Honey, the golden coloured liquid which has been part of our customs, traditions and food since ages is much more than a sweetener. Though it was primarily used to sweeten food, much before sugar began to be manufactured in 16th century, it was also a medicine, a beauty agent and a mystery product that could prevent evil eye, promote wellness and do away with the ill effects of warring constellations!
Honey has been used by humankind even before most of the grains, pulses and crops began to be cultivated. Egyptians used it in their tombs, nearly a quarter of Sumerian medicines were honey based and Ayurveda considers it as medicine par excellence.
But this delectable sweet syrup that can stay fresh for thousands of years has lost some of its sheen under the light of modern researches that have found it dangerous for infants and those with compromised immunity.
According to Dr HK Bakhru in Healing Through Natural Foods, “Honey helps overcome depressive mood and is an excellent brain tonic when taken with pre-soaked almonds. It also clears mucus from body.”
Is honey really dangerous? While it has been an ancient practice to use honey as a pacifier for newborns, of late doctors have been advising against giving honey to children under one year. Raw honey may sometimes have spores of botulinum bacteria which can lead to botulism in kids. It does not affect older children and adults because they have more developed digestive system.
Honey or sugar? A tablespoon of pure honey contains nearly 64 calories, is fat-free, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free, says the National Honey Board. Its composition is roughly 80 percent carbohydrates, 18 percent water, and two percent vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Sugar has 48 calories. But honey is dubbed healthier because it has less available sugar that can be broken down by the body, while sugar which has 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose is easily converted into glucose. Unlike sugar which has empty calories, honey has trace amounts of minerals like zinc, selenium and also some vitamins. Also, since honey never decomposes, it is free from preservatives and chemicals.
Honey as part of traditional medicine If Ayurveda and Siddha systems used honey, there must have been some reason behind it. According to celebrity nutritionist Sandhya Gugnani and owner of yournutritionandhealth.com, “The composition of honey makes it an anti-septic and anti-bacterial agent. It has been found to prevent trickling in throat and hence is used as a cough remedy. Honey used with lemon and warm water when taken on an empty stomach boosts metabolism and reduces water retention in body.”
Honey has been used as a cure for a number of ailments and has been scientifically proven to be actually effective in some cases:
-Honey induces sleep when taken with warm milk or water.
-Because of its anti-bacterial properties honey is said to be effective against burns and cuts.
-Ayurveda says, the use of honey along with lemon and ginger is beneficial in the treatment of irritating cough. As a soothing agent, it produces a calming effect on the inflamed mucous membrane of the upper respiratory tract and relieves cough and symptoms like difficulty in swallowing.
-In old age, honey is highly beneficial as it provides strength and warmth to body.
-Ayurvedic experts have long regarded honey as useful in maintaining the health of the stomach. It tones up the stomach, helps in proper digestion and prevents stomach diseases. It also decreases the overproduction of hydrochloric acid, hence preventing symptoms like nausea, vomiting and heartburn.
-Honey has also been found helpful in oral diseases. It is advised to massage teeth with honey as it helps prevent tartar build up, fights gum diseases and prevents tooth decay.
-Honey mixed with fenugreek powder has been used as a medicine against dandruff.
Ways you can include honey in your daily routine in a healthy way
1. The most common practice has been to add honey to a glass of warm water, squeeze a lemon into it and drink early morning on an empty stomach. But this causes acidity to many people. So for them, honey in warm water to which a pinch of cinnamon is added is the best morning drink.
- Instead of spending on jams and jellies packed with chemicals and preservatives, use a spoonful of honey on your toast.
- Avoid salad dressings loaded with sugar and fat. Make one at home with healthy ingredients. Mix 2 tsp honey with 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp oregano and some chilli flakes and your dressing is ready. To make it more runny add some orange juice. It tastes great with beetroot and feta.
- Sweeten your beverages and drinks with honey. But remember, it still has loads of sugar, so moderation should be your caution!
- Replace sugar with honey in your desserts and dishes. The calorie count might be on the higher side but the nutritional quotient will increase.
- To keep away cold and sniffles, add a dash of honey to 1 glass of milk which has been boiled with a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Drink it warm, before going to sleep.
- Mix honey with holy basil leaves, add a dash of pepper and lick slowly. It will soothe an irritating sore throat.
- Make your own face scrub by mixing 2 tsp honey with 3 tsp gram flour powder, 1 tsp milk cream and 1 tsp turmeric powder. Apply on your face and body and scrub off.
- Rinse your shampooed hair with a mug of cold water to which 3 tsp honey and juice of 1 lemon has been added.
- To boost immunity of kids, give them warm milk which has been boiled with 10 holy basil leaves, 1/4 tsp grated ginger, added with a spoonful of honey.
Those suffering from diabetes and insulin resistance should take honey only after consulting their doctor.