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The Creation of Honey and Some of Its Medicinal Uses

Honey is created when bees collect the nectar of flowers in their mouths, which is then mixed with enzymes found in the bees' saliva.1 The bees take the honey back to the hive and deposit it into the walls. The flutter of the bees' wings causes air circulation which reduces the honey's moisture content and makes it ready for consumption. Honey was used historically both as food and medicine, as well as in religious rites. One of the earliest "references" to honey is a Neolithic petroglyph near Valencia, Spain depicting a man collecting honey.1

The health benefits of honey correspond to the honey's quality. It starts with the health of the plants from which the bees collect the pollen and concludes with the way in which the honey is processed. Raw honey, which has not been filtered or heated, contains some of the same resins found in propolis, a complex mixture of resins and other substances used to seal the bee hive and keep it safe from bacteria and other microorganisms.2 Honey has been found to be safe and effective in treating children's coughs in upper respiratory infections (See HC 031323-476).3 Honey has long been considered an energy source, and it has been found to increase athletic performance, sustaining blood sugar levels after endurance training.4 Research has shown that honey, used topically, also has wound healing qualities and is a good treatment for burns, confirming a traditional use. Since honey is composed mainly of glucose and fructose, both of which attract water, honey may absorb water in the wound, causing drying so that the growth of bacteria and fungi is inhibited.5 Honey has been found to also be beneficial on the metabolic effects in type 1 diabetes.6


1Davidson A. The Oxford Companion to Food. New York: Oxford University Press; 1999.

2George Mateljan Foundation. The world's healthiest foods: Honey. Available at Accessed July 8, 2013.

3Cohen HA, Rozen J, Kristal H, et al. Effect of honey on nocturnal cough and sleep quality: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Pediatrics. September 2012;130(3):465-471.

4Kreider RB, Earnest CP, Lundberg J, et al. Effects of ingesting protein with various forms of carbohydrate following resistance-exercise on substrate availability and markers of anabolism, catabolism, and immunity. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:18. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-18.

5Gupta SS, Singh O, Bhagel PS, Moses S, Shukla S, Mathur RK. Honey dressing versus silver sulfadiazene dressing for wound healing in burn patients: a retrospective study. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2011;4(3):183-187.

6Abdulrhman MM, El-Hefnawy MH, Aly RH, et al. Metabolic effects of honey in type 1 diabetes mellitus: a randomized crossover pilot study. J Med Food. 2013;16(1):66-72.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor