I was doing some meditating on one of my totems, the bear, and got to thinking about his/her stereotypical favorite food – honey (or as Winnie the Pooh would say, “hunny”). OK, I’ll admit. Honey isn’t exactly herbal. But it’s a great natural food that has many more benefits than just as a sugar substitute.
First, it’s nutritious. Unlike processed white sugar (which has virtually no nutritional value), honey contains complex sugars, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. Yes, it contains more calories than white sugar but it’s better absorbed by the body and with moderate consumption, won’t cause you to gain weight. It’s also better for people with diabetes as it won’t cause the blood sugar to spike (although I still like Stevia better for diabetics).
“Antioxidant” is a major buzz-word these days. Antioxidants slow down aging by neutralizing free radicals. A study done in 2004 found that honey contains as many antioxidants as spinach, apples, oranges or strawberries.
I’ve long known about honey as a wound healer. It’s a natural antibiotic, antimicrobial, antifungal and antiseptic. It numbs pain and activates the body’s immune response to speed up healing. In a 2007 study, Dr. Shona Blair of the University of Sydney recommended that honey be a wound dressing of first resort – not last.
Because of its antibiotic properties, honey is also great to dab on pimples. Acne is generally caused by bacteria, not allergies or dirt. To put an old phrase into a different context, “a little dab’ll do ya”!
It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids, so it nourishes the skin. It’s a humectant, which means that it holds in water, keeping the skin hydrated. This makes it a wonderful beauty product all by itself or mixed with other things (like chocolate ;)) to make a mask. It’s being touted nowadays to smooth out wrinkles.
My favorite “application” for honey is as a throat soother. Whether my throat is sore from a cold or the flu, or if I’ve been talking too much (a frequent occurrence), a cup of hot tea with a half teaspoon of honey does wonders.
So, honey’s honey, right? Umm, no. To get all the health benefits, you really need to get dark honey, preferably organic. (The stuff in the cute squeeze bear has been processed and pasteurized and is rather bland, not only in flavor but nutrition-wise.) The darker the honey, the more antioxidants it has, so look for the words ‘buckwheat’, ‘sage’ or ‘tupelo’ on the label. Better yet, find an apiary near you (beekeepers) and buy the honey direct from them. As always, the closer to your personal environment the product is grown in, the easier it will interact with your body.
A caution: because of the presence of natural botulinum, honey should not be given to children under one year of age. Their digestive systems aren’t developed enough to handle these endospores. Older children and adults can handle them easily.
BTW, honey is great in spells if you’re trying to “sweeten” someone’s disposition. Works wonders on the office grouch.