Benefits of honey and its side effects

Benefits of honey
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Honey is a natural product formed from the nectar of flowers by honeybees (Apis mellifera; Family: Apidae). Honey has been used by humans since ancient times, nearly 8000 years.  Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks, Romans, Mayans, and Babylonians used honey for the treatment of various diseases. There are 320 different varieties of honey are available depending on the various liquid sources of the flowers and plants visited by the honey bee. The benefits of honey are good for digestion, increase metabolism, and improves memory and skin quality.

Composition of Honey

The composition, flavor, and aroma of the honey depend on the plant sources, climate, and environmental conditions. Natural honey is made up of about 200 substances including carbohydrates (82.4 %), fructose (38.5%), glucose (31%), other sugars (12.9%), water (17.1%), protein (0.5%), organic acids, multi-minerals, amino acids, vitamins, phenols, and a myriad of other minor compounds. It also contains minor amounts of bioactive components such as flavonoids, polyphenols, reducing compounds, alkaloids, glycosides, cardiac glycosides, anthraquinone, and volatile compounds.

Benefits of honey for health

1. Treat Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of various diseases such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. Intake of honey helps to protect from these diseases because it contains a low glycemic index which reduces blood sugar levels.

It also improves insulin sensitivities and prevents excessive weight gain. Along with this, it enhances lipid metabolism by reducing total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride (TG), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which leads to a decreased risk of atherogenesis. It also reduces oxidative stress as well as protects from endothelial dysfunction (1).

2. Benefits of honey for skin

A combination of honey, olive oil, and beeswax helps to reduce dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis Vulgaris, and burn wounds (2). Moreover, this mixture is effective for the reduction of bleeding and itching in patients with hemorrhoids as well as also shows a reduction in pain, bleeding, and itching in patients with anal fissure without any side effects (3). Therefore honey may control skin damage by enhancing epithelialization of the afflicted skin surface as well as useful as a facial wash, skin moisturizers, hair conditioners, and in treatment of pimples (4).

3. Honey improves memory

Honey is a rich source of polyphenols that enhance memory as well as improve neuropharmacological properties, such as anxiolytic, antinociceptive, anticonvulsant, and antidepressant activities. Therefore honey is effective to reduce oxidative stress, restore the cellular antioxidant defense system and attenuate neuroinflammation in the brain (5).

4. Honey as antioxidant

It contains a rich amount of phenolic and other bioactive compounds. It removes harmful radicals from the body and protects from various diseases such as inflammatory, allergic, thrombotic, diabetic, cardiovascular, cancer, and others. Antioxidant properties are related to the brightness of honey; therefore, the darker honey has a higher value of antioxidant than a lighter one (6).

5. Antimicrobial properties of honey

Honey possesses an acidic pH of 3.2–4.5 which shows a wonderful effect on the inhibition of different bacteria. Thus prevent various infections such as septicemia, urinary infections, wound infections (burn), cholera, diabetic foot ulcer, pneumonia, bloodstream infection, community-acquired and nosocomial infection, chronic gastritis, peptic ulcer, gastric malignancies, enteric fever, and tuberculosis (7). Honey also effective against different fungi, therefore, it prevents the formation of biofilm and changes its exopolysaccharide structure. Moreover honey also shows antiviral activity against Rubellaherpes simplex, and varicella-zoster viruses (8).

6. Anticancer properties

Flavonoids (kaempferol, catechin, and quercetin) and phenolic acids (caffeic acid and gallic acid) are important compounds that show the major benefits of honey. Its effects on the inhibition of cancer cell growth and induce apoptosis because of its antioxidant, apoptotic, tumor necrosis factor inhibiting, antiproliferative, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, and estrogenic effects (9).

7. Anti-inflammatory properties of honey

Phenolic compounds and flavonoids such as chrysin, quercetin, and galangin found in honey suppress the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes, neutrophils in the wound area thus inhibit inflammation (10).

