You slather it on toast and stir it into smoothies. But did you know that honey is more than a tasty, convenient sweetener? It also contains unique healing properties.
“Honey is great medicine,” says naturopathic physician Shidfar Rouhani, N.D., D.C., a professor at Bastyr University School of Naturopathic Medicine in San Diego.
“It’s antibacterial and boosts the immune system,” he says. “When mixed with other botanicals, it strengthens them too.”
Here are 9 common ailments that often respond to this sweet treatment. Most people can safely take a tablespoon of honey in liquid every two hours. But if you have bleeding that won’t stop or preexisting health conditions such as diabetes, consult your doctor before prescribing yourself honey.And take care with infants: Don’t give this or any remedy containing honey to anyone under 1 year old. That’s because honey can contain small amounts of the potentially deadly botulinim toxin, and a baby’s immune system isn’t strong enough to handle it.
Honey Remedy #1. Acne
To dry up pimples and reduce facial redness, try this homemade honey mask:
1. Combine 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and mix thoroughly.
2. Apply to your face for 20 minutes, and then rinse with warm water. (This and other remedies are described in Lifescript’s “12 Natural Skin Savers: Do They Really Work?”)
“Honey absorbs impurities from pores, making it an ideal cleansing agent,” explains Howard Sobel, M.D., a clinical attending physician in dermatology and dermatologic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital in New York.
Honey Remedy #2. GERD (aka acid reflux or heartburn)
Five milliliters, or about one teaspoon, of honey can create a soothing coating for the esophagus, protecting it from the effects of too much stomach acid, according to Dr. Rouhani.
“It’s an old pharmacist’s trick that addresses the cause of GERD,” he says.
This home remedy is safe to use for a week. But to prevent sugar spikes, which are especially unsafe if you have diabetes, consult your doctor about dosages after that period. A teaspoon of honey contains about 21 calories, or 5.71 grams of carbohydrates, according to the USDA.
Or try a diet plan to cut acid reflux.
Honey Remedy #3. Canker Sores
Honey healed canker sores in just 4 days, while oral corticosteroids and an over-the-counter remedy each took 8 days, researchers at Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin Abdul Aziz University found in 2014. Each treatment was used on 94 people three times a day.To try this remedy, wet a sterile cotton ball with water and wipe the canker sore clean. Then, apply a small amount of honey using a cotton swab; reapply several times a day until the sore disappears.
Honey Remedy #4. Coughs
Sometimes you beat the flu, only to suffer from a lingering cough. A multiyear study of 100 people with a continuing cough reported that the following remedy was more effective than corticosteroids or cough syrups, according to a 2013 article in the Primary Care Respiratory Journal.
Mix ½ teaspoon of instant coffee granules with 2½ teaspoons of honey. Stir into 7 ounces of warm water. Drink three times a day.
Honey is a demulcent, meaning it coats your throat to soothe a cough, and caffeine dilates the bronchi in your lungs, which eases breathing.Caution: For persistent coughs that last eight weeks or longer, check in with your doctor to rule out serious infections or causes, the Cleveland Clinic advises.
Want more natural cough remedies that work? Click here.
Honey Remedy #5. Eczema and Cradle Cap
People with eczema are often bothered by patches of thickened skin, redness, oozing and itching. When similar areas appear on the scalp or face, they’re often called “cradle cap.”
But applying honey can ease the symptoms of both of these skin problems and prevent the growth of Staphylococcus aureas, a bacterium that commonly accompanies them and can make itching worse.
When more than 30 patients with itchy eczema areas received applications of crude (or mostly raw) honey every other day and left the treatments on for three hours, they reported that scaliness and itching isappeared in one week, and that their lesions had vanished in two weeks, according to a 2011 study in The Nurse Practitioner.Honey
Remedy #6. Influenza
A New Zealand honey called Manuka, which is available here in health-food stores, may tame the flu and perhaps even prevent it, according to a 2014 study in the Archives of Medical Research.
“Our results showed that honey in general, but particularly Manuka honey, has potent inhibitory activity against the influenza virus, demonstrating medicinal value,” researchers concluded. Honey is believed to fight the flu and other viruses by increasing immune system chemicals and sending warrior cells to the areas where “bugs” are, Dr. Rouhani explains.
When added to echinacea or goldenseal tea, honey increases their immunity-boosting powers too.
Manuka honey is becoming overpriced and difficult to find as people hear about its health benefits. Dr. Rouhani suggests that other varieties of honey, including pasture (or clover) honey and raw or organic U.S.-produced strains, can offer similar protection.
If you have the flu, a tablespoon of honey can be safely taken every three hours by non-diabetic adults and children, along with anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu, and over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants.
Honey Remedy #7. Insomnia
Can’t sleep? Try dissolving a tablespoonful of honey in 8 ounces of warm milk for a tasty snooze tonic. For more flavor, add a drop of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Milk contains the hormone melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan, which both promote slumber.
And honey’s natural sugars raise insulin slightly, enabling tryptophan to enter the brain more easily, according to physician Lindsey Duncan, N.D., C.S.
Check out other natural remedies for sweet slumbers.
Honey Remedy #8. Burns
Smeared on a first- or second-degree burn, honey reduces healing time by up to 4 days in some cases, a 2008 review of studies suggests.Honey drains moisture from bacterial cells and also contains hydrogen peroxide, both of which annihilate bacteria. It also may help prevent scars by laying a fresh blueprint for new skin to grow on.
Honey Remedy #9. Cuts and scrapes
To heal a wound, clean the area, then apply a dollop of honey under a bandage to sterilize and protect the injury from bacterial infection.
Manuka honey mends open wounds and may even prevent infections from developing in people who are susceptible to chronic wound infections, according to a 2012 study published in the journal Microbiology.
“It’s like nature’s Neosporin,” Dr. Rouhani says.
Honey’s antibacterial power results partly from its dense structure, which consists primarily of sugar in various forms, including glucose, sucrose and fructose.
This high sugar concentration pulls water out of any micro-organism that lands in it, Dr. Rouhani explains. “It literally sucks bacteria dry.”