Used for millenniums, around the table and in medical kits, honey has always been an important ally for our health. Frequently used in natural medicine, honey is also regaining ground in the conventional medicine of today.
Suggestions of the use of honey by man date back to the end of the Palaeolithic. 3000-year-old beehives that were discovered in northern Israel in 2007, tell us that beekeeping was practiced at least since the Antiquity. From a medicinal point of view, the first mention dates back to over 2200 years ago in China. In Egypt, around the same time, Ebers papyrus contains a collection of diseases and their treatments, and more than 500 remedies are honey-based. In ancient Greece and Rome, honey was commonly used in skin care, and it also seems that honey water was served as an energy drink to the athletes of the ancient Olympic Games.
Properties and composition
Honey is a preferred antiseptic thanks to its composition of two types of proteins: inhibins, which stop the reproduction of bacteria, and defensins, which strengthen the immune system. Its naturally acidic pH and its high sugar content make honey inhospitable for microorganisms. Its healing effect on open wounds, burns and frostbites has been known at least since ancient Greece and it was used during both world wars to heal the wounds of the soldiers. The application is basic: just cover a burn with honey to see its effects. In a couple of minutes the pain starts to fade away and we notice faster healing.
Because of the growing resistance to antibiotics, doctors looking for solutions have turned their attention towards the honey once again. Tests that were carried out in the Netherlands and Germany a few years ago were very conclusive: the strong antibacterial and healing properties of honey made it possible to treat and heal patients in situations where the synthetic antibiotics were no longer effective. On a smaller scale, these properties are the reason for the widespread use of honey to relieve cough, sore throat and mouth ulcers.
Composed of carbohydrates that are immediately absorbed by our organism, honey is an excellent source of energy. Thanks to its low sucrose content, it is easy to digest. Our body is therefore able to directly use this source of energy instead of having to spend it on digestion. Its high mineral content promotes the assimilation of calcium and the retention of magnesium. We should consider replacing refined sugar with honey, especially for growing children and adolescents, as well as for people with osteoporosis.
Cleopatra’s favorite ingredient, honey has been quoted repeatedly in history as a cosmetic product. It acts as a natural antiseptic, promotes the natural regeneration of the superficial layers of the epidermis and accelerates the healing of the soft tissue.
By using honey as the basic ingredient, we can easily make excellent skin products at home:
- Simple nourishing clay mask: mix 3 tablespoons of green clay powder and 1 tablespoon of honey into a creamy paste and apply it to your face and neck. Leave it on for 15 minutes and rinse with lukewarm water.
- Moisturizing bath: Either add a ¼ cup of honey directly into the water in your bathtub, or add it together with an infusion of your favorite medicinal plants.
Selection and storage of honey
First and foremost make sure to choose an unpasteurized honey since the pasteurizing process kills the beneficial microorganisms. Next up, it’s preferable to choose a honey from multiple flowers over the honey from just one single flower species, since they offer a more diversified mineral blend. Finally, you should always choose organic honey to avoid pesticide consumption. To this end, the honeys produced on Montreal’s roof tops are great candidates: multiple flowers, local and pesticide-free.
To fully enjoy the properties of honey, it should be consumed within a year of opening. Note that the crystallization is a natural phenomenon that doesn’t change the properties of honey. If, however, you would like to restore it to its liquid state, you can warm up the honey, but make sure that you don’t exceed 40º C.
- It is not recommended for children under the age of one year to consume honey because of the risk of infant botulism.