The Many Properties of Honey
Honey is one of those items that sit on the top shelf of the cupboard largely forgotten until needed. Many people consider honey as a topping for biscuits or a sweetener for tea. It comes out once in a while, but since it never goes bad it remains unused. It is definitely underused since it has the potential for so much more. Honey has many natural properties that are beneficial to the body and can play an important role in maintaining health.
First of all, honey is a natural antibacterial and antifungal agent. This is thought to be due to the densely packed sugar structure of honey. Since it is so concentrated it has the ability to suck the water out of invading organisms. This works when ingested orally or used topically. Honey was once used as a natural Neosporin. A small bit was applied underneath a bandage on top of a wound in order to help prevent infection. A great use for honey in this area is as a natural treatment for ear infections. A small bit of honey can be dissolved in warm water and then carefully dropped in an infected ear.
Honey is also a demulcent. This means that it can help relieve irritation of mucous membranes. Specifically, it is useful in relieving throat irritation. It works by forming a protective film over irritated mucous membranes thus protecting them from further injury. It can be dissolved in either warm water or tea and drank in order to achieve this protection.
It is thought that honey might serve to relieve allergies if locally produced honey is consumed. This works because the bees use pollen from local flowers, plants, and trees in order to produce the honey. That means that locally produced honey contains small amounts of the pollen that acts as the source of irritation for those pesky seasonal allergies. In order to pursue this, it is best to start consuming a tablespoon of honey daily starting roughly 6 weeks before the start of allergy season. This allows ample time for the body to build up the tolerance to those irritants.
Finally, honey can be an immune booster. Honey is a natural source of flavonoids and antioxidants which play a role in the immune system.
Not all honey is created equal however. In order to make honey more appealing, some companies put honey through a process called ultrafiltration. Ultrafiltration is where water is added to honey and run through a series of filters. Afterwards the water is removed to return the honey to its normal consistency. This makes honey more consistent and fluid by removing air bubbles, fine particles, and solids like wax. This also removes all pollen which is necessary for some of the benefits described above. The USDA states that honey that undergoes this process is altered to the point that it should not even be described as honey anymore.
If the positive benefits of honey are desired, it is best to buy and consume raw, unfiltered honey whenever possible. Locally produced honey is an excellent choice for healthy honey with the added benefit of supporting the local economy. Many stores now carry a few varieties of raw honey. Another great place to check is the local farmer’s market.
The other thing to watch out for is honey’s high fructose content. Honey has about 4 grams of fructose in every tablespoon. Honey may be a natural sweetener, but it is still a sugar. Fructose is processed along a different pathway than glucose. Because of this, it behaves more like a fat than a carbohydrate. In addition, the body prioritizes energy from glucose. This means the energy from fructose is often not needed and is converted into fat. This is not to say that fructose is evil. It needs to be ingested in moderation.
Next time you are looking for a natural alternative that has added health properties, look no further than your top shelf. Honey may be just what the doctor ordered.