While I commonly hear that local honey can help seasonal allergies from friends, patients, and influencers alike, it is unfortunately a myth as it has not been found to be scientifically backed. However, I can see the good intentions behind the idea that eating local honey will aid with the pollen that you are allergic to. While this is not the case, honey has many other benefits.
So we all know that honey comes from bees, but what exactly is honey. Honey is primarily sugar comprised of mainly fructose and some glucose in addition to a small amount of vitamins and minerals. There are also over 300 different varieties of honey. While honey is most commonly used as a natural sweetener, it is also known to be an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial agent.1, 2
According to the Mayo Clinic and other bodies of research, honey may also improve other conditions as well. This includes cardiovascular disease due to honey’s antioxidant properties which may be associated with decreased risks of heart disease. Another use of honey is as a cough suppressant which you may remember from childhood. Some studies suggest that certain types of honey variates such as eucalyptus, citrus, and labiatae honey can be an effective cough suppressant for acute nighttime coughs.
Honey has also long been used as a topical agent for wound healing provided it is medical-grade honey. I have seen this used in burn units and on some pressure injuries with good success. As always, I would recommend speaking with your doctor prior to doing so. Lastly, honey has been shown to potentially provide antidepressant and anti-anxiety benefits as well. There are also a select few studies that honey may be able to prevent or slow memory disorders.
What to Take Into Consideration When Adding Honey to Your Diet
While honey may have many other beneficial health effects compared to other sugars, it is still in fact still a sugar, and anything in excess can have health repercussions. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10% of one’s caloric intake per day. For the 2000-calorie diet that nutrition fact labels are based on, this is 200 calories or the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
The American Heart Association further restricts added sugar intake. For men, the AHA recommends to consume no more than 9 teaspoons a day (150 calories or 36 grams) of added sugar. For women, the amount is even lower related to our reduced energy needs at 6 teaspoons a day (100 calories or 32 grams) of added sugars.
Information + Tips for When You Shop for Honey
While we have well over 300 different varieties of honey here is the United States, there are only two ways in which you can purchase it.
Raw: Raw honey comes straight from the hive, is generally the least processed, and is thought to contain the most antioxidant. While you may be able to find raw honey at your local supermarket or grocery, you can generally find local raw honey from a farmer’s market in your area.
Pasteurized: Pasteurized honey has been processed to improve its shelf life and remove imperfections. Unfortunately, not all honey is created equal despite all coming from the bee hive. During this pasteurization process, some honey can be altered to contain added corn syrup, table sugar, brown rice syrup, and other sweeteners.
Due to the many varieties of honey, there are also many color variations of honey. The color of the honey is dependent on the plant from which the bees took the nectar. Nutritionally, there is research to support that darker honey varieties generally contain higher amounts of antioxidants and minerals.3 The other notable difference between lighter and darker honey varieties is the flavor. Light-colored honey tends to be milder in flavor compared to dark honey.
As always, I hope you have a happy and wholesome day!