Photos © Craig Mackintosh
Honey, sweet gift of our buzzing sisters the bees, is one of Nature’s exceptional health offerings. Bees make it for themselves and their brood, to live on through the winter – as such, it’s packed with everything they need, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that are beneficial for us too! Besides bee-ing a delicious, healthy sweetener for our food, honey’s properties make it useful for other healing purposes. Here are seven.
1. Healing burns
Honey acts as a natural wound sealant, and tricks the body into believing that the burned area is covered with healthy skin. This can dramatically reduce pain. Also, the body then heals the wound from the inside out, rather than scabbing over to heal from the outside in (which can trap infection). Simply spread honey on the burn and wrap it loosely with gauze. Change the dressing three to four times per day.
2. Coughs and colds
A spoonful of buckwheat honey is more effective at soothing coughs and helping kids sleep as a dose of cough medicine. For a warm drink, add a spoonful of honey and the juice of half a lemon to hot tea (or, for adult medicine, to a heated shot of scotch). The hot acidic liquid clears phlegm from the throat, the honey and lemon both attack bacteria, the lemon provides Vitamin C for a speedy recovery, and the honey soothes and heals the irritated tissues.
3. Antiseptic ointment
The next time you have a cut or a scrape, smear a drop of honey on the band-aid instead of antibiotic ointment. Honey has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties that keep the wound clean (without using petroleum-based jellies). These cleansing properties are triggered when the honey is diluted by plasma from the wound, which causes the honey to create hydrogen peroxide.
4. Skin care
Honey is a remarkable moisturizer, and can be applied straight on dry or chapped skin, or mixed into a homemade lotion. (Other healing ingredients include shea butter, coconut oil, lanolin (not for vegans), and Vitamin E.) It’s also a safe, effective, and delicious lip balm.
5. Acne treatment
Honey’s antibacterial properties help clear up acne, too. A dab of honey on a pimple for 30 minutes every day will help clear up the infection and heal the blemish. You can also use it as a full face mask. 20 minutes every day for two weeks is recommended to start.
6. Herbal infusions
Vodka, vinegar, oil, and glycerin are all common bases for herbal medicines, but have you tried honey? It draws oils and medicinal components out of herbs just like the others, and tastes better. Simply mix your desired herbs into a jar of honey, cover, and leave it in a warm place for two weeks or more, then strain. (Or, for a faster preparation, put your honey and herbs in a crock pot on ‘low’ for four hours, stirring occasionally. Be aware, heating the honey this much may reduce its medicinal properties.) Try a combination of chamomile, hops, and California poppy for deep and restful sleep. Take a spoonful before bed on its own, or mix it into tea or a glass of warm milk.
7. Parasite cleanse
Hopefully you’ll never have to use this one, but if you do find yourself afflicted by the little buggers, take a mixture of ¼ cup crushed papaya seeds and 3 tablespoons of honey. For added strength, include fresh-ground pepper, lots of crushed garlic, or oregano oil. It’ll help to follow that up with a natural laxative of some sort, like prunes, senna, or castor oil. Repeat twice a day until things clear up.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re sourcing your honey. First of all, a recent study showed that ¾ of the honey sold at grocery stores isn’t actually honey. It’s devoid of the pollen grains that mark real honey, is likely full of pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants, and probably diluted with corn syrup and other unsavories. Hardly a health food!
Plus, commercial honey is taken from stressed beehives that travel the country back and forth on the backs of trucks, chasing whatever crops are blooming. Whereas a local beekeeper only takes the surplus honey the bees make, leaving them enough of their own food stores for the winter, commercial hives are drained of all honey, and the bees fed on corn syrup. No wonder so many commercial hives are weak and dying — they’re deprived of their own proper food!
As with most foods, “local,” “raw,” and “organic” are the best words to look for when buying honey. Great sources for the real deal include farmers’ markets, co-ops, health food stores, and local beekeepers. Remember that by and large, the darker a honey is, the stronger its health properties.
Here’s to healthy living through honey!