Honey: The Bees Knees
A spoonful a day… Honey is a golden gift from nature, having many uses beyond simply sweetening a cup of tea or soothing a sore throat, although those are great uses of the yellow nectar collected from beehives.
The process of making honey is begun when bees collect nectar from different flowers and plants. They come back to their beehive and deposit the nectar collected, which breaks down into simple sugars and is stored in honeycombs. Bees impart enzymes, minerals, etc. into the nectar before it is deposited into the comb and then the evaporation process begins. (That is what makes the honey so special.)
The waters in the nectar evaporate due to the honeycomb’s particular design (the cells are built on a 3-degree angle so the nectar does not run out) and the rapid fanning of the bee’s wings – this is what produces the sweet, dripping honey. The process is a very efficient one as the end result is one of nature’s most perfect foods.
The different flavors and colors of honey come into play because of the sources from which the bees gather the nectar. The different blossoms help to give the different flavors of honey.
Not all sugars are created equal: Honey straight from the hive is a perfect food with enzymes, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. Unlike other sugars, this delicious golden liquid has many health benefits.
Seasonal allergy sufferers can find relief by consuming a teaspoon of locally-produced honey a day. The body mistakes the pollen in the air for fungal spores or dust mites and kicks up the immune system’s natural histamine response. Taking antihistamines to combat allergies can help but can also be expensive and have side effects.
Honeybees carry the allergen (pollen) from flower to flower while on the search for nectar to take back to the hive. As a result of their pollinating travels from plant to plant, that sticky pollen gets taken back to the hive and deposited in the mixture that will eventually become honey. In effect, consuming local honey, which has local pollen in it, is like getting a vaccination to the pollen itself.
Honey is also a great topical antiseptic and antibacterial, its use for healing cuts and burns going back thousands of years. Applying honey will inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and prevent further infection in a cut. As it gathers moisture from the air, honey also aids in reducing inflammation on burns. In both scenarios, pain and swelling is reduced, as well as incidence for scarring.
Honey’s antimicrobial properties are often called upon during the winter months when the creepy crud causes sore throats and coughing. It provides a coating of the throat, which soothes it, and also kills certain bacteria causing the area to be infected.
Those who have trouble regulating their blood sugar might want to switch to honey, which keeps the levels of sugars in the blood more evenly keeled longer than other sugars that are processed.
But honey is not solely for those suffering for allergies, cuts, burns, and the like. Consuming honey to maintain good health is advisable as well.
Honey’s nutritional aspects include antioxidants, helping to balance the digestive system and boost the immune system, which are largely responsible for overall health.
Honey is also a natural source of strength and energy in the form of carbohydrates. Many athletes rely on the glucose of honey to immediately boost performance, endurance and to fight muscle fatigue, and honey’s fructose takes longer to absorb, which provides a sustained energy.
Beauty uses for honey are many, including hair masks, moisturizers, bath softener, and other treatments for maladies including acne, scars, chapped lips, and sunburn.
And we didn’t tell you this, but helping to speed up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver, honey is also good for hangovers…
While honey may crystalize, it won’t spoil, so stocking up is never a bad idea. Simply warm it up to return it to its natural, liquid state. Be careful not to heat it above 120 degrees as that will kill the beneficial enzymes.
Look for unprocessed, raw honey – preferably from a local vendor.