Can You Eat Honeycomb?

People have been eating honey for thousands of years. Due to its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, it has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes. Plus, it’s delicious!

Honeycomb is a natural product made by bees to store honey and pollen in or to house their larvae. Constructed from beeswax, it looks like a series of hexagonal cells dripping with raw honey.

Of course, raw honey is different from commercial honey as it is unfiltered and unpasteurized. So, you might be hesitant about trying honeycomb, even though it looks too good to pass on.

Luckily, honeycomb is perfectly safe to eat, as long as you take the necessary precautions.

In addition to beeswax and raw honey, honeycomb may contain small amounts of other bee byproducts such as bee pollen, propolis and royal jelly (1). However, these byproducts are usually in negligible quantities.

The truth is, raw honey is actually better for you. It’s full of nutrients like glucose oxidase, which gives it antimicrobial properties. The high heat used to filter and pasteurize honey kills these enzymes, which is why they aren’t found in commercial honey.

These enzymes which confer antimicrobial properties upon honey are great for fighting infections, especially against bacteria and other microbes that are commonly encountered (2).

Honey is mostly sugar and water, in fact, up to 99% of honey can be composed of these two compounds (3). Regardless, it contains many useful nutrients such as antioxidants which promote health and vitality.

 In general, antioxidants protect your body from inflammation and disease by targeting free radicals which only cause your body damage. Raw honey has more than four times the amount of antioxidants as compared to commercial honey – likely because the process of filtering and pasteurizing honey changes the structure of these beneficial compounds (4).

The main types of antioxidant in honey are polyphenols. These helpful compounds fight against a whole host of diseases, including diabetes, coronary heart disease, dementia and some form of cancer (5).

Speaking of coronary heart disease, honeycombs are well known to aid in maintaining a healthy heart. The beeswax in honeycombs can help lower cholesterol levels as it is full of long-chain fatty acids and alcohol. It also promotes heart health for the same reason (6).

Honey on its own also promotes heart health. It has been noted to lower fat and cholesterol levels when substituted for sugar, and it promotes the dilation of the arteries leading to the heart, thereby reducing your risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, heart attacks and strokes (7).

However, some precautions must be taken when eating honeycomb. It has a high chance of attracting C. botulinum spores, which can be harmful to children under the age of one as well as pregnant women (8).

Furthermore, those allergic to bee pollen or stings may experience an allergic reaction when eating honeycomb (9).

The bottom line is, honeycomb is a great and healthy snack option, however, young children, pregnant women and those allergic to bee products should avoid it due to the health risk.

References:

  1. Pasupuleti, V. R., Sammugam, L., Ramesh, N., & Gan, S. H. (2017). Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity2017, 1259510. doi:10.1155/2017/1259510
  2. Feás, X., Iglesias, A., Rodrigues, S., & Estevinho, L. M. (2013). Effect of Erica sp. honey against microorganisms of clinical importance: study of the factors underlying this biological activity. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)18(4), 4233–4246. doi:10.3390/molecules18044233
  3. Samarghandian, S., Farkhondeh, T., & Samini, F. (2017). Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. Pharmacognosy research9(2), 121–127. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.204647
  4. Mohapatra, D. P., Thakur, V., & Brar, S. K. (2011). Antibacterial efficacy of raw and processed honey. Biotechnology research international2011, 917505. doi:10.4061/2011/917505
  5. Cianciosi, D., Forbes-Hernández, T. Y., Afrin, S., Gasparrini, M., Reboredo-Rodriguez, P., Manna, P. P., … Battino, M. (2018). Phenolic Compounds in Honey and Their Associated Health Benefits: A Review. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)23(9), 2322. doi:10.3390/molecules23092322
  6. Molina, V., Mas, R., & Carbajal, D. (2015). D-002 (beeswax alcohols): concurrent joint health benefits and gastroprotection. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences77(2), 127–134. doi:10.4103/0250-474x.156542
  7. Nguyen, H., Panyoyai, N., Kasapis, S., Pang, E., & Mantri, N. (2019). Honey and Its Role in Relieving Multiple Facets of Atherosclerosis. Nutrients11(1), 167. doi:10.3390/nu11010167
  8. Miguel, M. G., Antunes, M. D., & Faleiro, M. L. (2017). Honey as a Complementary Medicine. Integrative medicine insights12, 1178633717702869. doi:10.1177/1178633717702869
  9. Aguiar, R., Duarte, F. C., Mendes, A., Bartolomé, B., & Barbosa, M. P. (2017). Anaphylaxis caused by honey: a case report. Asia Pacific allergy7(1), 48–50. doi:10.5415/apallergy.2017.7.1.48