Grandma was apparently right when she brought out the honey jar to soothe sore throats or calm an upset stomach. And now, the number one commodity of bees is getting some serious medical attention.
Honey is now being used to treat a long list of ailments including stubborn diabetic ulcers. And some people swear by its ability to lessen seasonal allergies.
"As a general rule of thumb the darker honey is going to be the better honey is for you, it will have more antioxidants," said Bronwyn Weaver, owner, Heritage Prairie Market.
In incorporated Kane County near Elburn, Weaver' bees ae busy. And it's a good thing because the human buzz on their honey is growing. People are coming to Prairie Heritage Market to buy the honey, not just for the taste but for what's inside. Raw, unprocessed honey contains vitamins such as C and B, antioxidants, minerals enzymes and more. It may help heal everything from headaches to wounds to allergies.
"One of the most basic homeopathic remedies is to ingest the honey and that way you fire up your immune system from those plants," said Weaver.
The trace amounts of the pollen found in local honey may help lessen allergic reactions over time. It's the same principal that works for allergy shots. But there are no definitive studies, and doctors warn too much of the pollen could be dangerous. So what sounds like an easy, natural way to build up a resistance to allergies could backfire drastically.
"There have been people who have had severe reactions to their local honey. There was too much protein that they were allergic to," said Dr. Mary Kay Tobin, Allergy & Immunology, Rush University Medical Center.
Tobin says she doesn't dismiss it entirely and says those people who seem to have the best luck start using honey months before the allergy season begins.
In some areas, the science on honey is catching up to it's folk legend Dermasciences Incorporated makes the first honey based medical dressings. Medi-honey bandages, which are FDA approved are saturated with manuka honey, a particularly potent type from New Zealand. It seems to be able to do what an increasing number of antibiotics cannot.
"It sucks the moisture out of bacteria and they can't function," said Dr. James McGuire, Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine.
Honey also contains hydrogen peroxide to kill germs. Other ingredients help reduce swelling and speed the growth of healthy tissue. Wound specialists say it's helping to close up diabetic wounds and sores that traditional treatments can't fix.
"This is hard science. There's something in there that really works," said McGuire.
And the power of the world's oldest sweetener doesn't end there. A Penn State study recently found that a dose of buckwheat honey before bedtime relieves children's coughs better than over-the-counter medications.
"Any kind of sinus or respiratory infections, it's also great for people with colds if they need to soothe their throat," said Melody Hart, N.D., Ph.D., Naturopath.
Holistic practitioners such as Hart say few people realize honey even has antiseptic properties to dull pain. She has many of her patients incorporate honey into their diets.
One beekeeper hopes as the science behind honey grows, so will the demand.
"As a general rule of thumb, the darker honey is going to be the better honey is for you, it will have more antioxidants."
There is debate as to which honey is the best. Some experts insist raw unprocessed honey contains more vitamins and antioxidants than the commercial, processed brands.
Honey should not be given to children under the age of 1 because there have been some rare medical reactions.
Heritage Prairie Market
2n308 Brundige Road
Melody Hart, N.D., Ph.D.
The Hart Center
For Alternative Medicine
127 S. Second St.
Geneva, Il. 60134
Mary Kay Tobin, M.D.
Rush Univ. Medical Center
National Honey Board