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The Health Benefits of Honey

Honey is a supersaturated solution of sugars, mainly fructose, glucose, and maltose-like sugars, with traces of sucrose, glucose oxidase, hydrogen peroxide, phenolics, flavonoids, terpenes, etc. The sugars make honey hygroscopic (moisture absorbing) and viscous, and the sugar concentration plus other factors including low pH, hydrogen peroxide, and the flavonoids, phenolics and terpenes make honey antimicrobial or prevent microbial growth.

The main use of honey is as a flavorful sweetener and energy source which is eaten with and as a component of a wide variety of foods. The sweetness is from the sugars, particularly fructose, and flavor is created by a wide variety of trace essences derived from plant esters, alcohols, aldehydes, and other compounds. Secondary, but important, uses of honey are for the promotion of health and well being. Some of these uses include aiding in the healing of wounds, healing of serious skin burns, and healing gastric ulcers.

The basis for the wound and burn healing properties of honey is its antimicrobial, moisturizing/fluid removal, and oxygen barrier properties. By keeping a wound or burn clean and moist, and free from bacteria and the damaging effects of oxygen, the wound can heal much more quickly than if left unaided. Modern creams and antibiotics may help heal these types of wounds, but they often have the disadvantages of killing tissue and causing heavy scabs and scars. The healing properties of honey were clearly demonstrated in a study comparing honey treatment to that of silver sulfadiazine, the standard treatment, for burn victims.

The results of the study clearly showed that honey treatments resulted in a much greater sterility of the wounds, a faster rate of healing, and a faster onset of healing. Similar results have been shown by T. Postmes in tests with burned pigs. In these experiments, honey was shown not only to be better than standard treatments, but also better than artificial honey made from the sugars, but omitting the glucose oxidase, hydrogen peroxide, flavonoids, and other minor components of honey.

For many years, advocates have claimed that honey can help treat gastric ulcers. With recent discoveries, an understanding of how this can occur has emerged. Until recently the bacterial origin of gastric ulcers was unknown. Now, the culprit is known to be the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Some honey has been shown to inhibit H. pylori and the flavonoid content and low pH of honey likely aid in stimulating growth and healing.
Honey being harvested from a series of frames.  Honey bees build these frames up using wax secreted by their glands and then fill them with honey created from a variety of nectars.  When the cell has beein filled, the worker bee caps off the top, sealing in the freshness and keeping the honey sterile.

Here, a bee keeper is removing a frame to check for the amount of honey stored; this frame is only 25% filled and will be put back in until the bees completely coat it with filled honey cells.
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