Humans have long known of honey’s antibacterial properties, but how exactly this works is less well known. Honey’s main ingredients, glucose and fructose, don’t sound too healthy in any case. So why is honey so good for you?

The answer may be in the April 29 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where a study has pinpointed certain chemical actions in honey that help bees cope with environmental toxins and fight infection. P-coumaric aid, pinocembrin, and pinomanksin 5-methyl-ether, all constituents found in honey, “induce detoxifications genes.” This means that when bees are exposed to these chemicals, their cells that regulate their body’s ability to eliminate toxic compounds are activated. These chemicals come from the flower nectar, pollen, and propolis that the bees have collected and processed into honey.

Many beekeepers, perhaps unwittingly, hurt their bees after collecting the honey by feeding them sugar water. This is cheaper than honey, but the bees don’t get any of honey’s benefits from sugar and are more susceptible to pesticides in the fields they are pollinating. A 2010 survey found that bees are exposed to a whopping 121 different pesticides a day! Adding p-coumaric acid back into the bees sugar-water died helped them break down coumaphos, a chemical that is used to kill mites by 60 percent. P-coumaric acid comes from the pollen bees collect for food and in propolis that bees use like a glue in their hives. The use of sugar-water in commercial beekeeping is thus linked to colony collapse disorder. By taking away all of their honey, we have made bees more vulnerable to pesticides that normally wouldn’t bother them so much.

P-coumaric acid can also be good for humans. Found in plant foods, those who eat vegetable-rich diets have a reduced risk of colon cancer. It also helps prevent sunburn and the formation of skin cancer cells.

Read the entire article here: A fair share for the bees