Raw honey has been used since ancient times by many cultures for its medicinal values. Raw honey -- honey which has not been filtered, heat-treated, or processed -- is not just a healthy food. It is also a powerful medicine when taken internally or used externally on the skin. The favorable effects of raw honey as a natural medicine for sore throats, flu, skin and stomach ulcers, digestive disorders, insomnia, and obesity are well known in folk medicine and are beginning to be documented in the modern scientific literature.
Honey is a healthy substitute for regular sugar and artificial sweeteners. Its chemical makeup is easier to digest than regular sugar, and its metabolism does not create byproducts for the liver and kidneys to filter. It also contains small amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Honey also acts as a gentle diuretic, helps normalize the digestive microflora, and can calm the nerves and facilitate sleep.
Modern research has confirmed honey’s ability to act as a broad-spectrum antibiotic, as well as its antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Common indications for oral ingestion of honey include: insomnia, anorexia, stomach and intestinal ulcers, constipation, osteoporosis, and laryngitis. A clinical trial in Saudi Arabia found honey to relieve dyspepsia (chronic indigestion) in a statistically significant number of patients. It was also found to relieve bleeding ulcers and GI inflammation. New Zealand’s manuka honey was found to inhibit the growth of H. pylori, the bacteria that is sometimes responsible for the development of ulcers and dyspepsia.
External indications for honey include conjunctivitis, athlete’s foot, eczema, lip sores, wounds resulting from surgery, burns, bed sores, infected ulcers, and other accidents. In many countries, including France and Germany, physicians recommend using honey as a first line of defense for burns, superficial wounds, and in some cases, even deep lesions such as abscesses. Wounds treated with raw honey generally heal faster and with less scarring. Raw honey is a natural and painless antiseptic. It kills germs because it is hydrophilic, meaning it steals water from its environment. In addition, honey contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase. This enzyme is converted to hydrogen peroxide, which is another powerful anti-microbial agent. In a 1991 study, honey was compared with silver sulfadiazine, the standard treatment for burn patients, and the results were astounding. Only 9% of patients treated with honey developed infections, compared to 93% of those treated with the silver sulfadiazine. Honey has also been shown to reduce the average size of postoperative scars significantly.
Processed honey commonly available in grocery stores has been heated and filtered so it looks better and doesn’t have as great a tendency to crystallize. Crystallization does not hurt the honey and can be reversed easily by gently heating the honey in a water bath if necessary. If the honey is heated too much (higher than 104 deg. F) the enzymes and glucose oxidase will be destroyed and much of the medicinal value of honey will be lost. If possible, use and eat only raw honey, which should be labeled as such if bought in a store, buy it from a bee keeper at a local Farmer’s Market and support his labor intensive livelihood or buy it over the internet from a reputable vendor.