Wonderfully Sweet Ways to Use Honey

Honey is getting some pretty sweet press lately, and there’s a reason (or a few hundred reasons) why. Naturally sweet, antibacterial, and loaded with enzymes and healing properties, honey is one of nature’s most versatile creations.

First, let’s talk quality. If you’re in the market for honey, head to your local farmer’s market or beekeeper and buy it raw. As with most things, commercial honey has fallen victim to our over-processed world.  Much of the honey available at the grocery store has been pasteurized at very high temperatures, which renders the enzymes useless, kills the probiotics, and strips away the beneficial pollen.

When you buy local and raw (sometimes labeled ‘unpasteurized’,) you’re getting a vastly superior product. Not only is all the good stuff intact, but there are no additives. Add to that the fact that you’re supporting local growers, and it’s a win/win situation.

Even better, when you stock up (which you’ll want to do after learning about honey’s amazing qualities) you never have to worry about your honey going bad – it just doesn’t. Archeologists have discovered perfectly edible 3000 year old honey in Egyptian tombs. How? Well, honey is one of those rare foods that simply won’t spoil. The low water content in honey is a key contributor to its ageless sweetness. Most bacteria and fungi require a higher water content to survive, making honey a hostile environment for their growth. Also, the natural pH of honey is around 4, which makes it acidic as 7 is neutral, and many bacteria tend to thrive in neutral rather than acidic conditions. (It’s fair to note that the acidity of any honey is related to the plant sources that created it.)  The worst thing that can happen to your stored honey is that it may crystalize over time. Due to its low water content, honey can be considered a super-saturated solution, meaning that as much solid as possible has been dissolved in the available water. If your honey does crystalize or become solid, simply immerse the container (preferably glass – I keep mine in Mason jars) in very warm water. It will soon revert back to its liquid state.

The uses of honey are numerous, but let’s start with your largest organ – your skin.

Skin loves honey. It’s softening, antibacterial, and a natural antiseptic, which makes honey a brilliant choice for clearing up pimples. Plop a dollop on a stubborn breakout and let sit for about 30 minutes before washing it off.

You might think that a product ideal for clearing up breakouts would be a terrible choice for treating dry skin. If you’re at a department store beauty counter looking at chemical based dry skin solutions, you’re absolutely right. If you’re holding a bottle of honey, the opposite applies. Honey acts as a humectant, meaning it attracts moisture from air, and is therefore an excellent treatment for dry skin. Apply a layer of honey to dry areas, such as elbows and knees, and let sit for 30 minutes before washing it off.

If your lips are suffering from seasonal dryness, you can even make a honey based chemical free lip balm. Here’s a link to a recipe I’ve tried and love! http://www.instructables.com/id/Honey-Lip-Balm/

And for the rest of your skin? Honey is wonderful in the bath. Don’t worry; you won’t emerge as a giant, sticky, lint-magnet. Honey dissolves perfectly in your bath water. The next time a winter chill has gripped you ‘round the bones, run the tub and pour in the honey. About 2-3 tablespoons should do. Honey works wonders on sore muscles, and its sweet aroma will perfume and soften your skin.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine, folk, and homeopathic medicines have utilized this time honored ingredient for centuries, and there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate it into your own medicine cabinet. Why? Because honey boosts your energy.

The next time you feel an energy slump, don’t reach for that heavily caffeinated beverage, head to your pantry. Sure, honey is sweet and delicious, but did you know it’s also a natural energy booster? Honey reduces muscle fatigue and delivers a powerful punch of natural carbohydrates. It’s also known to keep those tricky blood sugars fairly level when compared to other types of sugar. I start my day with whole grain toast slathered in honey, and also use it to sweeten my tea. On occasion, I even substitute my tea all together with a cup of hot water into which I’ve diluted a heaping tablespoon of honey. This is a wonderful, comforting drink, especially during long, winter months. A spoonful of honey before working out boosts stamina, and is known to improve concentration.

Honey’s antibacterial and humectant properties make it a natural for burns and abrasions, as it keeps the wound clean and promotes healing. Next time you burn your skin, try gently coating the burn in a layer of honey, then cover with gauze.

Honey is also a great immune system booster. It’s a natural antioxidant, and honey’s anti-bacterial properties can help you stay healthy and fight disease. Make your own immunity booster by dissolving a heaping tablespoon of raw honey in hot water. Drink each morning! It makes a great start to your day.

Honey is also a natural at treating a sore throat. Swallow a spoonful a few times a day for its soothing and anti-bacterial properties. And if you’ve got a cough, studies have shown honey may be more effective than the commonly used cough suppressant dextromethorphan, found in most over-the-counter cough medicines. Take a spoonful to help quell coughing. If you want to try your hand at making your own natural cough syrup, check out this recipe.  http://wellnessmama.com/7969/herbal-cough-syrup/

One thing that’s vitally important to note, you must never give honey to babies younger than 2 years of age due to the serious risk of botulism.

The uses for honey are as varied as they are practical. Try incorporating honey into your life by using the tips above, or find your own, for a useful way to support local beekeepers and improve your wellbeing.

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