Taking a leaf out of The Jungle Book: Baloo (singing), “The bees are buzzin' in the tree, To make some honey just for me”. Honey (known as shahad in Hindi) is a thick, sticky and sweet tasting liquid which is rich in minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium. There is something undeniably enchanting about honey; the product of flower nectar transformed by bees, as if by alchemy. According to the National Honey Board, honey is fat-free, cholesterol-free, sodium-free and rightly called nature's sweet nectar. With desinuskas up their sleeves, our grandmothers have extolled the many virtues of honey from boosting immunity to helping with weight loss. Had I not witnessed the magic of this liquid gold first-hand, I would probably have labelled it as a hoax.
How is Honey Made?
Did you know that it takes about 60,000 bees, collectively traveling up to 55,000 miles and visiting more than 2 million flowers, to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey? Once the nectar is gathered, the bee stores it in its extra stomach where it mixes with enzymes, and then passes it to another bee's mouth, via regurgitation. This process is repeated until the nectar becomes partially digested and is then deposited into a honeycomb. Then the honey bees fan the liquid nectar with their wings, helping the water to evaporate and create the thick substance you know as ‘honey'.
“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know how to explain it.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.
Here're 11 Honey Benefits:
1. Natural Energy Booster
Noticed how a sugar high leads to a rapid energy crash and burn more often than not? It's time to ditch the energy drinks and forget your coffee fix. Use honey instead of sugars and sweeteners in your tea, baked goodies or spread to it on a hot toast. Its natural sugars even prevent fatigue during exercise, so it is also good for improving athletic performance. The glucose in honey is absorbed by the body quickly, giving an immediate energy boost, while the fructose provides sustained energy since it is absorbed more slowly. Honey has also been found to keep levels of blood sugar fairly constant in comparison to other types of sugar.
2. Treats Cough
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal Pediatrics (and my grandmother), just two teaspoons of honey can help cure a persistent cough. Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, honey not only soothes the throat, but also kills certain bacteria which cause the infection. If you don't wish to eat honey straight up, you can add Manuka UMF honey to warm water. What is Manuka UMF honey? Manuka Honey is produced in Australia and New Zealand from the nectar of the manuka tree, and UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor i.e. a grading system that assures purity and quality of manuka honey.
3. Improves Sleep
Do you lie awake all night staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning? Use the famous milk and honey remedy to fall asleep quickly. All you need to do is add a teaspoon of honey to a glass of hot milk. Honey releases serotonin (a neurotransmitter that improves your mood), and “the body converts serotonin into melatonin (a chemical compound that regulates the length and quality of sleep”, says Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Sukhda Hospital. You can also add a teaspoon (or two) of honey to a cup of chamomile tea, if you'd prefer.
4. Treats Wounds And Burns
Honey is made up of mostly glucose and fructose that absorb water if applied on wounds. It helps promote healing, making it a natural first aid cure for wounds, burns and cuts. Honey's antiseptic properties inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and help keep external wounds free from infection. It helps reduce swelling, pain and even scarring as it works as an anti-inflammatory as well. A 2005 study published in the British Journal of Surgery showed remarkable improvement after applying honey to the affected areas.
5. Honey for Immunity
Honey's antioxidant and antibacterial properties help improve the digestive system and boost immunity. It is also a powerhouse of antioxidants, which are very effective for the removal of free radicals from the body. “Start your day by adding a spoonful of honey and lemon juice (from half a lemon) to a cup of warm water. Drink this cleansing tonic before breakfast to reap the benefits”, says Delhi-based Nutritionist Anshul Jaibharat.
6. Cures Hangover
It's a familiar feeling... a heavy head, raging thirst, waves of nausea, over sensitivity to light and noise? Yes, it's the dreaded hangover! Fret not, honey is here to rescue you. Just a few tablespoons of honey will help speed up your body's metabolism and help you combat that hangover, since fructose helps speed up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver. The NYU Langone Medical Center reveals that taking honey orally can, "increase the body's ability to metabolise alcohol, thereby limiting intoxication and more rapidly reducing alcohol blood levels."
7. Prevents Heart Diseases
“Consumption of natural honey increases polyphonic antioxidants in the blood which helps prevent heart diseases”, adds Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Sukhda Hospital. It can also help lower cholesterol levels.
8. Honey forWeight Loss
It is believed that drinking warm water with honey and a splash of lime first thing in the morning is an effective anti-cellulite treatment, as it helps to increase body metabolism. But with 64 calories per tablespoon, how can honey help you shed those extra pounds? According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, honey helps control your appetite. If you consume honey before bed, the body begins to burn more fat during those early hours of sleep. You can even take a step further and replace all refined sugar in your diet with honey in order to rebalance the brain signal that compels you to consume more sweet stuff.
9. Honey for Fabulous Skin
Honey is a fantastic moisturiser and works wonders on patches of dry skin. You can use it to soften up your knees and elbows, even chapped lips. During the cold winter months, just rub some honey onto your face and wash off after 30 minutes. You can even create a moisturising scrub - all you need to do is add some sugar and voila! It works as a natural exfoliator. Give your skin the benefit of honey's powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and ultra-moisturising properties.
10. Treats Dandruff
According to a 2001 study published in the European Journal of Medical Research, honey can bring temporary relief to the scalp by targeting dandruff. The study found that applying honey diluted with 10 percent warm water to problem areas and leaving it on for three hours before rinsing, led to itch relief and no scaling within a week. Skin lesions healed within two weeks and patients even showed an improvement in hair loss.
11. Honey for Silky Hair
Honey acts as a natural agent for moisturising hair and cleansing the scalp, leaving you with silk smoothy hair without stripping away any natural oils. Add a teaspoonful of honey to your usual shampoo or mix with olive oil for a deep conditioning treatment for 20 minutes, before washing your hair with shampoo.
Note: Consumption of honey is safe for older kids and adults, but for infants, it is recommended to wait until at least one year of age.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.