Honey has been used for centuries as a natural remedy. It is used for everything from dressing wounds to treating intestinal diseases. Made by bees from the nectar of flowers, it is mostly sugar and water. But it also contains about 200 different substances, including antioxidants. And it is known for its antibacterial properties. Sure, honey is tasty, but does it have a place in your medicine cabinet? Here is what the evidence says.
- There’s some evidence to support applying honey as a wound treatment1.
- But not just any honey will do.
- Manuka honey appears to speed healing and prevent infection in serious burns and other types of wounds. It is made from flowers that grow in Australia and New Zealand.
- The FDA has approved dressings containing manuka for wound healing (brand name Medihoney, with “active Leptospermum honey”).
- There is no evidence, however, that ingesting honey has antibacterial effects.
- It’s often claimed that locally produced or raw honey contains pollen that may help desensitize your allergies. But don’t count on it as a remedy.
- Honey contains only tiny amounts of pollen, at best.
- In fact, any pollen in honey is considered a contaminant. This is because bees don’t intentionally incorporate it into the honey.
- And any pollen is mostly from flowers, not the grasses and trees that trigger most allergies.
- Raw honey was no better than processed honey or a honey-flavored placebo in alleviating allergies2.
Calm a cough
- Some research suggests that honey can help quell coughs.
- For instance, children who consumed two teaspoons of honey in milk before bedtime for three nights had a reduction in coughs comparable to that in children who took an over-the-counter cough syrup3.
- Keep in mind, however, that most studies find OTC cough medications work no better than a placebo.
- Other studies have reported that anything sugary, including agave syrup and grape-flavored water, may help just as much.
- Never give honey to infants younger than one year old because of the risk of botulism.
A cure for dandruff
- Honey has been touted by Dr. Oz and others as a “natural” cure for dandruff. But there’s little evidence to back this other than a single small study4.
- It found that applying honey to the scalp—for three hours every other day during the first four weeks, and then once a week—improved scaling and itching in people with chronic seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp (dandruff).
- Anti-dandruff shampoo is an easier option.
Honey may have a few potential medicinal uses. But don’t believe all the hype about its healthfulness. What’s more, remember that it is still a sweetener. All the criticisms and concerns about sugar (shown here) apply to honey as well.
- Jing lu. Peer J, March, 2014.
- T. Rajan. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, February, 2002.
- S. Sopo. Allergologia et Immunopathologia, September, 2014.
- N. Al-Waili. European Journal of Medical Research, July, 2001.