Raw Honey Benefits, Uses, Nutrition, Recipes and Side Effects - Dr. Axe

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Honey Benefits for Energy, Improving Health & Why It Should Be Raw


Raw honey - Dr. Axe

Switching out your intake of sugar and high fructose corn syrup and using honey instead appears to offer significant health benefits.

The average American adult consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar every day. Per capital in 2021, American consumed 69.8 pound of high fructose corn syrup — that’s around 13 teaspoons per day. In comparison, the average American ate 1.75 pounds of honey in 2020 — that’s only one-third of a teaspoon each day.

Most of the honey consumed today is processed honey that’s been heated and filtered since it was gathered from the hive. Meanwhile, raw honey is a pure, unfiltered and unpasteurized sweetener made by bees from the nectar of flowers. Unlike processed honey, raw honey retains more of its incredible nutritional value and health benefits.

Learn more about one of the most popular natural sweeteners today, including the types of benefits it offers.

What Is Honey?

Raw honey is a crude form of honey immediately taken out of the cells of the honeycombs within a beehive. This form is not “pure,” as it commonly contains bee pollen and propolis, which are both two very positive health additions. However, raw honey can also possibly contain dead bees, legs, wings, hunks of beeswax and other impurities — these are strained out before bottling.


Raw honey cannot be heated above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the normal temperature of the beehive. While it’s OK to strain raw honey, it’s never filtered or pasteurized. It also cannot have any other additives.

On the other hand, commercial honey is often heavily processed and may even have been chemically refined. Excessive heat can destroy the natural enzymes, vitamins and minerals in honey.

Filtering and processing eliminate many of the beneficial phytonutrients, including pollen and enzyme-rich propolis. The only way to achieve sparkling clear honey is by heat, so avoid the golden, syrup-like honey in favor of opaque, organic raw honey.

Non-raw honey or regular commercial honey can be sourced from bees that are treated with antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin in China’s honey). They also may likely be given winter nourishment in the form of sugar or a low-cost syrup.

Hives are made of non-organic materials, which can have pests and be cleaned with non-organic substances.

Research by the Palynology Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University tested 60 honey products from supermarkets and grocery stores and found that 76 percent contained no trace of bee pollen, which is benefit-rich and should be in all varieties. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration maintains that any honey products that have been ultra-filtered, as these have, are not actually honey, and therefore the health benefits of honey cannot be assumed.

Some may even contain high fructose corn syrup.


Organic honey usually means raw organic honey. Just like with raw honey, heating is not allowed above 95 degrees F.

In order to be called organic, it must follow good organic management, according to each country’s set of standards and conditions. Processing should also only be done by means of gravitational settling and straining.

The National Honey Board, “an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that educates consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products,” according to its website, also has more info on honey varieties. One healthy option is fermented honey.

Also, if you see crystallization in your product, it may mean there’s an overabundance of sugars, so keep an eye out. It is a natural process, however.

Other varieties include acacia honey (usually light-colored), buckwheat honey (usually darker in color than its other counterparts) and neem honey. The healthiest type is widely considered to be Manuka honey.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is a unique type that’s produced only in New Zealand by European honeybees that pollinate the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium).

“Conductivity” is an indirect way of measuring the mineral content of a honey. Manuka honey has a higher than normal conductivity with about four times the conductivity of normal flower honeys. The higher the conductivity, the better the nutritional value.

When it comes to Manuka honey versus other varieties, Manuka always has a unique Manuka factor (UMF), which is a global standard in identifying and measuring the antibacterial strength of Manuka. Essentially, the UMF is a guarantee that the honey being sold is of a medicinal quality. This is a standard of health value completely unique to Manuka honey.


The minimum UMF rating recognized is UMF5 — however, it’s not considered beneficial unless it carries a UMF10+ level of antibacterial activity in the honey. Anything ranging from UMF10—UMF15 is a useful level, and anything UMF16 and up is considered a superior quality.

While other honeys, can certainly have hugely positive health effects, they don’t have this exact measurement or rating like Manuka.

