Whenever I look at a spoonful of honey, I remember that it took a single worker bee her entire lifespan to produce just 1/12 of that spoonful. Granted, a worker only lives for about three or four weeks in the summer, but that’s because she works herself ragged (and literally to death!) in the process of gathering nectar, storing it, fanning it, creating the honey and capping it. It’s a lot of work!
In our house, we revere honey—in its raw, unfiltered, unheated form, of course—for its simple sweetness, but also for a few more reasons.
1. Honey is the perfect burn and bug bite salve.
Put a tiny dab on mosquito bites, wasp or bee stings, and mild burns. It helps wounds heal faster, reduces swelling and redness, and provides much-needed moisture to burns, all while providing a protective barrier against bacteria that may cause infections. Any raw honey will do, but many swear by Manuka honey for medicinal purposes (available online and at health food stores), as it contains more powerful anti-inflammatory agents than other wildflower honeys.
2. It’s better for you than sugar.
It’s true that honey is mostly sugar—it’s the honeybees’ carbohydrate source, after all. But it’s not just sugar, like refined cane sugar, and it’s not packed with synthetics additives and possible carcinogens, like sugar substitutes. Compared to sugar, the glucose to fructose ratio of honey is easier for the body to convert to energy, meaning there isn’t as much leftover to be stored as fat. People that consume it, compared to those that consume other sweeteners, end up holding onto fewer calories because their bodies use more energy to break the honey down. It also contains trace nutrients that are actually good for you.
3. It’s anti-bacterial and anti-microbial.
Ancient cultures around the world knew years before modern scientists that honey possessed antimicrobial properties and was exceptional in its wound-healing abilities. It’s low pH level and high sugar content contribute to its ability to encumber microbial growth, among other factors. In lab studies, honey has been proven to hinder the growth of potentially harmful pathogens and bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella, and Staphylococcus Aureus (staph infection).
You might notice that some honeys are a light, golden color, and others are dark and thicker. The varieties depend on the flowering plants that honeybees visit in their region. Generally speaking, the darker the honey, the more medicinally potent it is.
4. It helps fight seasonal allergies.
For seasonal allergy sufferers, local, raw honey may be the answer to your prayers for relief. It’s understood that fine particles of pollen are present in honey (one of the many reasons that raw, unfiltered and untreated honey is so important), providing an inoculation of sorts for allergy sufferers. For the best results at combating allergies, purchase and use honey produced within 50 miles of your home by a local beekeeper.
5. It coats a sore throat and helps the medicine go down.
This liquid gold works all sorts of wonders with the common cold. In addition to the benefits we’ve already explored, honey works brilliantly as a natural cough suppressant. Stirred into hot tea with a bit of lemon, it’s used as a soothing, healthy elixir to help fight just about any bug. My personal favorite way to use it during flu and cold season is to make an elderberry syrup with dried elderberries, filtered water and raw honey to take at the onset of a cold.
6. It’s a great natural energy booster.
Honey is the perfect pick-me-up. It’s a great source of carbohydrates, and won’t leave you with the same kind of crash as a candy bar or refined cane sugar would.
7. It’s the perfect cosmetic.
Honey is often added to cosmetics because it’s a natural humectant, meaning it attracts and retains moisture. Put it in homemade soaps, body lotions, shampoos or hair treatments.
8. It lasts forever—literally!
It’s true. Modern archaeologists have unearthed pots of honey from Egyptian tombs, and discovered that the 3,000-year-old honey was still preserved. Although it will ferment under certain circumstances, it otherwise doesn’t go bad, keeps well in a typical household environment, and doesn’t take up a lot of space. There’s no better reason to keep it around than that it’s just a great insurance policy.