The health benefits of clover honey were written about by Hippocrates and mentioned in 2,000-year-old Chinese texts. It has been used to treat wounds, as a salve for eyes and a restorative. It is still used with lemon to soothe sore throats from colds and flu. Made by bees, who must collect nectar from 2 million flowers to produce one pound of honey, clover honey is a sweetener preferred over cane sugar for its purity, ease of digestion and instant energy.
The healing effect of honey is called apitherapy.
Clover honey is thick and antibacterial, which makes it an effective wound cover. Bees suck nectar from flowers, mix it with their saliva and deposit it in their hive. Other bees fan the honey with their wings, evaporating much of its moisture.
According to Jennifer Eddy of the University of Wisconsin Health's Eau Claire Family Medicine Clinic, clover honey has a three-pronged attack that makes it effective against the resistance bacteria develop. Its acidic pH, low water content (which essentially dehydrates bacteria) and hydrogen peroxide made by its enzymes fight bacteria on different levels and make it immune to super bug organisms that are resistant to standard antibiotics.
A University of Illinois researcher found that sweet-clover honey, though fairly light, is rich in antioxidants. Honey reduces oxidation of low-density lipoproteins ("bad" cholesterol), a benefit that could curb the development of atherosclerosis.
The properties of clover honey can be damaged by too much heat, storage conditions and the honey's container. Store honey in airtight containers either below 52 degrees or at 70 to 80 degrees to preserve it.
Raw clover honey is full of vitamins and minerals and can act as a medicine, but pasteurization, which uses heat to kill bacteria and other organisms, destroys the good with the bad. Translucent clover honey is usually pasteurized.
Check the label to make sure your honey is raw and has not been heated or treated. Honey is not recommended for children less than 1 year old.
Burns heal better with a coating of honey to prevent infection and protect the delicate new skin as it grows.
A study published in the journal Burns reported honey salve healed superficial burns faster and better, and with less inflammation than silver sulfadiazine, the standard remedy. Its thickness prevents infection and sugar draws lymph from the burn. Clover honey promotes new blood capillaries and connective tissues and it is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.
A Food and Drug Administration advisory cautions parents of children under 4 against over-the-counter cough remedies, but they can treat their child's cough with honey. Besides its beneficial antibacterial and antioxidant properties, clover honey is also a mucus thinning agent. A teaspoon of honey, mixed in warm water with lemon juice, will soothe a child's cough and tastes good in the process.
Honey is also a digestive aid that can soothe a sick child.
Clover honey has the same sugars as fruit, dextrose and levulose. These do not require the complex digestive process that the sucrose in cane sugar does. Honey is already partially digested, an inverted sugar that becomes instant energy in the body and is easy to digest.
Clover honey does not go bad since bacteria can't grow on it.
Clover honey resembles the skin's natural moisturizing factor, says David Chin, a technical marketing manager for Laboratoires Serobiologiques. He says a French company has used a honey extract in one of its moisturizers for more than 20 years.
Antioxidant-rich sweet-clover honey protects key components of the skin's cells from damage and keeps cells healthy. It is also used to produce alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), a vital ingredient in skin creams and moisturizers (see Resource 1).
Dr. Marc Lawrence says honey is not an "empty calorie" sweetener like refined sugars and has some surprising anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. He says clover honey lowers LDL cholesterol and homocysteine, both factors in heart disease and strokes. As an anti-inflammatory, raw clover honey lowers the aging effects of swollen cells (see Resource 2).