Polyfloral Honey vs. Monofloral Honey

No matter the variety, each honey can be separated into either polyfloral honey or monofloral honey. What’s the difference? Monofloral honey comes from bees that utilize the nectar of just one flower species, hence mono, while polyfloral honey comes from bees that utilize nectar from multiple flower sources.

Nutrition Facts

Honey is one of nature’s purest foods and is far more than just a natural sweetener. It’s a “functional food,” which means it’s a natural food with health benefits.

Raw honey contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals and 5,000 enzymes. Minerals include iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and selenium. Vitamins found include vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin.

In addition, the nutraceuticals contained in it help neutralize damaging free radical activity.

One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, yet it has a healthy glycemic load around 10 for one tablespoon, which is a little less than a banana. Raw honey does not cause a sugar spike and elevated insulin release like white sugar.

Honey is typically about 18 percent water, but the lower the water content, the better the quality. It does not need special storage or refrigeration — use it by the spoonful straight from the jar.

While the nutritional value can vary based on the type and quality, a typical one-tablespoon serving of honey (about 21 grams) contains approximately:

  • Calories: 63.8
  • Total Carbohydrates: 17.3 g
    • Fiber: 0.04 g
    • Sugar: 17.2 g
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Protein: 0.1 g
  • Sodium: 0.8 mg (0.03% DV*)

*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.


1. Healthy Weight Management

Research studies have linked honey consumption with weight loss. A San Diego State University study performed on rats found that replacing sugar with honey can actually help prevent packing on extra pounds and also lower blood sugar. The results also suggest that in comparison to sugar, it may lower serum triglycerides.

Another study from the University of Wyoming found that raw honey can activate hormones that suppress the appetite. In the double-blind, randomly assigned study, appetite hormones and glycemic responses were measured in 14 healthy non-obese women after consuming a breakfast containing either honey or sugar. Overall, researchers concluded that honey consumption offers potential obesity protective effects.

2. Counters Pollen Allergies

Raw honey contains bee pollen, which is known to ward off infections, provide natural allergy relief and boost overall immunity.

Honey’s ability to prevent allergies is based on a concept called immunotherapy. How so? The bees in your neighborhood go from flower to flower collecting pollen that causes you to suffer, but when a you consume local raw honey, you also consume that same offending local pollen.

After some time, an allergy sufferer may become less sensitive to this pollen that previously caused problems and experience fewer seasonal allergy symptoms.

A 2013 study discovered that eating honey at a high dose (one gram per kilogram of body weight of honey daily) can improve allergy symptoms over a period of eight weeks. Researchers observed that the honey consumption improved overall and individual symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

Some people say that a daily tablespoon can actually act like an allergy shot. The type is key though since pasteurized honey does not contain any pollen. For possible seasonal allergy relief, you need to consume raw honey with pollen in it.

3. Natural Energy Source

Raw honey contains natural sugars (80 percent), water (18 percent), and minerals, vitamins, pollen and protein (2 percent). Often called “the perfect running fuel,” it provides an easily absorbed supply of energy in the form of liver glycogen, making it ideal for energetic morning starts and as a pre-workout food and post-exercise energy source. So-called honey water is one such natural DIY sports drink.

Studies at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory have shown honey to be one of the best choices of carbohydrate to consume right before exercising. Additionally, studies have revealed that as a sporting fuel, it performs on a par with glucose, which is the sugar used in most commercial energy gels.

4. Antioxidant Powerhouse

Studies have indicated that a daily dose of raw honey raises levels of health-promoting antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants help block free radicals in the body that cause disease. Honey contains polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Studies have shown that it contains the disease-fighting antioxidant flavonoids pinocembrin, pinostrobin and chrysin.

5. Wound Healer

Honey-infused bandages are known to aid healing. Studies at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found that it is a natural antibacterial with wound-healing effects.

