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Honey: Natural cough syrup

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By Prof Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

Raw honey has been used in ancient times to treat many diseases especially to heal wombs, digestion, and sore throat.  Raw honey is a crude form of honey that we get from the cells of the honeycombs within a beehive. This form is not “pure,” as it commonly contains bee pollen and propolis, which are both two very positive health additions. Nevertheless, raw honey can also contain dead bees, legs, wings, hunks of beeswax, and other impurities — these are sieved before bottling.

The normal temperature of the beehive is 95 degrees Fahrenheit, hence, raw honey cannot be heated more than that.  In the case of commercial honey, it is normally heavily processed. Some are chemically refined. Excessive heat can destroy the natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in honey. The beneficial phytonutrients, such as pollen and enzyme-rich propolis can all be destroyed as a result of processing.

In the case of China, non-raw honey or normal commercial honey is also procured from bees treated with antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin). They also may likely be given winter nourishment in the form of sugar or a low-cost syrup.

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Studies by the Palynology Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University tested 60 honey products from supermarkets and grocery stores and found that 76 percent have no trace of bee pollen,  the most important compound that should be found in all types. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration(2018) reports that any honey products that have been ultra-filtered, are not truly honey, and therefore the health benefits are false. Others could have high fructose corn syrup.

Types

Organic honey means raw organic honey. Same as raw honey, heating is not above 95 degrees F and follows national standards.

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The National Honey Board, “an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that educates consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products,” according to its website, also has more info on honey varieties. One healthy option is fermented honey.

It is reported that crystallization in honey also means it is loaded with sugar. Other types are acacia honey (normally light-colored), buckwheat honey (normally darker in color than its other counterparts), and neem honey. The healthiest type is generally known as Manuka honey.

Manuka honey

Manuka honey is an exceptional one made in New Zealand only by European honeybees that fertilize the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium).

“Conductivity” is an indirect way of assessing the minerals in honey. Manuka honey has a higher-than-normal conductivity about four times the conductivity of normal flower honeys. The higher the conductivity, the better the nutritional value.

When it comes to Manuka honey versus other varieties, Manuka always has a unique Manuka factor (UMF), which is a global standard in identifying and measuring the antibacterial strength of Manuka. Essentially, the UMF is a guarantee that the honey being sold is of medicinal quality. This is a standard of health value unique to Manuka honey.

The minimum UMF rating recognized is UMF5 — however, it’s not considered beneficial unless it carries a UMF10+ level of antibacterial activity in the honey. Anything ranging from UMF10—UMF15 is a useful level, and anything UMF16 and up is considered a superior quality.

Though other kinds of honey could have huge health effects, they cannot be compared to Manuka.

Polyfloral honey vs. monofloral honey

Though different types exist, they can fall under polyfloral honey or monofloral honey. Monofloral honey is found in bees that use the nectar of just one flower species.

Nutrition facts

Honey is a “functional food,” which means it is a natural food with health benefits.

Raw honey contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals, and 5,000 enzymes. Minerals include iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and selenium. Vitamins found include vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin.

Honey has 18 percent water, but the lower the water content, the better the quality. It does not need special storage or refrigeration — use it with a spoonful straight from the jar.

Though the nutritional value can vary based on the type and quality, a typical one-tablespoon serving of honey (about 21 grams) has:

·           Calories: 63.8

·           Total Carbohydrates: 17.3 g

·       Fiber: 0.04 g

·       Sugar: 17.2 g

·           Total Fat: 0 g

·           Protein: 0.1 g

·           Sodium: 0.8 mg (0.03% DV*)

*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.

Honey, science

Brain benefits

Raw honey exhibits some cognitive benefits to raw honey.  This is because the polyphenols in honey could counter inflammation in the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory(Samarghandian et al. 2017).

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects can benefit many parts of the body, including brain health.

Weight supports

One study by Nemoseck et al.(2011) found that honey consumption with weight loss. This rats study found that using honey instead of sugar lowers blood sugar and reduces putting on some weight.  It also found that it could lower serum triglycerides.

An earlier study by Larson-Meyer et al.(2010) found that raw honey can trigger hormones that suppress the appetite. In this double-blind, randomly assigned study, appetite hormones and glycemic responses were measured in 14 healthy non-obese women after consuming a breakfast containing either honey or sugar. The study found that honey consumption has obesity-protective effects.

Pollen allergies

The bee pollen in raw honey has been reported to fight infections, offer natural allergy relief, and boost overall immunity.

One study by Asha’ari ZA et al.(2013) found that taking honey at a high dose (one gram per kilogram of body weight of honey daily) may improve allergy symptoms for eight weeks.

Natural energy

Raw honey has natural sugars (80 percent), water (18 percent), minerals, vitamins, pollen, and protein (2 percent).  Normally called “the perfect running fuel,” it gives an easily absorbed supply of energy in the form of liver glycogen, making it ideal for energetic morning starts and as a pre-workout food and post-exercise energy source. Honey water is one such natural DIY sports drink.

