by Aurora Geib
September 05, 2012
Honey is a popular sweetener produced
propolis or "bee glue" and enzymes
in a bees' saliva.
Other insects produce honey but bee
honey is the more popular kind. Honey is composed of simple sugars
easily used by the body. It was the earliest reliable sweetener used
in baking, enjoyed as spreads and added to drinks. It is also
currently used in the manufacturing of certain processed foods like
Light colored honeys are generally milder in flavor while darker
ones are more robust. Depending on the bees' nectar source, the
color and flavor of honey may differ.
There are currently more than 300 kinds
of unique honey in the United States.
Forms of honey
Although honey is normally found in a
liquid state, it can also change into a semi-solid state otherwise
known as granulated honey.
This condition can sometimes happen when
glucose, the main sugar in honey, separates from the honey solution
creating crystallization; losing its water content. The crystal then
forms a framework that places other elements of honey into
suspension resulting in the semi-solid state.
The displaced water condenses in some part of the container
increasing moisture content; jump-starting the growth of yeast and
fermentation. Although honey can sometimes crystallize on its own,
dust and pollen or air bubbles can serve as triggers for
crystallization of honey. To avoid crystallization, it is essential
to store honey properly.
Using air tight, moisture resistant
containers is recommended when storing honey for long periods of
Honey that has crystallized; however, does not need to be thrown out
as it has not gone bad. Heating it slowly in a warm bath will
dissolve the sugar crystals back to liquid form.
Other forms of honey include comb honey,
which is honey in its original state, cut comb honey; which is
liquid honey with added chunks of honey comb in the jar, liquid
honey; which is honey extracted from the honey comb and whipped
honey, which is brought to markets in a crystallized state.
is controlled so that the honey can be spread at room temperature
like jelly or butter. Whipped honey is a popular choice in certain
parts of the world and, for breakfast, it is sometimes preferred
over liquid honey.
Most of the honey available in the United States is in liquid form.
Uses of honey and its
Honey is popularly known as a sweetener,
but many do not know that it also contains nutritional and medical
qualities praised by none other than Hippocrates, the father
According to a Swiss study that
discussed the nutritional value of honey, honey is rich in
carbohydrates but has a low glycemic index (GI).
Its GI varies within a range of 32 to 86
depending on the botanical source. Fructose rich honey, such as
acacia honey, has a low GI; lower in fact than sucrose which is
pegged at 60 to 110.
Foods with low GI release glucose into
the blood slowly and steadily; high GI foods cause blood sugar to
spike. High GI foods are not suitable for diabetics; but those after
a workout or are experiencing hypoglycemia will benefit from its
ability to give immediate energy.
Honey contains the following trace minerals:
potassium, magnesium, calcium,
sodium, chloride, sulfur, iron, copper, iodine and zinc which
although marginal, may contribute to the recommended daily
choline, a B-vitamin essential for
brain and cardiovascular functions, cellular membrane composition
and repair; and a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
Honey has anti-viral,
anti-microbial and anti-parasitic effects. Its capacity to inhibit
the growth of micro-organisms and fungi is well documented.
The low water activity of honey inhibits
bacterial growth and honey glucose oxidase produces the
anti-bacterial agent hydrogen peroxide.
Depending on its botanical source, honey gives significant
anti-oxidant activity protecting against oxidation responsible for
chronic diseases. It also has anti-mutagenic, anti-tumor as well as
anti-inflammatory qualities that stimulate anti-body production.
Honey is effective in dressing wounds. It has recently been used in
clinical settings for treating fist sized ulcers extending to the
bone as well as in the treatment of first, second and third degree
Complete recovery has been reported with
no infections, muscle loss or any need of skin grafts. When the
wounds are clean, honey acts as a healer. Garlic honey, which is
just a mixture of honey and garlic, can be applied directly to
infected wounds to clean the area.
Dr. Peter Molan of Waikato
University in New Zealand observed that honey was more effective
in managing infections on burn wounds than anti-bacterial ointments
used in hospitals.
Moreover, in a study conducted by Penn State University,
honey was discovered to be better at alleviating cough than over the
The study led by Dr. Ian Paul
found that a small amount of buckwheat honey, given before bedtime,
provided better relief for kids from night time cough and sleep
difficulty than the use of dextromethorphan (DM).
DM is an over the counter cold medication.
This finding is significant in light of
a recent Food and Drug Administration advisory that cautioned
against giving cough and cold medicine to children below six years
old due to its potential side effects ineffectiveness.
Incidentally, consumers spend billion of
dollars each year for medication not proven to give significant
Who can benefit from
Clinical studies have found that honey
sits well with infants.
It was observed to increase their
weight, hemoglobin content, give them better skin and digestion
while increasing their immunity from disease. In fact, honey has
been observed to produce a mild laxative effect and is recognized as
a treatment for constipation in Eastern Europe.
Athletes will find honey to be an effective source of carbohydrates
that can improve their athletic performance.
Patients suffering from hepatitis A can
benefit from honey's capacity to cause a decrease in the
alanine aminotransferase activity
(an increased ALT is indicative of liver damage) and a decrease in
bilirubin production (a product
breakdown responsible for the yellow color in bruises and urine and
increased levels may indicate certain diseases).
Among cancer patients undergoing cancer
radiation therapy, honey was observed to reduce incidents of
mucositis, a common toxicity for
head and neck cancer whose consequences include pain, weight loss
and micro-nutrient deficiencies.
Generally, honey is safe for
children and adults even in large qualities.
Avoid giving honey to infants under 12
months to avoid the risk of botulism poisoning. Allergic reactions
to honey have also been reported in individuals allergic to pollen.