Honey must be one of the most palatable, agreeable, and ancient healing foods available to humankind. We are firmly convinced that Pooh was right in his own bear-brainish way about honey being an excellent pick me up food even though Tigger did not agree! If, as recent news coverage suggests, cell phone towers are having anything to do with the disappearance of honey bees, we would choose this amazing healing gift of nature any day to perhaps frying our brains through excessive use of cell phones! But more about that in a later article.
History of Honey:
Honey has an ancient history having been used by diverse cultures globally as both a food and a medicine. Hippocrates and the ancient Greeks refer to its healing properties for infections and wounds, and jars of honey have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back two thousand years that still, according to reports, retain their delicious taste even today. Honey has also featured prominently in the ancient Indian Ayurvedic tradition, as we describe below.
Honey was the primary sweetener before the discovery of sugar produced from sugarcane or sugar beets. It was displaced by inexpensive, refined sugar, which has non-nutritive calories thought to be responsible for a range of health problems including obesity and diabetes. In this process, we have lost out on a rich source of phytonutrients in honey that both heal and protect against disease.
Varieties of Honey:
There are many varieties of honey differing in flavor, aroma, taste, texture, and properties. These differences are determined by the floral sources of the collected nectar. Generally the darker varieties of honey have a stronger flavor and more mineral content than the lighter, milder varieties.
UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) or Active Manuka honey has gained recognition as a particularly potent and effective healing honey. It is native to New Zealand and the nectar is collected from Manuka or tea tree bushes found in the coastal areas of the country. UMF is found in only some kinds of Manuka honey and contributes to its unique qualities.
Honey in Indian Ayurveda:
Ayurveda accords a very high place to honey or madhu as a medicinal food. It describes eight types of honey among which Makshika is considered the best type with immense medicinal properties. This honey is produced by small honey bees and is very light and dry natured and useful in vata- and kapha-related diseases.
In Ashtanga Hridaya, the great classic of Ayurveda, the therapeutic uses of honey are described as follows: it is very good for eyes and eyesight; useful in urinary tract disorders; worm infestations; bronchial asthma; cough; diarrhea; nausea and vomiting; cleansing and healing deep wounds; and initiates growth of healthy tissue. It also quenches thirst; dissolves kapha; reduces the effects of poison; and stops hiccoughs.
Honey, newly collected from beehives, is used in this tradition to increase body weight and as a mild laxative, while aged honey is believed to “scrape” kapha and help in fat metabolism.
One of the names used to describe honey in Ayurveda is Yogavahi, which denotes a substance that can penetrate the deepest tissue. When used with other herbal preparations, honey is believed to both enhance the medicinal qualities of those preparations and helps them to reach deep tissues.
Ayurveda also describes precautions to be taken when using honey. It should not be heated; it should not be consumed when working in a hot environment; it should never be mixed with rainwater, hot and spicy foods, and fermented beverages such as whisky, rum, and brandy (popular in cold mountain climes!) or with ghee (clarified butter) and mustard.
Some well known Ayurvedic home remedies that use honey include the following:
- Two teaspoons of honey with carrot juice consumed regularly is said to improve eyesight and is helpful for those who use computers for extended periods.
- In cold, cough, and chest congestion, two teaspoons of honey with an equal quantity of ginger juice should be consumed frequently.
- A mixture of black pepper powder, honey, and ginger juice in equal quantities when consumed thrice daily is said to alleviate asthma.
- Regular use of one teaspoon of garlic juice mixed with two teaspoons of honey is said to help control blood pressure; and
- One glass of warm water taken with two teaspoons of honey and one teaspoon of lemon juice first thing in the morning is a common remedy for fat reduction and blood purification.
More generally, Ayurveda recommends daily consumption of a teaspoon of honey for a long and healthy life.
Nutritional Profile and Properties of Honey:
Flower nectar is composed of sucrose and water to which bees add an enzyme that inverts sucrose into glucose and fructose, evaporating the water content in this process to resist spoiling.
Raw honey possesses antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties in varying degrees. It is free of fats and cholesterol and contains several vitamins, minerals, amino acids, pollen, and protein. The vitamins present include: B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, and Niacin. Important minerals include: calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, zinc, iron, phosphorus and magnesium.
Current Therapeutic Uses of Honey:
Modern research has confirmed the many healing properties for which honey was used in ancient cultures.
Wounds and Burns:
Raw honey has been found to have potent healing properties for wounds and burns and was used as a wound healer during World War Two by the Russians. Its high sugar content allows it to draw out infection and excess fluid from wounds by a process of osmosis, discouraging the growth of harmful microorganisms. Honey’s acidic pH further prevents bacterial growth.
UMF Manuka honey is particularly potent as a wound healer. It contains an enzyme that produces small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which is a mild antiseptic.
When raw honey is applied to a wound, it keeps the area around the wound moist and protected thereby promoting fast healing without scarring.
Honey is a natural antibiotic food which fights even resistant bacteria such as E Coli and Staphaureus.
Honey helps in healing ulcers and dormant wounds reaching deeper tissues and has been used to treat infections and burns, venous leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, abscesses, unhealed graft donor sites, infected wounds from lower limb surgeries, and wounds not responding to conventional treatment. It is also used as a treatment for bed sores.