Honey reacts with the body’s fluids to make hydrogen peroxide, creating an inhospitable environment for bacteria. In addition, “Concentrations of hydrogen peroxide generated are very low in comparison to those typically applied to a wound, thus, cytotoxic damage by hydrogen peroxide is very low.”

A review of studies on the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey called out its potential for keloid therapy. The researchers believe that its impact on keloids is likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which may calm the skin. It may be most useful when applied during the initial healing process, however.

For the treatment of burns and wounds, honey is typically applied directly to the problem area or in a dressing that’s changed every 24 to 48 hours. Sometimes the dressing is left in place for up to 25 days. A combination of honey and ghee has also been advocated and used as dressing for infected wounds since 1991 in four Mumbai hospitals.

6. Diabetes Aid

Consumption of raw honey can reduce the risk of developing diabetes and help aid medication used to treat diabetes. The combination of raw honey and cinnamon can be especially beneficial to healthy blood sugar management, as well as many other health concerns like gingivitis and acne.

According to a study out of Dubai, honey has been observed to cause a lower elevation of plasma glucose levels in diabetics compared to dextrose and sucrose. Some suggest that the insulin-boosting power of cinnamon can counteract this glucose elevation in honey, which would make your honey and cinnamon mixture a low glycemic index food combination.

Raw honey can increase insulin and decrease hyperglycemia. For diabetics, consult with your health care professional about adding both raw honey and cinnamon to a diabetic diet plan.

7. Natural Cough Syrup

Raw honey has been shown to be as effective in treating coughs as over-the-counter commercial cough syrups. Increasing scientific evidence shows that a single dose of honey can reduce mucus secretion and coughs. In one study, it was just as effective as diphenhydramine and dextromethorphan, common ingredients found in over-the counter cough medicines.

For a cough, a half teaspoon to two teaspoons at bedtime is a studied and recommended dosage for anyone over the age of one.

Common Uses

If you’re ready to incorporate raw honey into your diet, then check out these honey uses.

  1. Improve digestion — Animal studies indicate that honey can help gut health. Ingest one to 2 tablespoons to counteract indigestion since it doesn’t ferment in the stomach.
  2. Relieve nausea — Mix honey with ginger and lemon juice to help counteract nausea.
  3. Acne remedy — Studies show that honey can be used as an affordable face cleanser to fight off acne, and it’s gentle on all skin types. Take half a teaspoon, warm it between your hands and spread it on your face gently. Leave it on for 10 minutes, and then rinse with warm water and pat dry.
  4. Exfoliator — Use it on dry winter skin by adding two cups of honey to a bath, soak for 15 minutes, then add one cup of baking soda for the final 15 minutes.
  5. Improve diabetes — Studies indicate that consumption of raw honey can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and help aid medication used to treat diabetes.
  6. Lower cholesterol — Studies show that honey can help reduce cholesterol and, therefore, decrease your risk for coronary artery disease.
  7. Improve circulation — Raw honey makes your brain function optimally by strengthening the heart and improving blood circulation.
  8. Antioxidant support — Studies reveal that consumption of raw honey increases plaque-fighting antioxidants.
  9. Restore sleep — One study showed that milk and honey may promote restorative sleep. Add a tablespoon to warm milk to help increase melatonin and help you sleep.
  10. Prebiotic support — An animal study demonstrated that raw honey is full of natural prebiotics that promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestine.
  11. Improve allergies — If sourced locally, studies reveal that raw honey can help reduce seasonal allergies. Add one to 2 tablespoons to your diet daily.
  12. Help weight loss efforts — As indicated in one study, substituting raw honey for white sugar can help in weight management.
  13. Moisturize — A spoonful of raw honey mixed with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon can be used as a hydrating lotion.
  14. Hair mask — A raw honey hair mask can help boost shine by hydrating your hair, according to studies. Simply mix 1 teaspoon of raw honey with 5 cups of warm water, apply the mixture to your hair and let it sit, then rinse thoroughly, allow your hair to air dry and style as usual.
  15. Eczema relief — Use honey as a topical mixture along with equal parts cinnamon to relieve mild eczema.
  16. Reduce inflammation — Raw honey has anti-inflammatory agents that can treat respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
  17. Heal wounds — Raw honey used topically can help quicken healing time for mild burns, wounds, rashes and abrasions.
  18. UTI remedy — Honey can help improve urinary tract infections due to its antibacterial properties.
  19. Shampoo —  Raw honey can cleanse and restore the health of your hair and scalp.
  20. Relieve sore throat and cough — Using it for sore throat and cough is another common remedy. Studies indicate that this is especially useful for children with a cough. Simply swallow one teaspoon of honey, or add it to tea with lemon.

