Civilizations have been using honey for nutritional and medicinal purposes for centuries. Honey offers a variety of health benefits for the entire body. In fact, this natural sweetener is packed full of anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Honey Flavors and Forms
Honey is simply made by bees in a beehive. There are about 60,000 bees in the average beehive. They may travel close to 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just one pound of this sweet treat.
There are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States. This golden delight is sodium-free, cholesterol-free, and fat-free. But the flavor and color of this food varies — depending on what type of blossoms honeybees extract their nectar. In general, if it is lightly colored — it is mild in flavor, while the darker is usually stronger in flavor.
Honey can be found in a variety of forms — including comb, whipped, and liquid.
- Comb comes as it was made — in the honeybees’ wax comb.
- Whipped, or creamed, is finely crystallized so that it stays spreadable and creamy.
- Liquid is free of any wax or crystals. This form is removed from the comb in the beehive by straining, gravity, centrifugal force, or other methods.
Honey’s composition consists of roughly 80 percent carbohydrates, 18 percent water, and two percent vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. For more than 2,000 years, it has been recognized as a natural source containing medicinal properties and numerous health aids.
Here are a few natural health benefits of this sweet food.
- Energy booster — If you’re looking to boost your energy, honey is an all-natural energy source. It’s easy, quick, and mouth-watering. It provides 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon. This is ideal for your muscles, since carbohydrates are the main source of fuel your body uses for energy. It is also a source of natural unprocessed sugar, like glucose and fructose. It enters the bloodstream directly and delivers a prompt boost of energy.
- Natural skin care — As more consumers demand personal care products and cosmetics made from natural ingredients, manufacturers are using honey more often in lotions, bar soaps, bubble baths, and moisturizers. Honey is used in a variety of moisturizing products — including conditioners, creams, shampoos, and cleansers. It is also a natural humectant with antimicrobial properties. That means it attracts and maintains moisture. It also offers temporary relief from dandruff. Researchers of a 2001 study published in the European Journal of Medical Research, reported patients who used honey diluted in warm water relieved their dandruff scaling and itching within one week. “Skin lesions were healed and disappeared completely within 2 weeks.” Even after six months of use, the patients did not relapse.
- Heals wounds — Honey’s medicinal properties are well-documented in medical literature throughout centuries. It’s noted for being able to heal wounds and has antimicrobial properties. A 2011 study reported in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine cites, “The healing property of honey is due to the fact that it offers antibacterial activity, maintains a moist wound condition, and its high viscosity helps to provide a protective barrier to prevent infection. Its immunomodulatory property is relevant to wound repair too.” Additionally, a 2005 study published in the British Journal of Surgery reported, “Fifty-nine patients with wounds and ulcers most of which (80 per cent) had failed to heal with conventional treatment were treated with unprocessed honey. Fifty-eight cases showed remarkable improvement following topical application of honey.”
- Memory booster — Honey is packed full of antioxidants that may help prevent cellular damage and loss within the brain. A 2011 study published in Menopause found “Postmenopausal women who received tualang honey showed improvement in their immediate memory.” After four months of taking 20 grams of honey a day, the women were more likely to have better short-term memory than their counterparts who took hormone pills.
The Mayo Clinic recommends waiting until after 12 months of age before giving honey to infants. This nectar may contain Clostridium botulinum spores that can cause infant botulism — a rare but serious disease that affects the nervous system of young children under the age of one. C. botulinum spores are present throughout the environment and may be found in dust, soil, and improperly canned foods.
The National Honey Board briefly explains the concern for infants.
“The concern for babies stems from the fact that infants lack the fully developed gastrointestinal tract of older humans. Since the mother is not in danger of developing this condition, the unborn baby is protected. Spores are inactivated when manufactured food products (such as cereals or nuts) receive a roasting heat treatment. Graham crackers or cereal, for example, would not contain any viable microbial spores.”
Consumption is generally safe for older adults and children, since they have a mature digestive system that can handle the spores.
Cooking and Storing Tips
Honey can be stored at room temperature. If it is stored in the refrigerator, it can crystallize. If crystallization occurs, place the jar in warm water and stir until the crystals disappear.
If you choose, this golden food can be substituted for sugar in some recipes. For easy measuring and clean up, coat a measuring cup or spoon with cooking spray before adding it.
Here’s how to substitute honey for sugar in baked goods:
- Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.
- Add about 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.
- Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning.
Note: A 12-ounce jar of honey equals a standard measuring cup.