Energy Booster Food:
The natural fruit sugars in honey prevent fatigue during exercise. Glucose absorbed quickly by the body gives an immediate energy boost while fructose, which is absorbed slowly sustains energy.
Immune System Booster:
Honey is an effective immune system booster with its powerful antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It contains nutraceuticals which help to remove free radicals from the body.
Regular consumption of raw honey helps to heal digestive disorders. This is because it contains a number of fermentable carbohydrates, including a variety of oligosaccharides that function as prebiotics. These help the growth and activity of bifidobacteria in milk and fermented dairy products such as yoghurt. Combining honey with these dairy products helps to promote healthy bowel movements and the growth of beneficial bacteria while inhibiting the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
Honey also helps in detoxifying the body of carcinogens in the diet.
The fructooligosaccharides (FOS) in honey help to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels by reducing the absorption of fats and carbohydrates by the blood. FOS nourishes cells in the gut, which is important for good digestion and the prevention of constipation. As we all know, good digestion and proper elimination are two of the keys to good health.
Honey also helps in the absorption of vitamins and minerals by the body.
A Natural Remedy for Stomach Ulcers:
Many people using raw honey, especially active Manuka honey, claim that one tablespoon of this honey with a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon powder taken on a daily basis effectively alleviates stomach upsets and clears stomach ulcers.
Arthritic Pain Relief:
Manuka honey, in particular, is becoming popular as treatment for arthritic pain due to its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. It is suggested that sufferers of this condition take two tablespoons of Manuka honey along with about half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder in warm water or green tea daily in the morning and evening.
Natural Weight Loss Remedy:
Though honey has more calories than sugar, when taken in warm water, preferably with lemon juice and cinnamon, it can help with weight loss by digesting fats stored in the body.
Sore Throat and Laryngitis:
A long known remedy for throat infections, honey both soothes a sore throat and kills the infection causing bacteria. A hot honey, cinnamon, and green tea drink could also help with sinus problems.
Bad Breath Remedy and Prevention of Oral Diseases:
Bad breath can be alleviated by gargling with honey and cinnamon powder in hot water. Further, because of its antimicrobial properties, raw honey has the potential to combat periodontal disease, mouth ulcers, and other oral diseases.
Natural Hair Loss Remedy:
Hot olive oil with a tablespoon of honey and half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder, applied to the scalp and left on for about fifteen minutes before washing off, has been reported to help with hair loss.
The Hibernation Diet:
This unique diet, which may help to relief sleeplessness and lose weight at the same time, was created by a British pharmacist and nutrition expert. It involves having a healthy diet that avoids highly refined and processed foods and having two teaspoons of natural honey, preferably Manuka, either straight or with warm water before retiring at night. This is because natural unrefined honey taken prior to sleeping fuels the liver, speeds up fat burning metabolism, eases stress, and helps relaxation, which is conducing to better sleep. It keeps blood sugar levels balanced, which is important because a fall in blood glucose levels can be detrimental to the brain.
Storage of Honey:
Honey should always be kept in a cool, dry and dark place. It should be stored in a tightly capped container to prevent absorption of atmospheric moisture which would lower its quality.
The water content of honey should not be greater than 19 percent because if higher, certain wild yeasts present in honey could survive causing fermentation. This results in increased acidity, which affects the quality of honey. Raw honey’s moisture content can be as low as 14 percent, which makes it more valuable.
Over time, honey may granulate but can be restored to its liquid state by placing the bottle in hot water and then cooling it quickly.
Honey should never be boiled as this could affect its properties.
Cautions on Using Honey:
- Raw honey should be avoided by people with allergies or sensitivity to pollen. Please consult your physician before consuming honey.
- Because of the risk of infant botulism, honey is not recommended for children under one year of age.
- Honey could contain traces of pollutants if the floral source is contaminated so certified organic honeys are the safest.
- The healing properties of honey are at their most potent in raw organic honey. After taking any precautions concerning allergies, and after consulting your physician, this is the most valuable honey to use.
Pooh adds a few last words by saying that even a bear with little brain knows that honey is the tastiest and healthiest food on the planet. Given the fact that our tubby bear friend has not aged by even an hour since he first ambled into our lives more than eighty years ago, he’s probably right!
Please Note: To learn more about some of the most powerful healing honeys and honey-based products available that can provide support for cancer therapy and help with a whole host of health conditions and ailments, please visit our page on Therapeutic Honeys.
Key Reference Sources:
- Amazing Benefits of Honey (http://www.benefits-of-honey.com)
- Honeymark International. March 21, 2008. The Healing Benefits of Honey (http://honeymarkproducts.com)
- HoneyO.com Home of All Things Honey. (http://www.honeyo.com/honeyhealing)
- Krishna, R.S. Therapeutic Uses of Honey in Ayurveda. Pioneer Thinking (http://www.pioneerthinking.com)
- Levin, Rachel. Buzzing with Benefits. The Food Paper. (http://www.thefoodpaper.com)
- Organic Facts. Healing Benefits of Honey (http://www.organicfacts.net)
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is only intended to educate and inform our readers. It is in no way intended to provide medical advice or to diagnose or treat any disease. If you have a health problem, you should consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any substances for medicinal purposes.