Honey - For the Love of Bees & Sweetness
Delicious and medicinal, just because honey is considered a holistic, doesn't mean you can assume it's healthy or environmentally friendly. That $3 bottle of honey might look appealing, but think again before tossing it into your shopping cart. When selecting honey, be mindful that honey bees have not been exploited for the purposes of mass production and reduced costs. In addition to honey-making, bees are an integral part of a plant-based food chain.
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Questions to ask when buying honey: When was it harvested? Have bees been fed antibiotics or artificial sweeteners? Is the honey blended? These days, natural doesn't mean much when it comes to honey since corn syrup and sugar could technically be called “natural.” So look for pure instead, small batch, preferably raw, single origin, from local beekeepers. Sourced in springtime is best so nourishment is not taken from bees before the winter sets in; honey harvested in spring is considered excess, and non harmful to the bees food source. It's true, organic honey must meet certain standards, but honey can still be ethically produced and not have an organic label. If possible, speak with your local beekeeper and ask how the honey is produced.
According Amanda Dolechek, Associate Brand Manager, for Barkman Honey, an insider tip when shopping is: look for “country of origin, labeled on the container, since honey sourced from countries known to illegitimately import into the U.S. often don’t provide the place of origin, nor do they label it with a USDA grade.”
What kind of single origin honey is best? That really depends on your individual preferences. Dolechek says, “The type of flower honey bees visit determines the taste, color and aroma of the honey they make. For example, orange blossom nectar provides the citrus notes in orange blossom honey; buckwheat honey gets its robust flavor from bees foraging buckwheat blossoms.” To fully enjoy your honey experience, Dolechek suggests “trying varietals from different regions and floral sources,” adding that “Our premium raw Bee Harmony Honey celebrates this deep connection bees and humans share. The Beesponsible mission is how we give back to bees and create positive changes for them, including donating to conservation efforts and bee-friendly gardening programs. Beesponsible spreads awareness about these vital pollinators, the threats they’re up against (pesticide use and habitat loss) and actions people can take to help them, like avoiding pesticides and planting wildflowers.”
When it comes to honey's myriad medicinal effects, Chinese Medicine specialist, Tsao-Lin Moy, author of “Will I Ever Get Pregnant” and founder of Integrative Healing Arts, says, “Processing such as pasteurization and filtering can remove some of the nutrients and enzymes that have health benefits. Raw will have more of the nutrient and health benefits of the nectar from the flowers honey bees extracted in the honey-making. Allergies come from local flora and fauna and local honey will have small amounts of the pollen that helps regulate the immune system and allergic response.”
Health benefits of honey are so abundant, Moy says, “Honey could be considered a superfood as it can be used topically to heal wounds, it contains many substances such as phytochemicals, enzymes, minerals, vitamins and has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties,” as well as digestive health and immune boosting effects. Additionally, “Honey is used in Chinese herbal medicine together with ginger and licorice to help the digestive system absorb the herbs. Sweet is a flavor in Chinese medicine that promotes nourishment and stimulates the channels of the stomach and Spleen meridians and energetics,” says Moy.
Moy recommends patients, “add Manuka honey to their tea with lemon and ginger. Because it comes from the flowers of the Manuka shrub that is in the Tea Tree family that has stronger antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties than average honey.”
*Honey will still turn to sugar in the body so be careful not to overdo. However, Moy says, it “has a lower glycemic index than sugar and studies show patients with type 2 diabetes fared better with glycemic control with honey.”
Try making Moy’s Super immune and lung tonic. “by taking an Astragalus root that has many immune boosting properties, simmering it in water. Then let it reduce and cool. Stir into honey to make a syrup,” says Moy.
For general immunity, Moy suggests crafting a lemon zest and ginger infusion decoction. For Moy’s recipe, you’ll need: “1-2 Rinds of a Lemon Sliced Very Thin, 2 Tbsps or Mashed or Grated Ginger Root, and 1 Cup Honey.” To craft, “Place lemon and ginger in a small double boiler, and add some of the honey to release and soften the lemon and ginger juices.” Be careful not to overheat. Add remaining honey. “Place in a jar with a lid and allow it to sit in a cool dark place (refrigerator) for a week to allow the infusion. Add to tea or have a spoonful, “says Moy.
To soothe dry cough, bronchitis, and sore throat, Moy adapts a classic Chinese recipe for poached pear. Moy’s ingredients are simply, “2 Pears (asian pears preferable), ginger, lemon, and honey.” To craft, “Core the pear, place in water with sliced ginger, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15-20 min. Add lemon and honey. Pears will be infused with ginger and lemon and can be stored in the refrigerator. The juice you can drink,” says Moy, adding, “Pears contain high levels of antioxidants, and the natural properties from the pear (pectin) soothes the throat, moistens dryness of the cough, and reduces phlegm. Poached pear helps to keep your respiratory tract hydrated, soothe throat irritations, and alleviate dry coughs.”