Bee healthy!

Dear Lucy: Is drinking honey with hot water bad for your health? —Honey Do Or Honey Don’t?

Dear HDOHD: “What a very peculiar question,” Lucy thought upon opening this brief missive. “Isn’t this just a simple yes-or-no question? And why would anyone entertain the thought of drinking honey with hot water in the first place?”

Then she started poking around the shady, pseudo-science corners of the Internet and discovered a number of not-quite-legit websites claiming a myriad of health benefits for the practice. Among other things, Lucy found claims that drinking honey with hot water could help you lose weight, boost your immune system, lower your blood sugar, poop more regularly, and fart much less. 

And, as with past questions of this sort, Lucy knew exactly where to turn for an answer, MIT Medical’s all-science-no-nonsense nutritionist and dietician, Anna Jasonides. 

Jasonides considers honey, a natural carbohydrate or sweetener made up of glucose and fructose, to be “a healthy food with good nutritional compounds, like antioxidants, trace minerals, and flavonoids,” but, like most other foods, she recommends that it be consumed “in moderation.” To answer your specific question, she tells Lucy that eating some honey every day—with or without hot water—will not be harmful to your health.

She was not surprised to hear claims for honey’s therapeutic powers. “Honey has been considered to have medicinal powers since the earliest recorded days of Greek and Egyptian civilization,” she tells Lucy. “A few of those ancient claims hold up to today’s science,” she continues. “For example, in individuals over one year of age, honey has been shown to be more effective than many specially formulated medicines for suppressing a cough and soothing a sore throat.”

Honey can also be effective in healing some skin wounds and burns, Jasonides notes, because its high concentration of hydrogen peroxide gives it broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties. “But I wouldn’t rush to put honey on my skin wound or burn,” she adds quickly. “You’d need a ‘medicinal grade’ honey for that purpose, and it’s best to consult a clinician about the best treatment for injuries of this type.

Despite some searching, Jasonides could not find good research to support other claims about honey. “It won’t lower your blood sugar,” she says. “In fact, like other carbohydrates, it will raise your blood sugar. It won’t help you lose weight. It won’t prevent a cold or cancer. And it won’t reduce your allergies.”

That said, if you like drinking honey with hot water, Jasonides grants you her blessing. “A tablespoon of honey in water every day has my unqualified approval,” she says, “as long as you enjoy it and don’t expect a miracle.”

Lucy thanks you for what turned out to be a very interesting question. She learned a great deal in researching the answer and hopes her readers did as well. As always, many thanks to Anna Jasonides for her invaluable assistance. —Lucy

Back to Ask Lucy Information contained in Ask Lucy is intended solely for general educational purposes and is not intended as professional medical advice related to individual situations. Always obtain the advice of a qualified healthcare professional if you need medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Never disregard medical advice you have received, nor delay getting such advice, because of something you read in this column.