Honey has been a medicinal substance for centuries. In Ancient Egypt it was used as a wound dressing, embalming fluid, and was often included in offerings to the gods.I know. Honey is not a herb. But it is such a great healer that when I started thinking of plants to concentrate on, I just kept returning to it. So here is a run-down of what makes honey so great. Don’t worry – I’ll do similar overviews of various herbs over the next few weeks.
Today, honey is often used for its antibacterial properties. Even some hospitals use manuka honey as a wound dressing, because it helps to keep bacteria out of the wounds. It is also an anti-inflammatory, and is a general all-round remedy. Not to mention, it tastes great.
Finally, for those who want to try and live a more natural life and eat fewer processed foods, honey makes an excellent sweetener for a wide range of foods and drinks.
What to look for
There is such a bewildering array of honeys available in supermarkets now that it can be difficult to work out what to buy. You also need to be very careful, because fake honey is easily and cheaply produced.
As a general rule of thumb, you need to look for the darker honeys, as these have a greater antioxidant level and are better at fighting off bacteria.
Unfortunately, most honey that you can find on supermarket shelves is pasteurized. This is meant to help increase its shelf-life, but I struggle to believe that it is necessary. Honey has been found in Egyptian tombs which was perfectly edible. What this process certainly does do, however, is to get rid of the heat-sensitive properties of honey, severely curtailing its use as anything other than a sweetener.
Ideally, you need to find somewhere which sells raw honey. This is precisely what it sounds like. It is untreated, unpasteurized honey. It crystalises very easily, and therefore cannot be poured as easily as commercial honey, but it is delicious, and very good for you.
Uses of Honey
Coughs and Colds
I have already mentioned the fact that honey is very useful in helping to treat colds and ‘flu. It helps to soothe inflamed membranes and eases coughs. It has been proved to be as effective – or more – than certain over-the-counter medications in both easing a cough and helping to promote restful sleep.
Any sort of nausea or digestive distress can be helped with a tablespoon of honey. If mixed with other ingredients, this can make a highly effective digestive syrup.
As a natural sweetener, raw honey can help to control cholesterol levels when introduced as a way to help diets taste better.
Improves SleepHoney is a relaxant. It helps to produce melatonin, which is the hormone which helps to encourage natural, restful sleep.
I have already mentioned that honey can be used topically as an aid to promote swift healing of wounds, mild burns, rashes and grazes.
Raw honey can be added to home shampoo recipes very easily. When used in this way, it can help to cleanse and restore the health of your hair and scalp.
Moisturiser and Skin Care
If mixed into a lotion with lemon and olive oil, raw honey makes for a great moisturiser. Leave it on the skin for a minute or two and then rinse thoroughly.
As you can see, there are many uses to honey. This list really does only scratch the surface of its many and varied uses. It makes it a necessary part of the medicine cupboard for anyone who happens to be remotely interested in adding natural health to their daily life.