Honey—nature’s sweet, golden nectar—possesses many unique nutritional and therapeutic properties. In the times of the ancient Vedic civilization, honey was seen as one of the most remarkable gifts to mankind.
Today, modern research confirms that the sticky, sweet stuff does indeed possess many unique nutritional and medicinal properties. Keep reading to learn all about the benefits of honey from both perspectives, and why it’s good for much more than just sweetening your tea.
Honey's food value
The sugars in honey are glucose, fructose and sucrose. Glucose is the simplest of the sugars. It occurs in the blood of live animals, in fruit and vegetable juices. It is essential in the restoration and metabolism of oxygen in our bodies.
Fructose crystallizes more easily than glucose and helps build up tissues. Sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose. Dextrin is a gummy substance found in small amounts in honey, and is what makes honey so digestible.
Modern research shows that the pollen in honey contains all 22 amino acids, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes, 14 fatty acids and 11 carbohydrates.
Natural benefits—what the ancient Ayurvedic texts say
Honey enters directly into the bloodstream because of its dextrin content, and this provides many benefits.
Honey and digestion/elimination
The ancient texts of Ayurveda say that honey is a boon to those with weak digestion. A spoon of fresh honey, when mixed with the juice of half a lemon in a glass of lukewarm water and taken first thing in the morning, is an effective remedy for constipation and hyperacidity.
According to the texts of ayurveda, when undigested foods and other toxins are present in the alimentary canal, honey acts as a laxative and emetic and helps clear out the waste matter.
Honey and iron levels
Honey is remarkable in building hemoglobin in the body, which is largely due to the iron, copper, and manganese it contains. The ancient texts state that it helps maintain the right balance of hemoglobin and red blood corpuscles.
Honey and pulmonary health
Ayurveda regards honey as highly beneficial in the support of lung health and respiratory balance. The texts of Ayurveda also say the use of honey is highly beneficial in comforting an irritating cough or sore throat. Because it’s a demulcent (soothing agent), it helps calm the mucous membrane of the upper respiratory tract. For this reason, it is often included as an ingredient in various cough syrups.
Honey and your complexion
When applied externally, honey can be soothing to the skin. That’s why it’s a common ingredient in DIY Ayurvedic facial masks, along with oatmeal and/or turmeric.
Why you should never overheat honey
With all of its many natural benefits, honey is a wonderful addition to any diet. Unfortunately many of honey’s nutritive qualities are lost by heating it for commercial use.
Charak, the ancient sage of Ayurveda, wrote: “Nothing is as troublesome as the Ama caused by improper intake of honey.”
Ama—toxic, undigested matter in the body— is considered to be the root cause of most illnesses, according to Ayurveda. Toxins that build up in the body can provide a fertile breeding ground for all manner of unpleasant health complaints. Charak makes it clear that when honey is heated, it becomes very hard to digest and produces unwanted qualities.
This is supported by modern science. A study showed that when honey is heated, it produces a chemical called hydroxymethylfurfuraldehyde (HMF), a substance linked in certain forms to toxicity and possible links to carcinogenic effects. Heating honey also alters its chemical contents in other ways. For example, it increases the peroxides—peroxides are known for their unhealthy effect.
The best way to consume honey
From the perspective of Ayurveda, it’s best to favor raw, unheated honey and to avoid cooking and baking with it. Do your best to avoid cereals, breads, baked goods, and other “health food” products that include cooked honey.
Love to add honey to your hot tea? No need to worry! It’s fine to add a sweet spoonful—just be sure to let the liquid cool to a warm temperature first.