Natural Medicine Cabinet: Honey
What is the one of the few foods on the planet that never spoils? Honey. The Egyptians used honey for embalming bodies and centuries later it was found in tombs unspoiled.
Fresh from the beehive, raw honey is runny and sticky. As it ages pure honey will crystallize. Through time, sun, and heat exposure the consistency and color can change. But it will never spoil.
While this fact is amazing, there are more benefits of honey to discover. In antiquity when armies were in their camps awaiting battle they would eat a handful to gain strength and clarity of mind.
The first evidence of men collecting honey combs comes from a pictograph in a cave located in Valencia, Spain. Honey is thought to have been used for its medicinal purposes for nearly 3,000 millennia. In the Roman Empire, it could be used as payment for taxes instead of gold.
Dietary Uses for Honey Today
The most popular use of honey today may be as a sweetener. You can spread it on your toast or put a spoonful in your hot tea. In recipes, replace sugar with honey and then cut the amount in half, or less, depending on your taste. This may require a decrease of 25 degrees in the oven temperature and reducing the liquid by ¼ cup for every 1 cup of honey.
Honey will keep breads and cakes moist longer because it is hygroscopic, possessing water attracting properties. If honey is brought to a boil with two teaspoons of butter to every cup of honey plus ½ teaspoon of vanilla with a pinch of salt, it will make caramel.
Honey contains friendly bacteria. This will help control the levels of bad yeast in the body. It also promotes blood sugar control and proper fueling of the liver.
Since it has equal amounts of glucose and fructose, this makes honey ideal for the active and athletic, as the sugar is stored in the liver and muscle and continues to supply the brain. High in carbohydrates, it boosts energy levels.
Athletes that eat honey after a workout have faster blood sugar recovery than those eating other foods. It is also thought to improve insulin levels in Type II diabetes. Honey contains benefits that other sweeteners just don’t supply.
This includes reduced weight gain and overall body fat, a reduced level of anxiety, an improved memory, and lower cholesterol. Honey also strengthens the immune system. But the benefits don’t stop here.
Perhaps the most beneficial quality of honey is its healing properties. Used as a topical antiseptic for skin ulcers. In the case of burns and wounds, honey speeds up the healing process.
Honey has recently been proven to have beneficial qualities that processed and other sugars don’t have. It has long been understood that too much sugar is harmful to the body, but the study conducted by the University of Waikato in New Zealand suggests honey is actually beneficial.
It is the glucose and fructose in the honey that make it humectant, attracting water. This traps moisture, keeping the outer skin layers dry and preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi. Raw honey also contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase which, when applied to damaged skin, creates hydrogen peroxide, effectively disinfecting the wound.
Honey is used with lemon to ease sore throats. It aids in the reduction of inflammation and scarring.
Often honey is recommended for digestive problems, diarrhea, ulcers and indigestion. Deep breathing over a gallon of honey helps to aid asthmatics and open the airways. And eating local honey is known to aid allergy sufferers.
Uses for Honey Today in Beauty
For centuries honey has been used to benefit the physical appearance. Honey can help you retain your natural beauty without chemicals.
Offering a virtual vitamin and mineral buffet including niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, and nearly all of the B vitamins, the signs of aging can be reduced by eating honey on a daily basis.
Acne sufferers and those who have skin blemishes also benefit from honey. It moisturizes the skin and purifies the complexion. You can use honey as a face mask, a face scrub, a body cream, a bath potion and finally a shampoo to help the hair glow.
But is there a downside to all this goodness?
Too Much of a Good Thing
Over indulging in anything will force an imbalance in the body, and honey is no exception. Too much honey can cause abdominal allergies, resulting in abdominal pain.
Headaches also can be a result of consuming too much honey. A sudden extreme distaste for honey may occur, as well. Too much honey can cause an addictive cycle to sugar to develop, thus causing weight gain.
The best advice is to find a balance. Don’t abuse any one food. With honey, as cliché as it sounds, a little goes a long way. In other words, a little is enough. While these issues are possible with all foods, you may find some security that it is least likely to occur with honey.
One to two tablespoons a day should suffice for the average person. Athletes may consider a bit more if taking it straight after a heavy workout.
It is also advisable not to give honey to children under the age of one due to the risk of botulism spores in the honey, which their bodies are unable to digest prior to 12 months of age.
Selecting and Storing Honey
There are many forms of honey. It is sold in many weights and in bulk. Because it does not spoil, bulk sizes are ideal for those who will be consuming honey on a daily basis, as they are more cost effective.
Raw honey, available at natural food stores or farmer’s markets, has the strongest benefits. A dark-colored honey will signify a rich, deep flavor.
There are different ranges of flavors to honey as there are different flowers for bees to collect nectar or sugary dew. Lavender, thyme, rosemary, orange, eucalyptus, avocado are all possibilities. They add an earthy aroma with just a hint of flavor, but enough to tickle your taste buds.
Whichever honey you select, keep it in an airtight container to avoid moisture being absorbed and then store it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight so the rich flavor is not altered. Be creative, as the ideas and options for its use are endless.
Honey is one of the best choices for a sweetener, as it contains benefits and healing properties that refined sugars do not possess. It has proven itself over the ages as a medicinal wonder. It is a solid performer for the active and the athletic, boosting energy levels. Honey is worth all the buzz.