Where to Find and How to Use

Raw honey might be available at your nearest grocery store, but it should be available at your local health food store or, even better, your local beekeeper. It’s also available online.

Expect raw honey to be opaque rather than that sparkling, clear, golden color that’s achieved through heating.

Never cook with raw honey because that will destroy its good properties. Also, do not store it near a heat source.

If you enjoy honey in your tea or coffee, wait until the drink is just tepid enough to sip comfortably, and then add it to taste.

Drizzle it on breakfast cereals, over your sprouted grain toast or on yogurt. It’s also a great addition to smoothies and salad dressings — plus it pairs well with fruits like honeydew and apples.

Raw honey can be a healthy alternative to highly processed sugar in recipes that doesn’t require heat. For every one tablespoon of sugar in a recipe (that doesn’t require heating), you can typically use two teaspoons of honey instead.


Does honey expire?

It has a long shelf life and is typically fine to consume even after very long periods of time so long as it’s kept in a sealed container, though it may crystallize.

What is honey made of?

Flower nectar combined with enzymes bees naturally secrete.

Why do bees make honey (and how)?

Bees make it prior to winter and store it so they have food during the cold months. They make honey by harvesting nectar from flowers and utilizing an enzyme they secrete to mix with the nectar in a honeycomb. Over time, the water in the nectar reduces and turns into honey.

What type of sugar is honey?

Raw honey is an unprocessed sugar that contains fructose and sucrose.

What is the density of honey?

It ranges from 1.38–1.45 g/cm at a temperature of 20 degrees C.

How many carbs are in raw honey?

One tablespoon (about 21 grams) of raw honey contains approximately 17 grams of carbohydrates.

Risks and Side Effects

Honey is considered safe when taken by mouth in normal food amounts or recommended dosages. However, it should never be given to children under 12 months of age since raw honey is a potential source of botulism spores.

Raw honey is not a danger to older children or adults, just to infants, so adults can eat it so long as they are not allergic. However, if you have a compromised immune system or are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer, you should speak with your health care provider before consuming it.

If you’re allergic or sensitive to celery, pollen or have other bee-related allergies, you should not consume raw honey. Honey made from plants in the Rhododendron genus can also cause allergic reactions due to toxicity.

Although it is one of the healthiest sweeteners, it still should certainly be used in moderation. Mild honey intoxication side effects can include weakness, dizziness, vomiting, sweating and nausea. Other more serious side effects are unlikely unless you consume way too much.

In addition, when heated at high temperatures, it has been shown to produce hydroxymethyl furfuraldehyde (HMF). One study, conducted on rats, found that when heated to 60 degrees Celsius to 140 degrees C, there was a significant rise in HMF.

Why is this important to note? HMF can cause deleterious effects and is considered carcinogenic.

Final Thoughts

  • Raw honey is the most crude and natural form you can purchase.
  • It’s unfiltered and unpasteurized, which means there is no processing or heating to decrease its natural vitamin and mineral content.
  • It contains disease-preventing and disease-fighting flavonoids.
  • Raw honey contains both propolis and bee pollen so you get the benefits of those two natural powerhouses as well.
  • It has been scientifically proven to help with allergies, diabetes, sleep problems, coughs and wound healing.
  • It is a smart part of a pre- and post-workout snack for better energy during a workout and better recovery afterward.
  • Look for a local beekeeper to source your raw honey. This will make it even more likely to help with seasonal allergies.

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