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The Tranquil Way: The health benefits of honey

Published:Monday | April 4, 2016 | 4:06 AM

Many health enthusiasts advocate the use of honey over sugar. Given that honey contains sugars and is more expensive is switching worthwhile? Is it as healthy as these persons make it out to be?

The use of honey for food and medicine goes back very far historically. It was used by the Egyptians as a dressing for wounds. In the Bible the promised land, Canaan, was touted to be flowing with milk and honey which goes to show its importance in ancient times.

Honey contains fructose (38.2%), glucose (31.3%), maltose (7.1%), sucrose (1.3%) and water (17.2%). It contains antioxidants and has anti-infective properties. Usually the darker it is the higher the antioxidant content and the more potent the anti-infective properties, but the lower the price. Of note the glycaemic index of honey is 55 which is the same as brown rice and actually lower than oats. The glycaemic index gives an indication as to how much a specific portion of a food sends the blood sugar up. The higher it is the more it will send the blood sugar up.

One area that the use of honey has been unquestionably effect is wound care. Medical grade honey (Manuka honey from New Zealand) has been shown to be the most effective though. It works well in the treatment of new or old wounds, especially since it has anti-infective properties. It shortens the time for wounds to heal. Some authorities also advocate for its use in the treatment of burns but others disagree.

Another area honey excels in is in the treatment of colds and flu. Honey has been shown to be more effective than dextromethorphan, a popular cough suppressant. Furthermore, there are those who think it may help in treatment of allergies but this has not been conclusively shown.

Moderation and safety are very important factors to consider in the use of honey. It is not recommended for use in infants below the age of one year unless it has been cooked which is the case when it is incorporated into infant cereals. This is because using it in this age group has been found to increase the risk of botulism, a paralytic condition caused by an infection. Moderation is also important because some persons may think that they can overindulge in the use of honey. It can send up the blood sugar as it contains sugar.