Runnersworld.com states that studies have found honey as the best choice of carbohydrate to consume right before exercising.  It is also on the same scale as glucose, which is the sugar used in most commercial energy gels.

Antioxidant    

Fahey and Katherine(2002) found that a daily dose of raw honey raises levels of health-promoting antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants help block free radicals in the body that cause disease. Honey contains polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

A recent study by Olas B(2020) found that honey contains the disease-fighting antioxidant flavonoids pinocembrin, pinostrobin, and chrysin.

Wound healer

One study by Bang et al.(2003) found that bandages made with honey aid healing due to its natural antibacterial with wound-healing effects.

Another interesting thing is that an article by Dr. Axe.com explained that honey reacts with the body’s fluids to make hydrogen peroxide, creating an inhospitable environment for bacteria. In addition, “Concentrations of hydrogen peroxide generated are very low in comparison to those typically applied to a wound, thus, cytotoxic damage by hydrogen peroxide is very low.”

A review by Samarghandian et al.(2017) found that the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey are effective as keloid therapy. The best stage to use it is during the initial healing process.

A previous study by Udwadia(2011) explained that in the case of burns and wounds, honey should be applied directly to the affected area or in a dressing that’s changed every 24 to 48 hours. There are instances where the dressing is left in place for up to 25 days. A combination of honey and ghee has been promoted and used as dressing for infected wounds since 1991 in four Mumbai hospitals.

Diabetes

It has been reported that raw honey could reduce the risk of developing diabetes and also support drugs used to treat diabetes. For instance, an article on Dr.Axe.com states that when raw honey and cinnamon are combined, it is effective against blood sugar and different health issues such as gingivitis and acne.

One study by Al-Waili et al.(2004) found that honey lowers the elevation of plasma glucose levels in diabetics compared to dextrose and sucrose.  Others report that the insulin-boosting power of cinnamon can offset this glucose elevation in honey, this makes honey and cinnamon mixture a low glycemic index food combination.

Natural cough syrup

Raw honey is as effective in cough as over-the-counter commercial cough syrups. For instance, one study by Oduwole et al.(2012) found that a single dose of honey can reduce mucus secretion and coughs. In this study, raw honey was found to be as effective as diphenhydramine and dextromethorphan, ingredients found in over-the-counter cough medicines.

Just in case you need it for a cough, a half teaspoon to two teaspoons at bedtime is a studied and recommended dosage for anyone over the age of one.

Warning

Annapoorani et al.(2010) found that when heated at high temperatures,  it produces hydroxymethyl furfuraldehyde (HMF).

Mild honey intoxication side effects can include weakness, dizziness, vomiting, sweating, and nausea. Other more serious side effects are unlikely unless you consume way too much.

it should never be given to children under 12 months of age since raw honey is a potential source of botulism spores.

Dr. Axe.com also stated that if you’re allergic or sensitive to celery, pollen, or have other bee-related allergies, you should not consume raw honey. Honey made from plants in the Rhododendron genus can also cause allergic reactions due to toxicity.

Take home

Raw honey is an unprocessed sugar that contains fructose and sucrose and has so many benefits. For instance, Ezz El-Arab et al.(2006) found that honey can help gut health. It can heal stomach ulcers( Boyanova et al. 2015).

 It can also be used as a face cleanser to fight acne(McLoone et al. 2016). In this case, take half a teaspoon, warm it between your hands, and spread it on your face gently. Leave it on for 10 minutes, and then rinse with warm water and pat dry. As an exfoliator — Use it on dry winter skin by adding two cups of honey to a bath, soak for 15 minutes, then add one cup of baking soda for the final 15 minutes.

It also improves sleep(Fakhr-Movahedi et al. 2018) — found that milk and honey together improve sleep. Add a tablespoon of warm milk to help increase melatonin and help you sleep.

Dr. Axe.com explained that a Moisturizer — A spoonful of raw honey mixed with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon can be used as a hydrating lotion.

Hair mask — A raw honey hair mask can help boost shine by hydrating your hair, according to studies. Simply mix 1 teaspoon of raw honey with 5 cups of warm water, apply the mixture to your hair, and let it sit, then rinse thoroughly, allowing your hair to air dry and style as usual.

Finally, ‘Honey doesnt expire very easily but it can become contaminated in certain circumstances. Store honey in a tightly sealed container away from light and extreme temperatures.

For some time, honey may start to crystallize. This is completely safe but can make it look grainy and sugary. You can warm it just slightly to melt the crystals but know that higher temperatures can cook the honey, removing its raw properties and causing it to darken in color. If your honey has changed color drastically or smells off, throw it out.

NB: Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.

The writer is a professor of naturopathic healthcare, a medical journalist, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. E. mail: [email protected].  Visit-profnyarkotey.com for more.

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