Honey has many sweet uses

Nearly everyone has used honey as a sweetener. It is far sweeter per gram than table sugar. That means fewer calories per serving.

About thirty-five years ago I remember watching my future father-in-law dehorning cattle. After tying off exposed bleeding blood vessels he lathered the exposed tissue with honey. At the time I as perplexed and skeptical. I assumed the sugary substance would draw flies or at least provide a substrate for microbial growth.

I was wrong. The sores healed perfectly with no evidence of infection. Honey sealed off the wounds and kept them dry.

The only previous experience I had using honey as a medicinal substance was when my mother mixed it with glycerin, ginger and bourbon for cough syrup. As a kid I thought the only reason the honey was in there was to make it sweet, so we wouldn’t spit it out.

Honey contains compounds that are naturally antimicrobial. One of these is hydrogen peroxide. Honey is also acidic with an average pH of about 3.5 to 3.9. That in and of itself inhibits most bacterial growth.

For this reason, honey is often incorporated in soaps and shampoos. It’s also a component of many body lotions.

Honey also contains antioxidant enzymes and flavonoids, which are also antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce stress on our bodies. Buckwheat honey, a particularly dark type, has very high antioxidant properties.

One thing to remember though is that all honey is not the same. Even all raw honey isn’t the same. Consuming pasteurized honey will destroy vitamins and other antioxidants found in honey. Processed honey is prettier, but many of the natural benefits are lost.

Despite containing many different compounds, honey is still largely a sugar rich substance. However, type II diabetics need not totally abandon its use. Some research has shown honey to improve insulin resistance. This means sugar is transferred from the blood to the cells more efficiently, which is good.

Other researchers claim there is not a bump in insulin resistance, so more research is needed. It’s important to keep in mind that honey is basically a mix of sugars. Large quantities aren’t good for diabetics. Honey possibly could pose fewer problems than refined sugar or artificial sweeteners, but sugar is sugar.

Pretty much everything I’ve read advises not to feed honey to children under a year old. This is due to the potential of botulism or reaction to any of the myriad of chemicals found in honey in trace amounts. Babies do not have a developed immune system capable of dealing with impurities that would have no effect on adults.

It’s a shame there are no significant wild bee populations today. Forty years ago, robbing bee trees and filtering the honey was a fun pastime. A disease spread by mites and imprudent pesticide use has eliminated wild bees in many places.

The mite problem might be a difficult fix, but more careful and timely application of pesticides can help save bees. Spraying when bees are active is a problem and we should try to adjust out treatment to accommodate the bees.



Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com). I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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