8. Honey treats Gastrointestinal tract diseases

Oral intake of honey is beneficial to treat gastrointestinal infections such as gastroenteritis, duodenitis, gastric ulceration, and diarrhea. It helps in blocking the attachment of pathogenic microorganisms and rehydrate the body. Moreover honey contains fructooligosaccharides (0.75%) which act as a prebiotic that stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli bacteria in the colon thus improve digestion (11).

9. Treat cough

Honey is very effective to treat cough in children as well as adults. if you are suffering from cough take honey in the nighttime to give relief from nocturnal cough and sleep difficulty which is associated with an upper respiratory infection (12).

10. Improve fertility

One of the interesting benefits of honey is that it shows a wonderful effect on both men and women because it contains vitamins, iron, calcium, other minerals amino acids. Its immune-enhancing properties improve egg quality, general fertility, fecundity, improve sperm quality and count, testosterone level, and semen quality (13).

Side effects of honey

Besides the benefits of honey, there are some side effects also using contaminated honey or using not knowing their proper source.

1. Presence of poison in mad honey

Mad honey (obtained from Andromeda flowers), is poisonous honey. Because it is contaminated with grayanotoxin that causes intoxication which may include weakness, dizziness, excessive perspiration, hypersalivation, nausea, vomiting, and paresthesias eventually lead to death.

2. Risk of contamination in honey

Honey can be contaminated with germs, dust, pesticides, plants, bees, antibiotics, heavy metals (lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium), and other toxic compounds during production, collection, and/or processing. Thus honey or medical-grade honey should be used to reduce these types of risks.

3. The risk for infant

Raw honey can be contaminated with germs particularly Clostridium botulinumand spores. However honey contains antimicrobial properties but sometimes its spores may survive and affect infants thus cause botulism thus should never be given to babies under one year due to its life-threatening properties (14).

3. Risk of a Pollen allergy

If you are allergic to pollen or bee proteins you should not consume honey because it may cause sensitivity in any patient with suspected but unresolved food allergy.

4. Risk of dehydration

Excessive application of honey may lead to dehydration and sensation of tissues which can, however, be restored by saline packs (15).

5. Presence of toxic compound

A compound known as 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), may be formed during the heating or preservation processes. Long-time accumulation of honey is mutagenic, carcinogenic, and cytotoxic.

Moreover, honey obtained from the nectar of Datura plants (from Mexico and Hungary), belladonna flowers and Hyoscamus niger plants (from Hungary), Serjania lethalis (from Brazil), Gelsemium sempervirens (from the American Southwest), Kalmia latifolia, Tripetalia paniculata, Ledum palustre and Rhododendron ponticum contains alkaloids that can be poisonous to humans with symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, headache, palpitations or even death. It has been suggested that honey should not be considered a completely safe food (16).


1. Is raw honey is dangerous for you?

Nope, raw honey is safe and beneficial for health because it contains more vitamins, enzymes, nutrients. It also contains flavonoids, and other polyphenols which may function as antioxidants. Moreover, daily consumption of raw honey improves hematological parameters and blood concentrations thus ameliorate anemic effects and boost immunity.

However raw honey is at a high risk of contamination because it does not sterilize or qualified should not be used for infants and not be applied to wounds due to the presence of Clostridia spores. Therefore, more research may help to know the toxic effect of raw honey (17).

2. Is spoonful honey daily is good for you?

Research studies proved that daily consumption of honey increases antioxidant agents. It also increases serum iron, total blood count, and trace elements such as blood zinc and magnesium.

1 tablespoon of honey generates 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar, including fructose glucose, maltose, and sucrose. Thus taking one spoon of honey will benefit you a lot (18).

3. What is manuka honey

Manuka honey is produced by honey bees (Apis mellifera) feeding on the manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium) (19). Manuka honey contains a compound known as methylglyoxal which shows antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties. Moreover, a research study proved that manuka honey has more antibacterial activity than Dabur honey on S. mutans and Lactobacillus bacteria (20, 21).


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