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HONEY: More Than Just Sweet!

Humans have gathered honey for thousands of years. When early people cleared forests into pastures, they created bee-friendly habitats where flowers and bushes grew. As farmers moved into new areas, honeybees followed. Modern agriculture relies on bees to pollinate the vast majority of our food crops: an important symbiotic relationship.


Honey is made by bees using the nectar of flowering plants. There are over 300 varieties of honey, which vary in colour, flavour and odor depending which plants were visited by the hive. Bees must visit 2 million flowers to make a pound of honey. Maybe this is where the phrase “busy as a bee” comes from!


Honey contains sugar, in the form of glucose and fructose, as well as amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is these nutrients that make honey superior to sugar as a sweetener. A teaspoon of honey has 21 calories, compared with 16 for sugar, but these 5 extra calories come with additional nutrients. The taste of honey is perceived as sweeter, so a little goes a long way.  


However, if you are diabetic and keeping your sugar consumption low, honey will still raise blood sugar levels.


Unpasteurized local honey contains local pollens, and because of that, some people eat local honey for relief from hay fever and other allergies. The idea is similar to how allergy shots work: ongoing low-level regular exposure to the irritating pollen may desensitize the allergy sufferer. Unpasteurised local honey may appear a little cloudy compared with industrially refined honey.


The use of honey to treat wounds and burns has been part of traditional medicine for centuries. Honey contains natural compounds that help fight bacteria, promote healing, prevent infections, and ease swelling. To be safe, look for medical-grade honey from a health food store before you treat a wound. You can also buy gauze bandages that are saturated in honey for wound healing.  We often put a drop of honey on a minor kitchen burn, and it also helps if you burn your tongue!


Manuka honey is a dark honey, made from the nectar of manuka trees in New Zealand. It contains antibacterial compounds not found in other honeys.  Recent studies support the traditional use of manuka honey to heal wounds, treat gastritis and ulcers, for skin infections and diseases, and to fight bacteria. It has a resinous flavour, and many nutritive properties that come from the manuka tree.


You are on to something if you take honey ginger tea for a cold. This combination is anti-inflammatory and soothing to sore throats. Studies show that a small amount of honey helps children cough less and sleep better. Just don't give it to any little ones less than 1 year old. Honey may contain cause botulism spores that babies can’t cope with.

Honey in warm water is also a recommended home remedy for gastroenteritis and diarrhea. It makes a good rehydration fluid, and provides some nutrients, soothing anti-inflammatory compounds, and calories.


Royal jelly is superfood for bees. Every newborn bee eats it for a few days. But bees destined to become queens are fed royal jelly until they're adults. That's why queens are bigger and live longer than the rest of the hive. Some people say royal jelly is also a superfood for humans and claim it can treat everything from baldness to menopause and arthritis! We don’t claim that, but we know it is highly nutritious.

Note that storing chopped ginger in honey may be convenient, but surprisingly it can go mouldy if stored for over a week on the counter. So use freshly chopped ginger or keep it in the fridge or freezer to extend its lifespan.

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