That buzzing noise means something.
Now, the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of is because you are… a bee!
And the only reason for being a bee is to make honey.
And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.
~ from Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
Honey is indeed nature’s sweetener, but don’t write it off as just a condiment. The sticky sweet substance is far more than something to stir into your tea or spread on your toast.
Since ancient times, the healing properties of honey have been documented. Some of this knowledge seems to have been forgotten (and purposely marginalized), and drug companies have replaced honey with chemical ointments, antibiotics and antivirals. (This is, as always, about money – they can’t patent honey, can they?)
- Honey has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4000 years. Honey is an ingredient in 634 remedies in ancient Hindu vedic texts.
- The Ebers Papyrus of ancient Egypt expounded on the medicinal properties of honey, and it is contained in nearly every ancient Egyptian remedy.
- In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine” wrote, “Honey and pollen cause warmth, clean sores and ulcers, soften hard ulcers of lips, heal carbuncles and running sores.”
Just Because the Label Says “Honey” …
Now, you can’t go and get the ubiquitous squeezy bear full of honey at the grocery store and expect it to cure all your ills. In fact, the some of the squeezy bears don’t even contain real honey at all. Our good friends at the FDA have defined honey as “anything containing pollen.
Even with that broad definition, some of the Chinese companies have “ultrafiltered” the honey that goes into those little bears to the point that there isn’t even any pollen left.
I bet you wonder why – I did.
Ultrafiltering removes the pollen so that the source of the honey cannot be determined. Providers of cheap honey do this so that consumers cannot discover the origin. Often the cheap honey is tainted with pesticides, illegal antibiotics, and heavy metals. Some of the cheap honey is watered down with High Fructose Corn Syrup. Much of the questionable honey originates in China.
According to independent testing ordered by Food Safety News and performed by Vaughan Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation’s premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey.76% of the golden stuff sold in grocery stores as honey doesn’t contain even one little drop of pollen.
- 76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.
- 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
- 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
- •00 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.
- Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.
The FDA, despite their definition, doesn’t seem to care about the false labeling of these products. The FDA has ignored requests from Congress, beekeepers and the honey industry to develop a U.S. standard for honey. Less than 5% of honey on store shelves has been tested by the FDA for purity.
How can you be sure you are actually buying honey?
As with most products, the closer you can get to the actual source, the better off you’ll be. Short of scooping the sticky stuff directly from the hives, purchase as locally as possible, directly from beekeepers or at your favorite farmer’s market.
There are more than 300 varieties of honey sold in the US. The difference in these varieties is the source of the pollen. Buckwheat honey is reputed to have the most healing properties of any type of honey. As a general rule of thumb, the darker the honey is, the more benefits it has.
Pasteurized vs. Raw
The FDA seems more concerned that honey be pasteurized (i.e.,heat processed) than that the honey actually be honey. The problem with pasteurization is that it kills off many of the beneficial components in the honey, most particularly propolis.
…The processing of honey often removes many of the phytonutrients found in raw honey as it exists in the hive. Raw honey, for example, contains small amounts of the same resins found in propolis. Propolis, sometimes called “bee glue,” is actually a complex mixture of resins and other substances that honeybees use to seal the hive and make it safe from bacteria and other micro-organisms. Honeybees make propolis by combining plant resins with their own secretions… Other phytonutrients found both in honey and propolis have been shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties. These substances include caffeic acid methyl caffeate, phenylethyl caffeate, and phenylethyl dimethylcaffeate. Researchers have discovered that these substances prevent colon cancer in animals by shutting down activity of two enzymes, phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C and lipoxygenase. When raw honey is extensively processed and heated, the benefits of these phytonutrients are largely eliminated… (source)
Despite the important benefits of raw honey, there are some caveats.
- Infants under the age of 1 should not be fed raw honey because of the risk of botulism. Their underdeveloped immune systems cannot prevent the Clostridium botulinum pores from multiplying. Botulism can cause paralysis and death.
- People with bee venom allergies sometimes suffer an allergic reaction to honey. These allergic reactions can easily become life-threatening.
- There is a higher risk of food poisoning when you consume raw honey vs pasteurized honey.
With the knowledge of the above warnings, I still purchase only raw honey for my household. The pros outweigh the cons for me.
The Benefits of Raw Honey
Raw honey is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal, making it one of the most healing substances on earth. It is also highly nutritious. Honey is a natural multivitamin. It contains significant amounts of: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, and phosphate.
Honey has been used historically both internally and externally for a variety of concerns:
- Apply honey liberally on a wound to speed healing.
- Apply honey to a rash, burn or scrape, and cover loosely.
- A tsp taken 3 times per day can help prevent seasonal allergies.
- A tbsp of raw honey sprinkled with cinnamon taken 3 times per day can boost the immune system and fight off a cold or sore throat.
- A spoonful of honey can soothe a cough caused by a tickle or sore throat.
- A couple of tablespoons of honey stirred into hot tea can lessen the symptoms of a cold or flu.
- Honey mixed with equal parts coconut oil makes a wonderful skin conditioner.
- Some studies say that honey can help control blood sugar fluctuations.
- Raw honey increases the production of antioxidants in the bloodstream.
- Recent studies proved that honey reduced overall cholesterol levels when taken daily.
- Honey applied topically to a wound or incision moistens the skin and helps prevent or reduce scarring.
Recipe: Homemade Cough Syrup
I keep a honey-lemon-ginger remedy in my refrigerator all winter long. Learn more about honey as a flu symptom remedy HERE.
I always keep a jar of this homemade cough syrup in my refrigerator. It tastes so good that I don’t have to ask my kids twice to take it. You can also stir a few tablespoons of the syrup into hot water for a homemade “Neo-Citran”-style hot drink without all the nasty chemicals.
- 2 lemons, scrubbed and thinly sliced
- 6 tbsp of grated ginger root
- Honey as needed
- In a glass jar, layer the lemon slices and grated ginger until the jar is full.
- Pour honey into the jar, using the blade of a kitchen knife to move the lemon and ginger around and make room for it.
- Store it in the fridge for at least 2 weeks before using it. Then, take 1-2 tsp 3 times per day, as needed, for coughs or sore throats.
Long Term Storage of Honey
The great news about buying honey for your stockpile is that it stores forever. Literally. Honey was discovered in the pyramids of Egypt – over 5000 years old – and still edible. Given that, I strongly suspect it will remain viable in your stockpile for as long as you care to store it. The only thing that will happen is that, in time, it will crystallize. You can resolve this issue by placing the jar of honey in a bowl of hot water until it returns to liquid form. However, you can also use it in its crystallized form – you can stir it into tea, spread it on hot toast, or take a spoonful of it as one of the remedies mentioned above.
Frequently heating and cooling honey can lessen its nutritional potency, so I recommend putting honey in a small jar for regular use and using the big jars just to restock your little one.
Store your honey in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Are you wondering how to use all that honey? Read Show Me the Honey: How to Cook with that Gooey Goodness.