What is honey? What is it for? Discover its properties and its health benefits.
Honey has been collected and used as food for at least 5 thousand years. However, this product is not only a sweetener and an ingredient in recipes such as honey cakes or honey and mustard sauce, but it is also attributed multiple healing properties.
In this article we will analyze the properties and benefits of honey for the skin, hair, diet and to take care of our health in general. For this, we will review the data provided by the scientific community.
What is honey?
Honey is produced by bees and other insects, usually from the nectar on which they feed. These animal species extract the nectar of flowers such as rosemary, thyme, clover, eucalyptus, heather, ulmo or chestnut.
The flower honey is the best known type but there is also the honeydew, also called “honey of honey”, “forest” or “dew.” Honey Bees also produce the honeydew but its origin is not nectar but the secretions of insects that feed on sap, such as aphids or cochineal.
The main components of honey are water, glucose and fructose. It also contains calcium, iron, vitamins B, C, D, and antioxidants, among other nutrients.
How honey is produced?
Beekeepers get honey from honeycombs. In general, only surpluses are taken so as not to disturb the colonies of bees that have produced and feed on it. Currently, China is the largest producer of honey, reaching almost 30% of world production.
Read also: How is pure honey produced?
Groups of bees regurgitate the nectar from which they feed repeatedly, digesting it partially, and store it in combs. Then beat the wings to evaporate some of the water, preventing it from fermenting. This is how honey is produced, a very durable food that they can consume in winter, when it will be more difficult for them to access flowers.
What is it for?
Besides being a great complement to sweeten desserts, bread, tea or mustard, honey can have many other beneficial properties that you may not know. If it is of good quality it can improve our diet but also our health. That is why its use has recently increased as a complement in medical treatments.
Various products, not just foods, that are obtained from plants are called “honey” or in a similar way, such as agave or maguey honey and sugar molasses.
Mead or mead is an alcoholic beverage that is prepared from a fermented combination of honey and water. It was drunk by Mayans, Vikings, Celts and Romans, among others, and is considered to be a history of beer.
Properties and benefits of honey
The beneficial effects of honey for health depend largely on the variety that is eaten. Next, we describe these positive properties for our organism.
For the face and skin
Bee honey is often used to treat acne caused by bacteria since it has an antimicrobial effect. It also helps in cases of dry skin or chapped lips.
A mask of honey and oats can be made to exfoliate and clean the skin of the face. It is not recommended to use the mask for more than 20 or 30 minutes, as it can be very difficult to remove once it has dried.
Honey is often used to moisturize hair and eliminate dandruff. They are also attributed properties that reduce hair loss due to its moisturizing effects.
In the masks for the scalp, it is usually combined with products such as milk, aloe vera, oats or lemon.
Help to lose weight
Including honey in the diet can be beneficial in regulating body lipids; this would also have positive effects on cholesterol. However, the slimming effect would be limited to the consumption of small amounts, since at high levels can gain weight.
In this sense, it is often said that it is healthy to consume a glass of water with half a teaspoon of cinnamon and honey fasting, since honey reduces “bad” cholesterol and cinnamon removes hunger. There are also those who advise eliminating refined sugar from the diet and replacing it with honey, although in smaller quantities.
Reduce cholesterol and blood pressure
There is some evidence that honey reduces “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increases “good” cholesterol (HDL). It can also regulate blood pressure. However, other experts say that the symptoms of heart disease can get worse if you eat a lot of honey.
Relieves intestinal problems and constipation
Tea with cinnamon and honey or honey and lemon juice are beneficial in cases of indigestion, gastroenteritis, diarrhea and dyspepsia, a disorder that causes gas, burning, nausea and heaviness in the upper half of the stomach after meals.
In addition honey can alleviate constipation since among its healthy properties is a mild laxative effect.
Could prevent cancer
Some studies suggest that Tualang and Manuka honey can help prevent breast, prostate, skin or bladder cancer. Such an effect would be due to its angiogenic properties; this means that it stimulates the production of blood vessels, contributing to the regeneration of tissues.
It has also been proposed that honey is useful to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, such as mouth sores or esophagitis (inflammation of the esophageal mucosa caused by reflux of stomach fluid).
On the other hand, the American Cancer Society stated that it has not been conclusively proven that products derived from bees are beneficial in preventing or treating cancer.
Heals wounds and burns
Due to its antimicrobial properties, in the ancient world, honey was already used to treat burns on the skin and intestinal diseases and wounds such as ulcers. Some studies with few subjects claim that if applied to the skin it helps close wounds and has an antiseptic effect.
Honey from stingless species seems to have a greater antibiotic effect. Among the different types, the regenerative properties of Manuka honey and Tualang honey stand out.
Could substitute sugar in cases of diabetes
It has been suggested that people with diabetes can use a little honey as a substitute for sugar because their balance between glucose and fructose regulates blood sugar. Other sources point out that diabetics are only recommended to take honey to resolve episodes of hypoglycemia.
In any case, a diet with high amounts of honey would not be healthy for diabetics since it would trigger their blood sugar levels due to its high concentration of fructose.
According to scientific research, some types of honey, such as Manuka and that obtained from the Brazilian bee Melipona marginata, have anti-inflammatory properties. This means that they are good for reducing swelling and therefore pain.
Bee honey has antioxidant properties, especially that of Tualang and that of the bee Tetragonula carbonaria, native to Australia.
In any case, although people need a minimum of antioxidants such as vitamin C of honey to be healthy, many researchers doubt that high levels actually have beneficial effects for the body.
Relieves eye problems
Honey can be beneficial to treat diseases of the eye such as glaucoma and cataracts. Sometimes eye drops with drops of honey are administered to cure these problems.
Among the types of honey that seem to have properties to a greater extent are the Melipona favosa favosa and that of the Tetragonisca bees.
Precautions and contraindications
The beneficial properties diminish if it is ingested at more than 60 ° C, since the vitamins and the antioxidants it contains evaporate.
The consumption of honey or other sugars in large quantities increases blood pressure, cholesterol and fat in the body. In addition, excessive intake can cause children and babies anxiety and insomnia passengers.
According to the Mayo Clinic of Minnesota, for the moment science has not been able to provide conclusive evidence regarding the health benefits of honey, but it has not been proven that they do not occur.
Recipes with honey
The recipes with honey are very common all over the world. For example, in Argentina it is very common to prepare honey cookies or honey cake, which is also popular in Mexico and other countries in Latin America.
In Spain some traditional recipes are aubergines with honey (also called “aubergines with honey”), toast with honey, ribs with honey and honey vinaigrette.
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