Honey: Nature's Medicine?
If your instincts tell you to stir honey into your tea for a sore throat, you may be seeking more than comfort. In addition to being irresistibly sweet, honey inhibits bacteria growth and contains disease-fighting antioxidants.
Honey's reputation as a panacea is a subject of debate among scientists, but much contemporary research supports folk wisdom -- that honey can serve as, among other things, a natural remedy for digestive problems or as a quick energizer. It can also be used as a dressing for wounds and burns, and as an ointment for many skin conditions.
Honey is available either raw or processed -- filtered to remove solids or heated to reduce crystallization -- and in a variety of forms. Comb honey, a raw honey-filled section of the hive, can be cut up and mixed into yogurt or enjoyed on its own. Chunk honey, sometimes processed, with pieces of raw honeycomb suspended in it, is pleasing to those who like the comb but want less wax. Some raw honeys are naturally thick, and are great on toast or in smoothies, as is whipped honey, which is processed to be opaque and smooth. Processed liquid honey is best for drizzling -- delicious over cheese or fruit.
Because all types of honey can contain spores that very young bodies can't tolerate, it shouldn't be given to babies until after their first birthdays. For the rest of the family, however, it can be a valuable addition to the diet. All honey has antibacterial properties, but it is believed that the less processed or cooked it is, the better. The beneficial enzymes it contains are destroyed by prolonged heating. Since our recipes for glazed pork and walnut cake call for high cooking temperatures, we've added extra raw honey at the end. That little bit more may be good for you -- and the flavor of the dishes benefit from it, too.
Do You Know?
Honey's shelf life is almost infinite. Although it may crystallize and appear cloudy, it stays edible for years.