Honey is probably the original sweetener. We know that it has been valued throughout recorded history. The ancient Egyptians venerated it as did the Greeks. And since primates will happily put up with a few stings to enjoy a treat of honey, it’s probable that early man did too! But is there more to honey than just it’s delicious taste?
You may have heard claims that honey contains anti-flu properties, or how it helps maintain your immune system. And you’ve undoubtedly seen those Royal Jelly ads where you are promised eternal youth. We’re not sure about the eternal youth part but honey certainly contains some remarkable properties that do help maintain our health. But let’s start with a little common sense…
Honey is a sugar. As the saying goes, you can ‘sugar coat’ the truth but it will always remain the truth. Specifically, while cane and beet sugars are about 50% glucose and 50% fructose, honey is made up of around 30% glucose and 40% fructose with the balance comprising something approaching 20 other, much more complex, sugars plus a barrage of vitamins and minerals together with dextrin, a form of starch. Two of those minerals, selenium and zinc are crucial contributors to good health.
When you consume any form of sugar, your digestive system breaks down the components to glucose which your body can then use or store. Because honey is a more complex mix of sugars, your digestive system actually uses a lot more energy to break those sugars down – not enough to give you a rosy glow about how well you’re eating but it does mean that you get less calories from honey than you do from the equivalent volume of sugar. And because honey is exceptionally sweet to the palate, you may find that you will use less total sugars if you start to substitute honey for your normal sugar intake. Honey is also a natural preservative so you are hopefully** consuming a pure food.
OK, so apart from reducing your calorie – and possibly, preservative – intake, why else should you switch to honey? Let’s look at ten reasons:
Honey is good for memory
Nutrition is an extremely complex process. We need certain minerals and compounds in order to be able to absorb and use others. Honey contains a mix of these minerals and compounds that help keep our brain healthy and functioning.
Honey is a great facial cleanser
You can use pure honey or honey mixed with coconut oil as an exfoliant to remove dead skin cells. And unlike most facial cleansers, which contains many chemical compounds (some of which I can’t even pronounce!), honey is totally natural. When used as a facial cleanser, honey also aids in the control of skin bacteria.
Honey is a natural antibiotic
Honey has been used for millennia to treat open wounds. It is naturally anti-bacterial and stimulates the healing process. Scientific studies have shown that honey can contain or kill bacteria such as Escherichia coli in the form of Staphylococcus strains.
Honey as an aid to dieting
Just like pepper, chili and green tea, honey can speed up your metabolism. Start your day with a green tea with a little honey and finely ground black pepper. It’s a delicious drink that gets your metabolism kick started!
Honey as an antihistamine
In at least two studies, honey was compared to commonly available cough inhibitors and antihistamines. Both studies observed the presence of elements that reduced nocturnal coughing better than commercial medicines did. Of course, honey and lemon is also a great soother for sore throats.
Honey helps to cure hangover
A spoonful of honey – straight or in tea or warm water helps the body to metabolize alcohol faster.
Honey helps to fight insomnia
One of the compounds in honey is tryptophan. Unlike processed sugars, eating honey raises blood sugar levels only slightly. As your blood sugar elevates, insulin causes the tryptophan to enter our brain and get converted into serotonin. Serotonin is the main neurotransmitter responsible for our sense of well-being. At the appropriate time of day, your pineal gland converts serotonin into melatonin. Melatonin is the natural substance that regulates your sleep. Phew! The bottom line is that honey helps you to sleep!
Honey as a treatment for dandruff
Most of us don’t realize that dandruff is nothing more than flaking skin cells. Our body sheds millions of cells every day but dandruff is an excessive shedding. Try rubbing a mixture of nine parts honey with one part warm water into your scalp and leaving for as long as possible before showering. You might just see a significant improvement in less than a week with reduced itching and irritation and less visual shedding.
Honey helps to relieve allergies
There has been a huge amount of research into the effect of honey on alleviating allergies. The results are still inconclusive, but naturopaths claim that traces of pollen remaining in honey can act as inoculants. Those inoculants stimulate the body to produce antibodies leading to less discomfort in response to an allergic reaction.
Honey even makes kissing better!
The antibacterial properties of honey help in fighting halitosis! Sweeter breath may just lead to more kissing and who knows where that could lead :)
Try mixing one teaspoon of honey with an 1/8th teaspoon of ground cinnamon and then dissolve the mixture in half a cup of warm water. Use this to gargle but don’t spit out. Swallow rather than waste all the benefits that honey and cinnamon (that will have to wait for another post) offer.
And now a word from our sponsor!
Bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. It’s partly habitat destruction, partly toxic pesticides and herbicides and partly disease. You can help by having a bee friendly garden. Plant flowering shrubs and trees and avoid the use of chemicals. Find alternative, natural ways to fertilize and control pests. A hose will remove scale and chickens will keep down grubs and slugs. Lady Bugs, spiders and other predators are also your friends.
** Not all honey is pure. Read the label if in doubt. You also need to be aware that some imported honeys are spun in very high speed centrifuges to remove all traces of pollen in order to hide the country of origin. Removing that pollen also removes some of the nutritional benefits of honey. If possible, buy your honey from a local producer. If you are buying a commercial brand, ensure that it is clearly marked as produce of YOUR country. That way, you can be sure that it has not been over-processed.
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