Monday, June 30, 2008

The Many Benefits Of Raw Honey

I am passionate about honey. Maybe it's because it's in my blood; my grandfather kept bees. I remember playing in the orchard - the lazy warmth of the afternoon sun, the sweet, aromatic scent of ripening fruit and the gentle hum of the bees. I remember the honeycombs dripping with sticky, sweet liquid and my grandfather laughing at my eager anticipation. We used honey for everything - it was our cough syrup, our antiseptic for scratches, the topping for my bread and butter, the sweetener for my evening tea.

The social system of bees is incredibly complex and it all revolves around making honey. The field bees collect nectar from flowers and pass it on to the house bees, who add enzymes and then store it in the hive, where it ripens and becomes honey - food for the bees and for us. A conscientious beekeeper always leaves enough honey for the bees to survive and thrive. The bees are never harmed, though the same cannot always be said for the beekeepers.

Honey is not merely another form of sugar; it contains vitamins, minerals, protein, enzymes and amino acids. The quantities of individual nutrients vary widely and depend on the type of plant and region the honey comes from. As a carbohydrate, it is unique; it¹s an assimilable carbohydrate compound, meaning that it's been pre-digested and is therefore easier for your body to use. However, scientists still do not fully understand all the compounds in honey and why they are so health promoting.

Honey has unique antimicrobial properties and has been used traditionally to disinfect wounds and burns and promote healing. According to Dr. Molan of the University of Waikato, New Zealand, "Honey stimulates the re-growth of tissue involved in healing, making healing faster and reducing scarring."

And according to a study at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory, if you eat honey just before a workout, you will increase your energy level, stabilize your blood sugar and improve your post-workout muscle recuperation.

Honey is also great for sore throats and congested bronchi. Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine found that raw buckwheat honey works better than over-the-counter cold medications. Suffering from stomach upset and diarrhea? Honey can rehydrate and remineralize your body and speed up the recovery. Honey has a long history of curing gastric and intestinal ulcers, improving digestion, rebuilding blood, eliminating inhalant allergies, aiding with weight loss and much more. No wonder honey was Hippocrates' medicine of choice.

Before you rush to your local supermarket to treat a sore throat, you should know that not all honey is created (or bottled) equally. Even though honey is widely available at supermarkets across the country, it is not the product I have been describing. You need raw, unheated, organic, unpasteurized and minimally filtered local honey - a rare commodity. Raw honey is full of bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis (for more on these, sign up for my newsletter), all of which are responsible for the healing qualities of honey. With pasteurization, enzymes are denatured and vitamins destroyed, rendering the original product merely a liquid, toxic sugar.

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