We like a little sweetness in our tea, but while we’re happy to add a spoonful of sugar or two to a cup of black tea, we find that sugar doesn’t give herbal tea the respect that it deserves. That’s where honey comes in, because the best herbal teas and even the best black teas are those sweetened with honey, at least in our opinion.
You can’t beat a cup of sideritis with a spoonful of Greek thyme honey, a cup of Earl Grey with some orange blossom honey or a fruit tea with some black forest honey. In this guide it’s time for honey to shine as we look at the varieties, the benefits, and answer a few frequently asked questions about it.
Main Benefits of Honey: Kills Bacteria and Heals Wounds
There are many health benefits to consuming honey. It has been used as a medicine of sorts for thousands of years and was often smothered onto wounds as a way of reducing bacterial infections. Even when compared to modern treatments, honey still shows a lot of promise as a healer of burns and wounds, including everything from foot ulcers to infected wounds.
You probably knew that already. If there is anything that we all know about honey it’s that it’s great at killing bacteria and aiding with the healing process. But there are some health benefits of honey that may surprise you and may change the way you see this sweet, sticky substance forever.
Surprising Benefits of Honey: Improves Heart Health
Honey is rich in antioxidants in the form of polyphenols, which play a significant role in reducing heart disease. They contain compounds like quercetin, which is also present in many plants and herbals teas, including linden flower tea. This abundant antioxidant may play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease, especially when consumed in combination with all the other antioxidants found in honey.
Honey can also lower triglyceride levels, which has been linked to reduction in the risk of heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes and it also has a positive effect on cholesterol levels, reducing the bad and increasing the good. All in all, this bodes well for anyone looking for reinforcement against the threat of heart disease. Of course, a plant-based diet in general has been shown to reduce such risks and honey is far from a magic bullet. However, these health benefits suggest that the simple act of replacing honey for refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup could be hugely beneficial to your health.
Promising Health Benefits: Better Than Sugar for Diabetes
We mentioned above how one of the heart-healthy properties of honey can also assist with controlling type 2 diabetes. This may come as a surprise when you consider that it’s a sugar, because there is no escaping the fact that honey is basically all sugar. However, repeated research suggests that honey is considerably better for diabetics that sugar, corn syrup and other refined sweeteners.
It is also worth noting, however, that it can still increase blood sugar levels as much as refined sugar does and that it should be consumed in moderation and under caution by diabetics. It’s not the ultimate diabetic solution, far from it, but if you’re consuming small amounts of sugar a day and keeping your sugar levels in check, then it might be worth substituting those small amounts for honey.
Bear in mind, however, that every case is different and that moderation really is key, so you should discuss things with your physician before making any major changes to your diet.
Other Health Benefits of Honey: Nutrient Levels
One of the great things about honey is the fact that each variety offers its own health benefits. Not only can regular consumption of honey improve your overall health and potentially help to fight infections, but the type of honey that you consume could help with many other aspects of your health as well.
We have discussed the different types of honey before and we won’t get into that again, but to keep it simple, some of the nutritional components of the flower that produces the honey end up in the honey itself. It is why Manuka honey has considerably greater antibacterial properties than other varieties, and why honeys produced from wild herbs like sage honey and thyme honey, are rich in minerals.
That’s that good news. The bad news is that unless the honey is of the highest quality and comes from a very specific source, as is the case with Manuka, then you’re not getting a high concentration of beneficial compounds from the flower. You would have to basically overdose on sugar to get your RDA of basic vitamins and minerals even from the most potent varieties of honey, although the levels of beneficial antioxidants and other plant-based compounds can range more significantly in different types of honey.
Typically, the darker the honey is, the more of these compounds it contains, which suggests that black forest honey, Greek thyme honey and Manuka honey are some of the more powerful types.
Is Honey Vegan?
This is a contentious issue. On the one hand, vegans do not eat any animal products by definition and honey is produced by bees. On the other hand, there are those who claim that eating honey is just the same as eating plants that rely on bees to pollinate them or on fruits that contain dead insects, as is the case with figs.
But it’s not quite that simple. A lot of commercial honey is produced with little consideration for the health and wellbeing of the bees that gathered it. It is also highly processed and if they choose to be vegan for health reasons then this may go against those reasons.
There are humane producers though, typically those with smaller operations producing organic, raw honey. This means that the bees are treated better, the honey is not pasteurized and the end product is healthier.
So, Can Vegans Eat Honey?
Whether you decide to consume it as a vegan is entirely up to you. This is simply not as straightforward as meat or dairy and it’s something that comes down to personal choice.
Is Honey Better Than Sugar?
It’s a natural sugar, but it’s still sugar so we wouldn’t advise consuming too much. By all means swap a little of the refined sugar in your diet for a good raw, organic honey, but keep in mind that a spoonful of honey will have more calories than a spoonful of sugar. You will need to make allowances for this to avoid consuming too many extra calories.