be wrong to deprive ourselves of it!

Cosmetic properties :
Used since antiquity in beauty care, honey has a pH close to that of the skin (4 to 6), and its rich composition makes it a very good moisturizing, emollient, softening and toning agent! It nourishes the cells, favors their renewal and participates in the maintenance of the youth of the skin.

Precautions for use

Honey being a good support for Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium responsible for botulism (disease affecting the nervous system), it is absolutely not recommended for children under 1 year. Indeed, this bacterium found in dust and soil is transportable by bees and can be found in honey. However, before 1 year, the baby has an immune system that is not yet ready to defend itself against this micro-organism, and if he consumes infected honey, spores can develop in his intestine and trigger infant botulism.

The specificities of each type of honey

According to the plants foraged, and therefore according to the environmental environment where the bees are located, there are different types of honey whose composition is different and therefore whose properties will be different; Here are some examples:

  • Acacia honey: it is one of the best known honey, it is clear, almost transparent and with a golden sheen. It is considered an intestinal regulator recommended for young children. With its pleasant flavor and sweet smell, it is particularly used in cooking, to sweeten thanks to its high fructose content.
  • Chestnut honey: Quite used but often within "forest honey", which therefore comes from several trees, it is a very good healing, rich in trace elements and even having a beneficial effect on blood circulation.
  • Rape Honey: This semi-solid, pale yellow honey crystallizes quickly (about a month after harvest). It is calming and rebalancing nervous, and is recommended in case of heartburn.
  • Lavender Honey: and yes, the lavender that provides so many essential oils also makes honey! Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, it is used for the treatment of respiratory infections, to treat insect bites and to heal infected wounds or burns. It is also very relaxing, promotes sleep and relieves irritability.
  • Dandelion honey: This bright yellow honey with a sweet taste particularly pleases children who like to spread it. It is considered to have diuretic virtues and to relieve the liver.
  • Fir Honey: It too is usually a constituent of the famous "Forest Honey", but also "Mountain Honey". It is rich in trace elements and has antiseptic, antianemic and diuretic properties, and is recommended in the treatment of asthma or colds.
  • Buckwheat honey: from its name, you think it comes from Brittany and you are right! It can be used to fight against demineralization and bone diseases. It is thus recommended to growing children and convalescents, but beware of its very strong taste!
  • Thyme Honey: It is a general antiseptic recommended in infectious pathologies, whether respiratory or digestive. It also has an invigorating effect that is highly appreciable in case of colds or flu.
  • Lime Honey: This light-colored honey, with a very sweet taste and delicate aroma, is a soothing agent that promotes sleep. It can be used nicely to sweeten your herbal tea at night.

But that's not all! Hawthorn, Buckthorn, Heather, Oak, Eucalyptus, Raspberry, Orange, Rosemary, Sunflower, or even Clover honeys, one could almost say that there are as many honeys as there are flowers, which would make... many different honeys! So, the above list is not exhaustive, and there are some particularly powerful honeys, like Manuka honey that we will develop now!

Focus on Manuka Honey

Manuka Honey, the star of honeys? According to some research, it is the Rolls-Royce of honeys!

Amber to orange in color, this honey comes from the manuka tree (a cousin of the tea tree, a major plant in Maori pharmacopoeia) found exclusively in New Zealand and Australia. Manuka Honey would be a honey far superior to others due to its high content of methylglyoxal, at the origin of the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) index: the higher it is, the more active the honey is! And since the French like to do what they want, this index is equivalent to the IAA at home. So this index represents the power of honey: below 10+, it will be used only for its nutritional qualities, between 10+ and 16+ it will be ideal to support your body, give it a boost and take care of your health on a daily basis, and you need an IAA of 18+ minimum in order to enjoy all its therapeutic benefits at best.

It is a powerful antibacterial, very healing, which strengthens immunity and prevents respiratory infections. It is very effective against coughs and respiratory problems, and has an action on acne/eczema. Finally, it facilitates a deep and restful sleep.

Studies have shown that Manuka honey has a bactericidal action superior to some antibiotics, and is even effective against the dreaded Staphylococcus aureus! Effective against the various bacteria involved in sinusitis, colds, and other respiratory infections, studies have also proven that it acts faster and stronger than other honeys. In addition, it has an outstanding action on wounds, scars, burns, fungus, stomach ulcers (especially those due to Helicobacter pylori), as well as canker sores, sinusitis and sore throats. And if that wasn't enough, it will boost the immune system!

The methylglyoxal in Manuka Honey prevents bacteria from attaching to damaged tissue and is a very effective antimicrobial moisturizer for healing. In this context, you can use it in application on a cleaned wound before putting a bandage. In addition, it is preferable to use a honey with a UMF (or IAA) of 18+ or 20+ in order to benefit from its maximum power.

Thus, although more expensive than other honeys, Manuka honey is an incredible honey with exceptional properties! You can use it in different forms to take advantage of its fantastic virtues: in skin application, in ingestion as it is, even in throat lozenge or in honey-based spray.

Manuka honey, it's a real hit!

How is honey made and what is it made of?

Honey making

Honey comes from the transformation of nectar (a sweet substance secreted by the glands of certain flowers, the honey flowers) which is collected by bees and then stored in their crop (a kind of pouch) to be brought back to the hive. Also, honey can come from the honeydew of aphids, made of excrements of various insects (less glamorous) and collected in the same way. During this transitory phase between the flower and the hive, the enzymes of the bees' salivary secretions will act and transform this nectar. Once at the hive, the forager bee transfers her harvest to a worker bee who absorbs and regurgitates it before passing it on to another worker bee, and so on until these little insects feel that the transformed nectar is suitable for them. A real team work and quality! For the record, and to win wild games of Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble, this stage of successive transformations is called trophallaxis, or literally "food exchange." At this stage, the nectar then corresponds to honey, and the bees store it within the cells of the hive, drying it with their wing beats. Then they close the cells with wax in order to keep it in good conservation conditions: and yes, as honey is their main source of food, it might as well be well preserved and of exceptional quality!

It is at this moment that the beekeeper intervenes! After having smoked the hive to keep the bees away, he will remove the frames carrying the cells, then the honey is extracted and kept at room temperature in well closed jars. On average, the annual production of a hive of about 30 000 bees is 20 to 30 kg of honey. To give you an idea, 1 kg of honey produced represents the work that a foraging bee provides for 200 days, traveling 40,000 km and gathering 800,000 flowers!

Composition of honey

Its composition varies according to the flower(s) foraged, hence the different names (Flower honey, Mountain honey, Forest honey...). Thus, there are two kinds of honey: the unifloral honeys, from a single species of flower (or at least in which this species is predominant), and the "all-flower" honeys, coming, I'll give you that in a thousand, from several flowers!

  • Sugars (75-80%) with mostly glucose and fructose
  • Water (15-20%)
  • Various nutrients (minerals, enzymes, vitamin B, proteins, amino acids...). Moreover, it is these nutrients, although in small quantities, that play a major role and are the source of much of its positive effects for health.