- Honey is rich in antioxidants, meaning it may reduce your risk of some cancers or heart disease.
- Honey also has antibacterial properties and can soothe a cough or effectively treat wounds.
- Overall, the healthiest type of honey is raw, unprocessed honey, as there are no additives or preservatives.
- This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Honey can be a great addition to anything from fresh pastries to hot tea. Not only does it taste good, but honey also has many health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to helping wounds heal.
Here are four science-backed benefits of honey and how to pick the best type of honey for you.
1. Honey has antioxidant properties
Antioxidants combat free radicals in the body. Free radicals are chemicals produced through bodily processes such as metabolizing food or from outside sources like pollution. In large quantities, free radicals can damage genetic material and cells, possibly increasing one’s risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Honey contains a variety of antioxidants, including:
- Glucose oxidase
- Ascorbic acid, which is a form of vitamin C
- Phenolic acids
A 2003 study compared the effects of digesting 1.5 grams of buckwheat honey versus corn syrup, per kilogram of body weight. It found people who consumed buckwheat honey experienced a greater increase in their blood plasma’s antioxidant activity compared to the corn syrup group. Because the average American diet contains large amounts of sweeteners, researchers believe substituting heavily processed sweeteners like corn syrup for honey could be beneficial to public health.
2. Honey lowers cholesterol
Another benefit of honey is that it may reduce cholesterol levels, specifically LDL levels, which are the “bad” kind of cholesterol.
High LDL levels can increase a person’s risk of:
In a small 2013 study of overweight or obese individuals, participants given 70 grams of natural honey daily for a maximum of 30 days saw a 5.8% decrease in LDL cholesterol compared to those who took 70 grams of sucrose, a form of sugar, over the same time period. The patients who ate honey also saw an 11% decrease in triacylglycerol, the most common type of body fat.
3. Honey soothes coughs
A 2012 study examined the effects of honey on children aged one to five with a nighttime cough. The participants used 10 mg of either eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, Labiatae honey, or a placebo before bed. The study found a significantly higher improvement in coughing among children who consumed honey.
However, honey should not be given to children under one because it could lead to botulism, a possibly fatal disease. That’s because honey may be contaminated with a toxin that can harm infants but does not affect older children or adults.
4. Honey promotes wound healing
“[Honey’s] antibacterial properties can help to prevent infections and stimulate the immune system to promote healing,” says Selvakumar. The topical application of honey has been known to treat conditions like:
- Burns and wounds
- External ulcers
- Pilonidal sinus, a hole that occurs in the skin above the butt
A small 2012 study found topical applications of honey encouraged wound healing in people with fresh traumatic injuries or skin injuries. Honey was applied via soaked gauze that was replaced every morning and night for 15 days.
After 15 days, 80% of participants experienced reduced tenderness and pain, which researchers attribute to honey’s anti-inflammatory properties. Overall, the study concluded honey helps heal wounds without any side effects.
Jodi Greebel, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant, recommends using raw, unprocessed honey for treating wounds, as processing can diminish some of its beneficial properties. If your wound is severe, applying honey is best done in a medical setting.
Choosing the right type of honey
While there are multiple types of honey — from manuka to clover — one isn’t necessarily better than the other for topical application or oral intake.
However, it is best for your health to opt for raw honey. Raw honey is unprocessed and can be purchased at health food stores and vitamin shops.
“It is best to always try to use raw, organic honey with no preservatives, added sugar, or any other types of additives,” says Selvakumar. That’s because processing honey can remove some of its beneficial nutrients and antioxidants.
Regardless of the honey or sweetener you choose, the American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar a day and women six teaspoons to prevent heart disease.
Honey has many health benefits, like increasing antioxidant activity, reducing cholesterol, promoting wound healing, and soothing coughs. For maximum health benefits, always choose raw honey over processed honey with added sugars. Honey intake should be avoided by children under one-year-old and pregnant people, as it may contain a toxin that causes botulism, a deadly condition in infants.
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