Honey has been around for centuries and is recognised not only as a delicious food source but also for its health benefits
Bees have been around for millions of years – they were fully developed in their present form long before modern mammals had evolved.
Honeybees are the most important producers of honey. They gather nectar from flowers and plants and carry it to the hive or nest. Other worker bees then take over, preparing it for storing by adding enzymes. Water evaporates away and this, together with the action of the enzyme, turns the nectar to honey.
Honey has natural flavours
Honey is produced all over the world, from the heat of the tropics to the cold of Finland, Canada and Siberia. The warm climate of equatorial countries allows honey to be produced for most of the year, whilst beekeepers in Finland have a short season of just 2-3 weeks each year. The distinct aroma, flavour and colour is determined by the type of flower from which the bee collects the nectar. Some honey closely mimics the characteristics of the herb or tree whose flower the bee has visited, such as Orange Blossom and Lime Blossom, or Rosemary and Thyme.
Most honey comes from bees foraging on many different floral sources, and are known as polyfloral. However some plants provide enough nectar during their short flowering season, and are so irresistible to the local bee population, that a hive can yield honey from one single type of flower. This honey, known as monofloral, is keenly sought by beekeepers.
Uses for Honey:
Honey is an ingredient of healing which can promote general health and wellbeing. A daily dose of honey, whether as a sweetener in hot drinks, by the spoonful or spread on toast, will boost the body’s supply of antioxidants – essential for protecting the body against free radicals.
Flush out your system and give yourself a daily boost with this cleansing tonic: mix a spoonful or two of honey and the juice of half a lemon into a cup of hot water and drink each morning before breakfast.
Next time you go to the gym, have a spoonful of honey beforehand. Honey is a source of natural unrefined sugars and carbohydrates, which are easily absorbed by the body, providing an instant energy boost with long-lasting effects. For this reason, many athletes include honey in their daily diets.
Helps coughs and colds
Honey is widely used as a complementary remedy for the relief of the symptoms of colds, coughs, sore throats and flu. For a sore throat, take it on its own or gargle with a mixture of two tablespoons of set honey, four tablespoons of cider vinegar and a pinch of salt.
A traditional drink made from hot water, lemon juice and honey will help to soothe cold and flu symptoms. Adding a little eucalyptus oil or root ginger will help to ease congestion and, to help enhance sleep, try a drop of whiskey in the mixture.
Cuts and scratches
Due to it’s high sugar content, low pH and the presence of organic acids, honey is a mild antiseptic and keeps external wounds, such as cuts and minor burns, clean and free from infection. By absorbing the moisture around the wound, honey can help to prevent the growth of bacteria. It also prevents scarring.
Honey has been used as a treatment for diarrhoea and other stomach silments for centuries. The principle behind these theories is that honey is believed to help destroy certain bacteria in the gut by acting as a ‘preserving’ agent.
Honey is used as a hair and facial treatment due to the fact that it attracts and retains moisture.
You can use honey in cooking instead of sugar. Because it is sweeter than sugar, you need to use less. If you are experimenting with honey in a recipe, try replacing half the sugar with honey as the flavour can be very strong. Honey is hygroscopic (meaning it attracts water) so it is good for baking cakes as it keeps them moister for longer.
Did you know?
- Bees can fly for up to six miles, although one or two is more common
- Bees collect pollen and nectar in the spring when most plants are in bloom
- Darker honey and those with higher water content have stronger antioxidant potential