Honey is a popular folk remedy. It’s also recommended in traditional healing systems such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Studies convincingly demonstrate that the contents of this amber elixir can be:
• Capillary (tiny blood vessel) strengthening
The importance of each effect differs from honey to honey. Honeys originating from medicinal plants may contain some of the compounds in herbal remedies made from their roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds or fruits. So perhaps we should think of these honeys as herbal remedies, too. Choice of sweetener Refined white table sugar is the most common sweetener in the average westernized diet.
Highfructose corn syrup is next and widely used in the US and Japan, though not in Europe. But these sweeteners provide only ‘empty calories’ because they have no nutritional benefit other than their sugars supplying energy. Honey, however, not only provides energy, but also contains many health-enhancing compounds. Honey – an excellent choice If we choose honey, we tend to consume less than we would sugar, since honey is sweeter and tastes more characterful. Honey behaves differently from sugar in the body, even if we eat a lot of it, because of its acidity, flavonoids and other antioxidants, vitamins, copper and zinc.
Compared with sugar, the average honey makes blood glucose and, therefore, insulin, rise more slowly and climb less high. Certain honeys, including acacia, yellow-box and raw honeys, many highfructose honeys and runny honeys, make blood glucose rise even less. This is good, because many health problems (including Alzheimer’s, artery disease, diabetes, eye disease, high blood pressure and inflammation) are encouraged by repeated high blood glucose.
This encourages oxidation in blood vessels, damage (glycation) to body proteins such as insulin, collagen and certain brain proteins and, eventually, resistance to insulin. It can help to know about the glycaemic index (GI), which ranks foods from 1–100 or more according to their blood-glucose-raising ability. (Fats don’t raise blood glucose, while proteins do so only in particular circumstances – see below.) A honey’s GI depends on its proportions and amounts of sugars, and on its acids, flavonoids and other contents that influence blood glucose. Choosing a low-GI honey instead of sugar helps prevent unhealthy rises (‘spikes’) of blood glucose and insulin.
Which honey to use medicinally
The options include:
• Any honey.
• Raw honey.
• Monofloral honey with particular healing potential; note that certain honeys are allocated a rating for their antibacterial, antioxidant or oligosaccharide activity
• Honey-containing lozenges, eyedrops, dressings, creams, ointments, gels and patches (from certain pharmacies, drugstores or on the internet).
• Supplements containing concentrated honey extract. Consume honey as part of a healthy balanced diet, on its own, with food or in coffee, teas or other drinks. Official health advice is to get no more than 6 per cent (in the US) to 10 per cent (in the UK) of energy from sugar, including that in honey. Honey is generally very safe and often cheaper than other treatments.
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