Honey has been a delightful delicacy since the beginning of time. But honey’s got a reputation for being much more than just a tasty way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
This golden nectar is well-known for its potent healing properties and touted as a natural remedy for anything from wounds to digestive woes.
While honey may not be the miraculous “cure-all” that some claim it to be, it does have some impressive health benefits. Today we’re going to explore the antiviral effects of honey, exactly where this virus-fighting capability comes from, and how to reap the benefits of this sweet syrup. Let’s dive in.
What Exactly Is Honey Made Of?
Honey bees travel from flower to flower gathering nectar to bring back to their hive. Once the bees make it back to their hive, they transfer their collection of nectar to the “worker bees” who further process the nectar in their digestive tract until they deposit it into a honeycomb.
These honeycombs are made of wax and molded into hexagonal shapes to store the bee hive’s loot of honey. Once in the honeycomb, the bees fan the honey to evaporate moisture and transform it into a thicker, stickier, and more “spoil-resistant” form. Once it reaches the right consistency, the bees seal the honeycomb cells with more wax to store it. Then, during the cooler months when there are no flowers blooming or nectar to collect the bees will access their stored honey and use it as fuel.
This stored honey is what beekeepers extract and collect to create the honey you find at grocery stores or at your local farmers’ market. And while honey is enjoyed by bees and humans alike, honey is more than just a yummy treat – it’s also a nutritional powerhouse.
The Health Benefits of Honey
This thick, golden, and sticky sweet treat packs a powerful punch when it comes to your health. That’s because honey is chock-full of health-boosting phytonutrients, flavonoids, and phenolic acids that have been linked to:1
- Potent anti-inflammatory effects: Honey can trigger the downregulation of proinflammatory cytokines and signaling molecules to lower your inflammatory response.
- A boost in antioxidants: Honey is chock-full of powerful antioxidants that neutralize harmful free radicals. This neutralization of free radicals prevents oxidative damage that leads to cellular dysfunction, chronic disease, and accelerated aging.
- Powerful anti-microbial properties: Honey has the ability to combat various types of infections – including infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Honey not only helps eliminate existing harmful microbes but also inhibits the proliferation and growth of these stealthy intruders.
- Anti-cancer activity: The natural compounds in honey have been found to have significant cancer-fighting properties – inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells while inducing apoptosis (cellular death) of cancerous cells.
Talk about an impressive resume. But one emerging area of study that’s yielding some additional promising and fascinating results is the potent antiviral effect of honey.
Honey’s Antiviral Properties
Honey’s antiviral benefits are built on two pillars: Immune system support and the inhibition of viral replication. Let’s take a deeper look at both of these.
Honey’s Immune-Boosting Properties:
Honey supports your immune system and helps enhance your body’s natural abilities to combat viral intruders by:2
- Improving the proliferation of T and B lymphocytes – giving your immune system a boost.
- Stimulating phagocytosis – the engulfment and elimination of infected cells by your immune cells.
- Regulating the production of pro-inﬂammatory cytokines including monocytes, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin 1 beta, and IL-6 – decreasing inflammation.
- Inhibiting the expression of pro-inﬂammatory cytokines – further decreasing inflammation.
- Protecting vital cellular components from oxidative harm – safegarding your cells from harmful viruses.
These changes help supercharge your immune system, giving it a leg up in neutralizing and eliminating any invading viruses.
Honey’s Antiviral Activity:
The compounds found in honey have also been found to directly inhibit viral replication. By interrupting crucial enzymatic reactions and blocking mRNA synthesis, honey effectively halts the virus’s ability to reproduce and spread.2
One of these potent antiviral components found in honey is a compound known as levan.
Antiviral Levan – What Is It?
Levan is a type of fructan – a polymer produced by plants and some microorganisms as a way to defend themselves against potentially harmful microbes.3 Levan is produced in an enzymatic reaction involving an enzyme known as levansucrase and sucrose molecules.
While levan is known as a potent antiviral agent, this compound has also been found to have health benefits that extend much further. Levan has been applied in the health industry as an:4
Levan has been garnering attention as a natural, safe, and cost-effective treatment option for numerous conditions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.5
Levan Found in Honey
While a number of plants and microorganisms are capable of producing levan, a bacteria known as Bacillus subtilis has been identified as a source of levan production in honey strains. Bacillus subtilis probiotics are naturally found in the stomachs of honey bees, which then make their way into the honey they produce.6
The discovery of naturally-occurring levan in honey could have valuable implications when it comes to the health industry. Now that we’ve reviewed the impressive health benefits and antiviral properties of honey, you’re probably wondering how you can reap the rewards of this sweet syrup.
Adding Honey to Your Diet
While there are a plethora of potential benefits of isolating different compounds – like levan – from honey, that’s not the only way honey can be beneficial for your health. Incorporating honey into your diet can give you a concentrated dose of the healing compounds honey is praised for.
But when it comes to incorporating honey into your diet, there are 2 things to keep in mind:
- Quality matters: Most of the jars and bottles of honey you’ll find lining grocery store shelves are processed and pasteurized. This heat treatment and ultrafiltration can lower or completely destroy all of the micronutrients that make honey beneficial. On top of that, processed honey has the potential to be contaminated with sugar and other sweeteners. So skip the grocery store honey and look for high-quality raw, unfiltered honey.
- A little goes a long way: While honey is certainly chock-full of beneficial nutrients, it’s still quite calorie-dense and is mostly natural sugar. And a diet high in sugar is linked to a laundry list of chronic health issues. So, be mindful of your portion sizes and remember that a little bit goes a long way.
Just a tiny spoonful of high-quality honey can transform your beverages or desserts into a decadent – and healthy – treat.
There are countless ways to incorporate honey into your diet. Some of my favorite ways include:
- Adding a spoonful to my Pique tea or Purity coffee
- Whipping up some almond honey crisps
- Sweetening a bowl of fruit or plain yogurt with a light drizzle
- Mixing it into a simple salad dressing or marinade in place of sugar
Honey has a distinct and delicious flavor that can complement countless dishes ranging from sweet to savory.
When It Comes to Your Health, You’re in the Driver’s Seat
There’s mounting evidence that honey has some impressive benefits that may have significant implications for the future of natural healthcare and preventative options. And while this prospect is certainly exciting, the truth is, there’s no single compound or supplement that’s going to drastically improve our health – as individuals or as a collective.
When it comes to your health, you are in the driver’s seat. The daily choices you make about how you eat, move, sleep, and think are the pillars of your health. Everything else is just an “extra” to give you a little boost.
And if you’re ready to truly optimize your health and well-being, I’m here to help. If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more ways to prioritize your health you can head over and check out my blog with hundreds of articles chock-full of research-backed and easy-to-implement advice. And if you’re ready to take it even deeper, you can sign up for my newsletter by entering your name and email address in the form below.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn about the potent antiviral effects of honey? What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate honey into your diet? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
- Health Benefits of Honey | IntechOpen
- (PDF) Antiviral and Immunomodulatory Effects of Phytochemicals from Honey against COVID-19: Potential Mechanisms of Action and Future Directions (researchgate.net)
- Understanding the transfer reaction network behind the non-processive synthesis of low molecular weight levan catalyzed by Bacillus subtilis levansucrase | Scientific Reports (nature.com)
- Enhancement of antioxidant activity of levan through the formation of nanoparticle systems with metal ions (cell.com)
- Production of levansucrase from novel honey Bacillus subtilis isolates capable of producing antiviral levans – ScienceDirect
- Bacillus in the guts of honey bees (Apis mellifera; Hymenoptera: Apidae) mediate changes in amylase values (eje.cz)
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.