Early man braved great dangers to grab the precious elixir, prizing it as a rare source of natural sweetness. Honey has been used in wine-making, cake-baking, preserving fruits and tenderising meats. Even cement production and varnishing are no strangers to honey.
Valued for its foodie and household uses, honey has also garnered respect for its healing properties. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek father of medicine, promoted honey for health and wellbeing. Not bad from the bloke who pronounced, “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
Honey from bees foraging on flowers in wild and organic landscapes contains abundant vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and amino acids. Where they forage is vital, for the flavour of honey is determined by the nectar bees collect.
As a carer, honey is a happy addition to your kitchen pharmacy. It is healthier and tastier than sugar. It is also antibacterial. Bacteria need water to survive. Honey attracts water, dehydrating and killing bacteria. Honey also contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide, a known antiseptic; it has thus been used as a treatment for minor wounds and burns because it staves off infection and speeds healing. And it is famous for soothing sore throats. Scientists at Penn Stage College of Medicine, Hershey, recently found that buckwheat honey is effective against coughs.
There is one honey, however, that is king in the healing stakes: New Zealand manuka. The manuka – or tea tree – bush has special antibacterial properties. Active manuka honey contains some hydrogen peroxide but also sports other, stronger, more stable antibacterial agents. They enhance each other. The strength on the jar (e.g. Active 7, Active 10, Active 15, etc.) refers to the amount of antibacterial activity in that pot of honey. The higher the number, the stiffer the challenges it can meet.
I have seen a generous teaspoon of weakest-strength manuka honey taken once a day for two weeks stop persistent coughs when eaten straight off the spoon. Some (though not all) reseach suggests that manuka honey can combat stomach ulcers by killing the H. Pylori bacteria that cause them. And scientists at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, have found that manuka honey significantly reduces the presence of superbug MRSA in controlled experiments.
If only all remedies were so darn tasty. The caramel tones of manuka are dark and delicious but the beauty of honeys is that they are so varied. From light organic acacia and orange blossom honeys to deep heather and pine, our little honeybees know how to spoil us.
Finally, as one of the oldest cosmetics known to woman, honey can add a little luxury to your life. Manuka loves soothing chapped lips (the challenge is not to lick it off!) and drizzling honey on soaps, creams, shampoos and conditioners will leave your skin and hair soft and silky. Those busy bees sure understand multitasking!
A word of caution: Never feed any honey to babies under 12 months old. Honey can contain spores of bacteria that trigger infant botulism, a rare but dangerous disease that attacks a baby’s nervous system. Also proceed with caution when offering a toddler honey ( written by Rhoda).