In medieval times sugar was scarce, except for the wealthy, due the cost of having to have it labored, refined and shipped, so most people continued to rely on honey for adding sweetness to foods. Sugar, honey and spices were likely purchased through the local apothecary. All were considered valued treasures and used sparingly. Today, honey is as close as our beehive or our grocery shelf.
Honey is, both, food and medicine. Raw honey is one of nature's super foods and is an antimicrobial and antioxidant. It's packed full of germ fighting properties that can kill bacteria and viruses, such as colds, flu, and even Herpes Simplex Virus.
Raw honey contains 27 minerals, 22 amino acids and 5,000 live enzymes. It keeps you healthy by helping to fighting germs and bacteria and by providing a healthy boost to your digestive system.
Honey is about 82% sugar (approximately 57% fructose and 43% glucose with some maltose and sucrose in it as well), contains antioxidants and various trace vitamins and minerals. it also contains some phenols, enzymes, flavonoids and organic acids. These are derived from the bees regurgitative processes.
The darker the Honey the more antioxidants it contains. Of course, I'm speaking of the natural color of raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized, unprocessed and unheated Honey containing no additives. The reason for the darker color is a higher content of natural plant compounds and antioxidants. Buckwheat Honey is known to increase the antioxidant value of the blood.
One particular study showed that when Honey was used in place of dextrose (refined table sugar) insulin sensitivity was increased and blood sugar decreased in those who cut table sugar out of their diets in exchange for Honey. While Honey still elevates blood sugar, it does so much less than refined sugar. The amount used per day in the study was 8.5 ounces of water plus 75 grams (3.5 Tablespoons) of honey per day for 15 days.
Honey lowers LDL cholesterol, tryglyceride levels, inflammation and slightly lowers blood pressure. It raises HDL (the good cholesterol). Honey can, when applied topically, heal burns, hemorrhoids, psoriasis, diabetic foot ulcers, and herpes lesions. It increases better blood flow to the heart and reduces risk of blot clots, heart attack and stroke. It helps to prevent some cancers and promotes eye health.
But, is honey good for everyone?
Children under the age of 1 year old should never have Honey. Honey contains spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which can cause botulism in infants. These spores, found in dirt and dust, can contaminate honey. These bacteria are harmless to more mature digestive systems, but in young babies the digestive system hasn't developed the ability to handle the spores. In infants, the bacteria multiplies and produces a toxin that is poisonous to the infant. In fact, I don't suggest honey to be given to a child under 18 months, unless the child is over 1 year old and already has a healthy diet of a variety of foods.
Which Honey is Best?
Manuka Honey is best (more powerful), which is a type of evergreen plant grown in Australia and New Zealand, but any raw, wildflower honey will do.
If you can, always choose wildflower honey over Alfalfa or Clover honey found readily available at grocery stores. Why wildflower honey? Alfalfa and Clover crops are often sprayed heavily with pesticides and tend not to have the medicinal properties available in multiple plant honeys. Furthermore, commercial bee keepers may feed their bees sugar water, which dilutes the power of the honey. Here's a tip. Pure wildflower honey has a very unique tastes, it smells a little odd, and will slightly burn or sting at the back of the throat when taken undiluted. These are classic signs of a great honey.
Buy raw honey from a local beekeeper or farmer's market. Decide which herb you want to use. For example, the best herbs for helping to put cold sores, shingles and genital herpes in remission are Clove, Lemon Balm, Cinnamon, Oregano, Rosemary, and Lavender. Yes. You can spread a light coating of honey directly on blisters. If you are diabetic, a honey and cinnamon infusion can do the rick to ease your sweet tooth. Also see Diabetes & Honey below.
You'll need a glass jar to place your honey in. The lid needs to fit tightly. Fill the jar half way with fresh herbs or a quarter full with dried. Top with honey, stir, and cap it. Place the jar in a sunny window and turn it over once per day for at least one week. During the week, if the herbs swell and rise above the honey, add more honey to cover them.
Strain once you reach the flavor you are seeking and use as a sweetener in your tea, drizzle over fruit, pancakes or toast, desserts, or cereal. You can also use as a sauce or marinade. To strain your honey, you can use a colander. For larger projects, using a bucket top strainer works best. They cost between $5-6. You can also put a colander across the strainer for double straining.
Directions for Using Honey for Dietary Purposes
One daily spoonful in your tea or spread on your toast is all that is needed to reap dietary benefits. Use no more than 1 Tablespoon each day to avoid blood sugar issues or add a bit of cinnamon to combat sugar issues. Cinnamon is known to keep insulin levels from creeping up when used in conjunction with reasonable amounts of honey (see below).
Diabetes & Honey
Even though Honey increases blood sugar levels less than sugar does it still increases it and that's a huge concern when you are diabetic, so it just makes sense to want to avoid using Honey. However, there may be a way around this.
Cinnamon is known to reduce blood sugar levels. Studies show that 3 grams (2.8 grams = 1 Teaspoon) of Cinnamon is taken per day it decreases blood sugar.
So, when taken together Cinnamon may negate some of the effect of honey on blood sugar. Of course, if you are diabetic you will want to consult your care provider before using, either, Honey or Cinnamon in your diet, But, otherwise, you might combine them for use in your tea, as a spread, or glazes on foods. For every 1 Teaspoon of Honey add 1/4 Teaspoon of Cinnamon.
Rather than mixing Honey and Cinnamon at every time of use it can be easier just to make a small infusion ahead of time, which allows the Cinnamon to infuse into the Honey.
Find a jar with a tight fitting lid. A mason jar will do nicely. For every Teaspoon of Honey add 1/4 Teaspoon of Cinnamon.
Use one teaspoon per serving not to exceed 3-4 servings per day. This infusion also works well for coughs and irritated throats.
Raw Honey Medicinal Remedies
Raw honey kills gram negative bacteria at 2.6% concentration. Meaning, it is 10 times stronger than Melaleuca (Tea Tree oil).
Burns & Wounds
For wounds of any kind, apply raw honey liberally and cover with clean gauze or a band-aid. At least once each day rinse off the old honey and rinse the wound gently with warm, sterile water before applying a fresh honey poultice. This works well for scrapes and burns of all kinds, including radiation burns from cancer therapy and vaginal irritations. Repeat as necessary. Always remember to see your doctor for serious or worsening infections.
Unless you are an experienced bee keeper, please purchase your honey from your market and leave hives alone for, both, your own safety of that of the bees.
Manuka Oil for Various Complaints
Purchase Manuka oil. Add 10 drops to 1/2 cup of water for a vaginal rinse to relieve bacterial infection (BV). Douche every day for 5 days. Create a new batch each day.
For mouthwash, add 1-2 drops of Manuka oil to 1 glass of water. Swish and spit.
For foot odor, add 6-8 drops of Manuka oil to 2 quarts of warm water and soak feet for 20 minutes.
For aches and pains, add 10-15 drops of Manuka oil to the bath. Soak for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times per week.